Nipsey Hussle hasn’t hid his sales numbers. He announced the whopping 60 physical copies sold of his latest album Mailbox Money (listen to it here) on his Instagram. He included his gross profits as well.
While figures like that are typically the subject of Internet punchlines the five dozen copies Nip has sold so far are a shocking success. The former Rolling 60’s Crip and his 60 copies sold may usher a new way of distributing and profiting off of music. The $1000 price tag is monumental, daring and the basis behind many of the headlines he has garnered. Yet the work behind it and business acumen that makes Nipsey an industry revolutionary.
The nearly $60k he’s made of the album by far trumps the literal pennies artists make from Spotify streams. Nipsey’s pricing model provides intel as the medium continues to shift to digital platforms which further diminish the value of music. The Guardian profiled Hussle this week and he finally opened up about the entire process of selling an album for $1000.
“It surprises me,” he says. “As much as I believe in it. Every time I get a transaction, I get a text on my phone, and I’ve been hitting them back. The feedback and the connection I have with these people help me understand the psychology of the person paying $1,000 for some songs that, realistically, you could download for free.”
The value of music sits at an all-time low. Thus artists turn to the “organic build” as the latest way to recoup on their work. Artists like J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar cut their teeth in the underground while building their fan base. Then they allow it to cultivate as they continue to develop as artists. Their surprise albums, both real and rumored, fall within another industry trend where artist capitalize on their own ability to go viral and their fans ability to assist with that task.
This organic build and illusion of involvement in the growth and commercialization of the artist gives the fans a sense of pride. Remember, Cole and K.Dot had major label ties while they were still kicking out classic mixtapes. These meteoric rises reveal major label orchestrated pushes disguised as grassroots movements.
Fans go along for the ride and feel responsible for their success. At this point they aren’t buying the music in so much as they are doing their duty for their artist. There’s a sense of obligation to help and triumph when it works.
Nipsey combines that process with more forward thinking. The price point of his albums is newsworthy but it also becomes a bragging point for the fans involved. There’s more than just music being purchased for a thousand dollars. It’s an accomplishment and a true show of dedication as a fan. Fans are looking to buy something other than that music, something more meaningful.
Neighborhood Nip realizes, before any other artist, that selling music is dead. There’s no need to buy music anymore when it’s so readily available for free. What he’s selling is bigger than a set of MP3s and he knows that that’s easier to sell even at a four figure price.
“Digital music is abundant,” he says, “and it’s going against the laws of nature to charge for something that is ubiquitous. It would be like charging for air.
I’m not worried. People buy into ideas. ‘Think Different’ is more iconic than any Apple product you buy, and Just Do It is more iconic than any shoe. The reason it doesn’t bother me is that I know musically where I’m going, and I know about the quality of music that I’ll be making next.”
Nipsey’s former status as another West Coast act pumping out mixtape after mixtape held no indication of sparking historic change within the industry. Years later though, the Los Angeles native is doing just that. Jay Z famously took notice and now it seems everybody else is too.
Real recognize real indeed.