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Your Favorite Rapper is Poor: Who’s Getting Paid Off Pepsi’s Nicki Minaj Commercial?Posted by Nathan S. on 05/12/12 | Filed under Top Stories, Features, Opinion, Your Favorite Rapper Is Poor
Weekend Edition: RefinedHype's most popular pieces of the week, running from Saturday to Monday morning.
If you're the average person you watched Nicki Minaj's new commercial for Pepsi and either talked some shit or didn't give two fucks. But if you're a true scholar of RefinedHype you watched Nicki Minaj's new Pepsi commercial and thought, "Huh, they switched up the production. I wonder how that affects the publishing pay outs?" And since it's been way too long since I've written a "Your Favorite Rapper is Poor" column, our ongoing look at the finances behind the music you listen to, I decided to dive in.
Before we start, a quick disclaimer. I obviously haven't seen any of the contracts and I have how no idea who's actually getting paid off this. You never know what clauses are contracts/the situation behind the scenes. For example, to this day Chris Lightly (reportedly) gets a cut of everything 50 Cent makes because of a legacy deal that went down before Fiddy was even signed. So don't get caught up in the details - I'm using this commercial as a chance to broadly break down how the game works, not try to actually discover how much cash is sitting in Nicki's bank account.
Producer: The production here is what got me thinking about this commercial in the first place. T-Minus produced the original "Moment 4 Life", but for the Pepsi version they used a more techno-y "remixed" version of the instrumental by some other, as-yet unidentified producer. Why? Maybe they just wanted the commercial to have some more energy than the original...or maybe they couldn't strike a deal with T-Minus. Maybe both. Either way, while T-Minus likely got paid something, the remix does use elements of his beat, he almost certainly didn't get paid in full.
In other words, there's a distinct possibility that every time this commercial comes on TV, T-Minus whips his remote control at the screen in anger and then goes and buys a 6-pack of Coke.
Songwriter: There are four songwriters listed in the credits of "Moment 4 Life": Drake, Nicki Minaj, Nikhil Seetharam and Tyler William. Crucially, a songwriter only gets paid if the words they wrote appear in the commercial, and only the hook appears in the Pepsi ad. So while I wasn't in the studio and I don't actually know who wrote what, we'll assume Drake only wrote his verse and not the hook - sorry Drizzy, no Pepsi money for you.
And since often superstars like Nicki get handed tracks with the instrumental and hook already done, let's assume Nicki didn't write the hook herself, only her verses. So that means there's a good chance Nikhil Seetharam and/or Tyler William, two guys I'm going to go ahead and say you've never heard of, are raking in some serious cash every time this ad plays.
If I had any idea what Nikhil Seetharam looked like, I'd expect to see him shopping in a Bentley dealership right about now.
Publishers: To completely oversimplify, a publishing company buys a share of an artist's song and then works to get that song placed in commercials, movies, tv shows, etc. Artists/producers/songwriters agree to give up a share of the revenue thinking that they wouldn't be able to place those songs by themselves.
So again, under my admittedly completely hypothetical scenario, that means that that T-Minus' publishing company is also throwing its fair share of remote controls at their tv, Nicki's publishing company is getting nothing, and Nikhil Seetharam's publishing company is having a very good week. (Click here for a more detailed explanation on publishing.)
I should say though that superstar artists often have enough leverage and resources to control all or part of their own publishing, and I wouldn't be shocked if that was the case for Nicki. Either way, control over publishing can be the difference between a broke baller and a legit baller, between a merely rich rapper and a super fucking wealthy rapper.
(Side note: Flloyd Mayweather is the richest athlete in the U.S. because he controls 100% of his own promotions money, the boxing equivalent of controlling 100% of your own publishing. Different game, but the general principles stay the same.)
Nicki Minaj: Interestingly, in the scenario I've laid out in which Nicki didn't write the hook and doesn't control her publishing, she might not be making a cent off the song itself. (Unless as a secondary effect the commercial re-energizes sales of "Moment 4 Life".)
Instead, I'd have to assume that she got paid a pretty hefty upfront sum to so the commercial, and I'd also expect her contract with Pepsi to include some live appearances/press to support the ad campaign. So how much, exactly, did she bring in from that Pepsi check? I have no idea, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was well over $1 million.
Label: Twenty years ago there's a very solid chance that a label wouldn't make anything off a commercial like this. In short, the artist would have said, "You want money from a deal you did nothing to set up? Go fuck yourself." But as more and more of music's revenue started coming off commercials like this and less off music sales, labels created 360 deals exactly so they could get a piece of that Pepsi money...without doing anything to help set it up.
So yes, there's a solid chance that Birdman (Nicki's Cash Money boss) is eating off this commercial too.
And there you have it, my completely inaccurate and deeply flawed breakdown of Nicki's Pepsi commercial, but hopefully at the very least it got RefinedHype Nation thinking about seemingly simple shit in a much more complicated (and realistic) way. If there ever comes a day when you're watching a random State Farm commercial and think, "I wonder who wrote that jingle? Did they sell it outright, or hold onto the publishing?" then I'll know my job here is done.
(p.s. - Yes, this is the ad Nicki was talking about on that "Rap Line That Makes No Fucking Sense".)
See Also: Your Favorite Rapper is Poor: 3 Ballers Who Are Really Broke