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10 Reasons Rap Albums Don’t Sell

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Some of this is common sense, and obviously there are more reasons why pop/r&b/country/gospel/all other genres sell more than rap. But here are 10 specific things I’ve observed and experienced first hand while promoting rap music. Never one to present a problem without offering a solution, I suggest you check out That Retail Chick’s blog. She has years in the hip hop sales game.

Giving It Away for Free
If you want someone to buy the cow, don’t give away the milk for free. This isn’t to say stop providing fans with free downloads/streams every now and then to build anticipation, but there are also other ways to reach your listeners. Why would I buy your album when you’re going to put all the good music out via mixtapes before the record drops like [insert your favorite rapper here]?

Bootleggers/Internet Pirates
Piggy-backing off the above statement, bootleggers and internet pirates (myself not included lol) have a huge impact on record sales. Artists now have to come up with more and more creative ways to get attention for selling albums, especially rap artists. And it wouldn’t hurt to protect your files better smarty.

Rappers Motherfuckin’ Cuss Too God Damn Much Bitch Hoe. Fuck.
I cuss like a sailor, but I wouldn’t want my kids to do as I do. And kids buy music. Adults buy groceries. Oh yeah, quit dropping the n-word every 3 syllables.

Violent/Degrading Lyrics
See above statement. There are ways to talk about real life situations while still being responsible. On the flipside, sometimes the more shocking the material the more sales, but the masses aren’t going to pay for this. Women buy music guys.

Not to sound like a hip hop bible thumper, but lyrics are washed out these days. I can fully appreciate a song that makes me want to white-girl-shake in the club, but I’m not going to buy an album based off that. It’s like a one night stand – we meet in the club, we have a good time, but I don’t want to take you home forever (this never happened to me btw, hypothetical). There’s only so many times I can listen to songs about cars, jewelry, and levels of splurging unattainable to the average man. Say something real.

Fans are Now “Industry Experts”
My fellow journalist Maurice Garland made a good point when he said there are no fans left because they’re all music industry expert now. Back in the day hip hoppers didn’t care about 1st week album sales, Billboard stats, or how well engineered a rap album is. Have you listened to an old Wu Tang album lately? They sound like they were recorded off a radio station with a tape player, but we didn’t care back then, we still came out of our pocket (or our parents’) for some good music. I’d sneak $10 out of my grandmother’s purse if a new Ghostface tape was dropping. Word is bond Gawd.

Artists are Not “Industry Experts”
It’s not cool when fans know more tricks of the trade than rappers do. My middle school sister can get an album uploaded to iTunes faster than a rapper can turn on an iPod. Know your industry or keep your hobby to yourself.

Poor Management/Label Reps
Following up from the previous reason, artists need to be more educated on label practices and more in touch with their team. There are countless stories of rappers hiring ill intentioned and/or unqualified friends to lead their business ventures. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of many Fortune 500 companies headed by a group of retarded donkeys, yet I’ve met numerous asses representing talented flops.

Rappers Don’t Tour Efficiently
Hopping from no-name city to no-name city in a van with 10 other people, barely sleeping, scraping up food money, praying for a clean place to shower, dealing with janky promoters, all while leaving behind a family with mounting bills is definitely not ideal for any up-coming artist. But it’s a necessary to build rapport with fans. If nobody knows you, who will buy your album? If nobody knows you, who will to pay you $20,000 to perform at an arena? Crawl before you walk.

Rappers Smoke Too Much Weed
Smoking weed leads to poor decisions, slow actions, and many of the above-mentioned issues. It makes you lazy. And it makes you rap dumb. The same goes for “Molly”. You don’t sound good dude, you sound high.

I forgot reason #11: Love and Hip Hop Atlanta
Who’s going to buy a rap album after watching this show?

  1. aaronsmarter
    July 18th, 2012 at 18:06 | #1

    I’m gonna say the last half was perfect, but I take issue with some of your points.

    For one thing, women sing the hardest, and cheer the loudest when “Ain’t No Fun” comes on in the club. For that matter, have you heard the lyrics to R&B lately? Yeah, degradation is not the problem. Maybe the single-mindedness (and thus boringness) of commercial rap slows sales, but I doubt it’s due to offensive content. And you don’t see Common selling more than Drake these days.

    You’re absolutely right about rappers not understanding the biz, picking up ridiculous management, and not touring. Bootleggers definitely take a chunk of sales away, but I think you’re perfectly capable of working around that as long as you’re working. Labels don’t do any development or promo anymore, so it is very much up to the rapper to drum up interest, and put out quality music that people will gravitate to.

