MUSIC: The $100 Hussle
by Lawrence Ferrell
On an October Tuesday midnight, an experiment happened in the city of Los Angeles. At a pop up shop on Fairfax Avenue, hometown MC, Nipsey Hussle, decided to sell his new promotion album, Crenshaw, for $100. Yep, one hundred dollars. With a limited supply of a thousand copies, purchasers got the album with an autograph in gold ink as well as a ticket to a secret show. It also gave Nipsey’s fans a chance to meet him and probably get a picture to put up on Instagram. If you’re good at basic math, you probably figured out that Nipsey made $100,000 in one night. That’s more money than most artists would receive from a properly released album after marketing and recoup. Living up to his last name, the hustle was in Go mode.
Of course the idea of spending a Ben Franklin on a promo album sounds…”insane” as most people on Twitter and site comments would suggest, but what Nipsey Hussle did wasn’t any different than what other artists have done before. After Radiohead gave the audience the opportunity to Name Your Price for In Rainbows in 2007, Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails upped the ante with Ghosts I – IV. Along with getting a free download for the first volume, there was an option to get a gang-load of goodies for $300. In 2011, Bjork was selling an ultimate edition of Biophila for $800, which included tuning forks (?!?). The only major difference is that the aforementioned albums were available at retail stores. Crenshaw probably won’t be at your local Best Buy or Walmart, but don’t worry if you don’t have a hundred, the promo album is available for download and streaming on various sites.
Here’s where things get dicey/interesting: since Crenshaw is setting up for the 2014 release of Victory Lap, will the latter be $100 as well? What if there’s no traction from this experiment? Sure Mr. Shawn Knowles-Carter could purchase one hundred copies of Crenshaw, but how new would this rule really be for artists in general? What’s the resell value if this is a “collector’s item”? These are questions skeptics, with merit, have to ask for something of this magnitude. What’s the end game? How much of an impact will something like this have for artists and music listeners? Sure Nipsey’s fans will get something out of this, but how will other artists, independent mostly, benefit from this? Thom Yorke reflected later that the In Rainbows pricing experiment helped lead music services to start treating music as a “commodity” and not art. Also doesn’t Jay Z copping a hundred copies mess up the whole “this is for my hardcore fans” explanation Nipsey gave? It’s akin to waiting in line for a set supply of limited edition Jordans and LeBron buys a hundred of them.
The fact that we can not escape is artists are giving their works away mostly for free. No longer are listeners amped for release dates, but for when the so-called leak is gonna happen. What Nipsey did was ask his fan base to put their money where their mouths were. You support my work? Cool. Pay for it if you’re a true fan. Only time will tell if the “world’s first $100 album” is the start of a movement or another addition to the “Remember when…” files.