LA rapper Nipsey Hussle has used his entrepreneurial nous to keep pushing the envelope of the music industry and find new ways to monetize his art.
Recently, Nipsey tweeted a breakdown of streaming royalties from different platforms, encouraging users and artists to use Tidal.
Nipsey has continued to find different ways to make money off his music, starting his own record company All Money In, partnering with Atlantic, and reaching a small but passionate group of fans that will pay a premium for physical copies of his music.
In November, Nipsey sat down with Complex to discuss how the Atlantic deal will change his independent and radical approach to the music industry.
He told Complex that his deal with Atlantic isn’t a typical distribution deal but a “strategic partnership” to push his music and business forward:
“Basically, it’s a strategic partnership to take the next steps with the Nipsey Hussle story. It’s between the company All Money In, which I’m a part owner in, and Atlantic Records for services of Nipsey Hussle. It’s not a traditional artist to a label signing, you know what I mean? It’s more of us partnering with Atlantic and utilizing their specialties and their strengths to move what we’ve been doing to the next platform in terms of recognition, fan base, access to radio, access to retail, and utilize their staff, and tapping into a specialist.”
One of the most intriguing aspects of Nipsey’s approach is his application of both scarcity and physicality in his album releases. In 2013, Nip sold 1,000 copies of his project Crenshaw for $100 each.
While the mixtape was available for free download, Nipsey capitalized on his more voracious fans to buy a physical copy of the record (Jay-Z bought 100 copies). In 2015, Nipsey sold hard copies of his album for $1,000 each, again selling out and providing physical copies at a premium, while also allowing for free online downloading.
This approach has since been adopted by artists like Eminem and Wu-Tang Clan.
When Complex asked Nipsey about his use of scarcity, he was quick to say it’s not about scarcity, it’s about money:
“Well, I wouldn’t say that All Money In is in the business of scarcity. I would say that the Nipsey Hussle Crenshaw release was an example of All Money In creating an artificial scarcity campaign for the physical side of Crenshaw. The digital version of it was everywhere; on iTunes, on the pay sites—the same way that Atlantic will have all of our digital stuff on all the pay sites. So the distinguishing part of that campaign was the physical copy was limited, and it wasn’t distributed through traditional retail. That was more of a #Proud2Pay approach, more than an All Money In approach. It was a direct-to-consumer strategy for the hard copy, because all the digital versions of the album were released traditionally.”
By making his projects available for a premium, Nipsey is creating an intimate and monetary relationship with his bigger fans, a sect of Nipsey Hussle fans that will spend almost anything to support his mission. He told Complex about this intimacy:
“I just think that’s how life works; I don’t think you get anything to a million people at a time. I think that’s unrealistic. I don’t think a human being observed that. I think that business introduced that ideology. I think human things happen intimate.”
And this intimate relationship becomes automatic organic marketing, those fans will feel like they’re part of a movement:
“So the goal would be, as a content creator, to create a piece of content that affects one person so much that they gotta go share it, and they become your marketing. They become the legs for what you’re doing. Because if you focus and zero in, you can inspire a person to a degree that they work for the movement. That’s not a night and day window. It’s not when they check run out, they stop campaignin’. They are inspired, and you planted somethin’ in ’em. They walk into a room, and if there’s nine people that don’t know about you, they feel like they got a dope opportunity to gain currency with nine people by puttin’ ’em on somethin’ dope.”
On a slightly different tip, Nipsey spoke about his work in his community and building a STEM school in inner-city Los Angeles in order to reach and inspire underprivileged students:
“Basically a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) compound that we built in the hood. It’s a 5,000 square foot compound—[it] used to be the Wonder Bread factory. And us, as All Money In, and our real estate development partner, Dave Gross, partnered up.”
But as for that relationship with his fans, Nipsey Hussle has now invested in Vezt, a platform that connects artists and consumers through blockchain technology.
With Vezt, artists can monetize their own product to fans, eliminating a middle man in the space between the music and the listeners.
Again, this provides artists with the opportunity to capitalize on their fans and take financial ownership of their art.
Nipsey recently received backlash for perceived homophobic comments about images of Black masculinity in the media, sparring with activist and BLM leader Deray McKesson on Twitter.
It was definitely discouraging to see someone who has been so revolutionary and progressive in his business and his work in his community pedal a seemingly bigoted agenda and we hope Nip walks those comments back.
Regardless, Nipsey’s approach to the business side of music is something many artists should look to for inspiration in reaching their fans or monetizing their content.