  2. someone who actual thinks about music
    July 18th, 2012 at 22:52 | #2

    this list made me angry. here’s my rebuttals:

    1. Lil Wayne has given out more free music than almost anyone in the game (save Lil B), and there isn’t another artist on the planet who does sales numbers like him. Odd Future gave out a ton of music and that’s going pretty well for them. Mixtapes have been instrumental in introducing artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, the Weeknd and A$AP Rocky. They’ve built careers on releasing free music.
    2. Internet pirates steal from everyone. You offer no proof that rap artists suffer any more than rock bands from illegal downloads.
    3. Rap sales have tanked in the last decade with the same frequency as everything else.
    4. If women buy music from charged woman-beaters like Chris Brown (Fortune’s the #1 album of the week), they probably don’t have a problem with “degrading” lyrics.
    5. RAP MUSIC not inspirational? Rap music is the most aspirational, inspirational kind of music in the world that also makes money. You could argue that “Christian” music is more inspirational, but it doesn’t make any money and never has.
    6. That doesn’t make any sense. You (and your critic friend) are saying that customers knowing more about artists makes them care less about music itself? People are always going to care about music, regardless of knowing about sales. Furthermore, the point’s argument is bifurcated; the other half says that if a record is poorly engineered, customers won’t like it. That’s false. If music is good, people will like it. Earl from Odd Future, one of the hottest young MCs right now, had a debut mixtape that was extremely lo-fi and people ate it up.
    7. Artists are people too. They know more about the music industry today than anybody from back in the day. Do you have any proof of this point, like at all?
    8. There’s always been bad managers, and there’s always been bad managers for both rock and rap artists. I understand there’s probably more bad managers on the rap side because there’s more people coming directly from the streets. But you don’t get to go and blame poor management for “talentless flops”…you blame the talentless flops. Bad music doesn’t sell.
    9. Rappers and all other musicians are making a larger percentage of their income from touring today than at any other point in history.
    10. Rappers being fucked up isn’t the reason rap albums don’t sell. Rappers not being good might be a good reason for their albums not selling. What about the modern rise of “weed rap”? Wiz Khalifa is one of the most prominent rising stars of the last two years, and he literally talks about nothing else. Moreover, rappers have been getting fucked up, writing about it, and making money off of it since the beginning of the genre. What about KRS-One? What about Snoop Dogg or Dr. Dre?

    You want to know the real reason rap albums don’t sell? It’s the same reason rock albums don’t sell and pop albums don’t sell. The music industry is going to shit. It’s a time of major transition into the digital world and as of right now nobody knows an across-the-board way to make money off of album sales. It’s why we have models like Kickstarter, where artists are funding their records in advance from fans in exchange for perks. It’s why we have Spotify, which pays pennies out to artists with thousands of plays. The system is broken, and your “reasons” aren’t anything more than complaints about the state of modern rap music’s lowest circles.

    At the end of the day, good music will probably do better than bad music. Obviously pop hooks are always going to sink into people and make more money–it’s why Nicki Minaj releases one rap song for every four pop jingles.

  3. msrivercity
    July 19th, 2012 at 15:35 | #3

    There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rules. Quality music sells more than bad music, but who determines good vs bad music? It’s an opinion. As is this post. And meant to spark debate. If you can’t debate a list without getting angry, don’t do it here.

    Lil Wayne doesn’t give away his singles for free. Mixtapes rapping over other people’s beats maybe – album tracks? No.

  4. msrivercity
    July 19th, 2012 at 15:54 | #4

    Hi Aaron, while there are some songs women love in the club regardless of content, a MAJORITY of women are not buying it. [Good] parents aren’t letting their kids buy it. Keyword for my post is MAJORITY, not rule exceptions.

    Common Vs Drake. Who’s to say Common is better than Drake? Maybe the MAJORITY? And guess what, Justin Bieber Sales > Chris Brown.

    Rappers (and their team) are definitely capable of working around the bootleg/piracy problem, which is my point. And yours too. But most just give it away for free bc they don’t know how, don’t have the resources to stop/prevent songs leaking, or just don’t care to put in the effort.

    I know TONS of talented artists that can’t sell their good music. Many nobody has ever heard of. Those are the ones this article applies to.

  5. msrivercity
    July 19th, 2012 at 17:07 | #5

    Actually, scratch the Chris Breezy comment, he’s R&B, doesn’t apply to this post =)

  6. July 20th, 2012 at 01:03 | #6

    Totally agree wit every point but the last one.

  7. July 22nd, 2012 at 20:35 | #7

    It’s time for a new genre. Most rap is played out.

  8. Will
    July 22nd, 2012 at 23:43 | #8

    Is this real? Couldn’t you just insert the word “rock” instead of rap and it completely apply to a different genre of music? How are they “capable” of working around the pirating/bootlegging “problem?” The music industry as a whole hasn’t come up with anything remotely effective.

  9. August 1st, 2012 at 14:08 | #9

    I also like to add that Rap Artists tend to separate themselves from their fans. They sometimes unjustifiably place themselves in a higher regard than the people that support them. Currently I follow around 600 independent artists on twitter their followers range from 200- 85,000. And I noticed that I get more responses from the Artists with the most followers. I even get responses from artist that’s signed to Major labels with a million+ followers.The Artist with lowest follower count don’t speak to their fans, or respond to good comments.

    There have been several times when I tweeted an artist Good feedback about their mixtape, and they basically ignored me. So they need to build their fanbase and be more proactive in having a open book policy, don’t be so closed off from the world.

    • msrivercity
      August 1st, 2012 at 17:11 | #10

      Good point!

  1. July 23rd, 2012 at 09:35 | #1
  2. August 1st, 2012 at 10:26 | #2