Today has seen a bit of a mini-controversy, as one of the few West Coast newcomers to achieve a somewhat national buzz, Nipsey Hussle, released his third mixtape. Instead of just coming up off a ZShare link, however, most links on the de rigeur just had an imeem playlist and a link where to legally purchase. Interesting strategy, although it seems to have backfired in some way, as links to download the mixtape were in circulation within hours. But, this whole brouhaha does raise some very intriguing questions.
How long before record companies finally stop having their artists flooding the marketplace with free material? Yes, the mixtape fusillade strategy worked for Lil' Wayne & 50 Cent, but that's because they built a massive fanbase and had even their mixtape songs circulate onto the radio. When, in Nipsey's case, the third mixtape has songs that he is intending on including on his debut album, it is understandable why an artist can feel the need to be financially compensated. Since the mixtape/illegal downloading era started, one of the most common complaints about major-label releases is the fact that the 3-4 hottest street singles/biggest top 40 songs have already been out for months beforehand. Or, that their mixtapes are simply a better listen than their album (Asher Roth, any 50 post-GRODT, Nas). Could it be that Nipsey, realizing this, simply tried to hedge his bets by making a few dollars before he was cursed with one of those inevitable fates? Or was it his management team? Another intriguing subplot in all of this.
Will this change promotional strategies leading up to album releases? Undoubtedly so. The TIs have to be taking notice to the fact that almost every big recent chart-topper, outside of The Carter III, did not have a big-name tape trotted out beforehand. Eminem, T.I., Kanye, Jay-Z, et al. have eschewed that method, and the few that still adhere to this level of promotion, such as Nas, 50 Cent, Ludacris or Jadakiss, seem relegated to the B-list.
Will new artists continue to flood the market with pre-release material? Probably not. Between Wale, Kid Cudi, Drake, and the like, none of them seem too set of allowing fans to have a full discography on them before their first official set hits stores. Cudi has only released one tape, and Drake has only released one that circulated all that far. I believe this bodes well for them as the fans that they do have will truly be anticipating their debuts. I just don't think any of them have as many as the TIs think they do. If the suburban white kid with a top 10 pop smash can't get people excited, what chance do any of these guys, outside of possibly Drake, have?
Who could possibly the next artist to try to get people to pay for a mixtape? My money is on Gucci Mane, and it won't be Gucci himself. With his buzz being as high as it could ever be, the time is now for them to capitalize, only Gucci himself doesn't seem too interested, having not even named the album yet, let alone done any discernible work on it. When he has his next inevitable skid bid, I see his label putting expensive beats on his mixtape joints, selling it as an album, and laughing all the way to the bank.
Between all of this and the recent report that Mariah Carey's next album will include a 34-page mini magazine filled with ads and product placement, it seems that record companies and artists have both begun to realize that the album sales well has run pretty dry. I have a feeling that by year's end, things will look drastically different. But, as always, true talent will begin to rise, as there will be less and less money to be had for the creatively deficient.