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In Defense of Kreayshawn (Kinda, Not Really); or, The Death of the AlbumPosted by Nathan S. on 10/01/12 | Filed under Top Stories, Opinion
...over and over again we hear that album sales just aren't particularly lucrative for artists anymore. The most elite of elite artists, the Jay-Z and Kanye's of the world, can still make some money off album sales, but for most artists albums are now often a financial wash at best, and serve primarily as ads for merch and shows, where the real money that will enable you to pay your bills still is.
In other words, album sales are an increasingly less important way to judge an artist's popularity, and yet we still treat album sales as the definitive way to judge an artist's career.
In fact, as much as people disparage "YouTube" and "mixtape" rappers, I don't think we're far off a day when artists just stop releasing albums. To be clear, wackness will never survive, whether we're talking about YouTube views, album sales or show attendance. The Kreayshawns of the world will always pop up into the spotlight, and that spotlight may be magnified by the interwebs machinery, but they all inevitably disappear.
On the flipside though, let's take someone like Big K.R.I.T. "Live from the Underground" was a success by underground rap terms, but while I don't know the specifics of his deal with Def Jam, it's unlikely that he's made much, if any, money from that album r (can you say recoup?). Considering how much work he put into that project, the myriad of hassles (dealing with the label, clearing samples, etc.), the financial realities and the inevitable "this isn't as good as his mixtapes" backlash, I can see an artist in his position simply saying, "Fuck it, I'm done with albums."
K.R.I.T.'s name was built on those free albums, he's touring and getting paid good money on shows almost entirely from those free albums, so is building a sustainable career entirely on videos and free albums/mixtapes that unreasonable? At what point is it just not worth it to put out an album?
Hell, Mac Miller's now getting $100K a show, and he's only released one album. Jean Grae hasn't released an album in four years, I'd go buy a ticket to one of her shows right now, and I could name 100 more examples.
By no means am I saying that the for-purchase album is dead. I don't think it will ever completely disappear, and even if it does that won't be for decades. But I do think we need to start changing the way we think about albums, and by doing so we'll only be acknowledging an increasingly common reality.
For the past four decades or so the mere idea of an artist having a sustainable career without ever releasing an album was insane, but in 2012? If you're an artist can that consistently deliver entertaining videos, free music and rock a live show, you've got a real shot, even without a single album entry in your discography.
So maybe Kreayshawn's real problem wasn't a flopped album, it was the inability to deliver another video nearly as popular as "Gucci Gucci"...and the inability to deliver a free album anyone cared about...and create a live show. But maybe the next time around an artist will break overnight the same way Kreay did, have the talent to stick around, and build a career without having to deal with the nail in the coffin that is a flopped album.
That day may not be as far off as you think. It may have already arrived.
See Also: Rappers, How NOT to Get F**Ked Over By a Record Label