Hey! Next week I’ll be in Los Angeles to speak at a conference. I’d like to schedule an evening meetup for Trapital members on Thursday, October 3 since several of you are based there. Haven’t confirmed travel yet, but I’ll keep you posted!
Also, the latest Trapital Podcast episode is out! Check out my conversation with Forbes’ Zack O’Malley Greenburg, the creator of the annual Hip-Hop Cash List. We talk about how Cardi B and Meek Mill said the numbers are off, his data verification process, and more. Listen and share!
Today’s Trapital update covers J. Lo at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, Drake’s “God’s Plan” Diamond certification and how streaming data gets reported, and Kanye West’s album delays and the declining trend in delays over time.
Jennifer Lopez and the Super Bowl
Two weeks ago, Jennifer Lopez’ movie Hustlers debuted. It will likely earn her an Oscar nomination. Last week, the “If You Had My Love” singer turned heads when she wore a remixed version of her iconic Versace dress from the 2000 Grammys. And to top it all off, this week Jenny From The Block announced that she’ll soon grace the biggest stage in music. From the NFL:
“Pepsi, the NFL and Roc Nation announced cultural icons Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will perform during the PEPSI SUPER BOWL LIV HALFTIME SHOW on FOX at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. Pepsi and the NFL collaborated with Roc Nation to bring these two icons together for the first time ever, for what will be an unforgettable performance on the world’s biggest stage.
“Ever since I saw Diana Ross fly off into the sky at the Halftime Show, I dreamed of performing at the Super Bowl,” said Lopez. “And now it’s made even more special not only because it’s the NFL’s 100th season, but also because I am performing with a fellow Latina. I can’t wait to show what us girls can do on the world’s biggest stage.”
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see that I called this months ago!
Watch J. Lo do the Super Bowl halftime show next year
— Dan Runcie (@RuncieDan) February 11, 2019
Surprisingly, the NFL hasn’t yet had a Latino-focused halftime show. The audience has a growing interest in the NFL, and the league has made a concerted effort to grow the fanbase. According to CNN, Mexico City has the 7th largest NFL fanbase in North America. The NFL has scheduled regular season games in Mexico City since 2016. Hispanic viewers are also 33% more likely to buy products from ads between sports programming, which is right in line with the NFL’s ad-based business model.
The Super Bowl itself has also made recent strides in Latin America. The big game didn’t get a Spanish-language telecast until 2014! It’s the top non-soccer broadcast for Telemundo Deportes. Both Shakira and Lopez have performed on similar global stages at the World Cup opening ceremonies in 2010 and 2014 respectively. This should be a solid draw.
Lopez is multi-talented, but her biggest strength is her consistency. Can you think of a period in time when she has ever stopped or taken a break? She still powered through her forgettable projects (like 2003’s Gigli). In the past three years alone, she’s starred in NBC drama Shades of Blue, performed over 120 shows at her Las Vegas residency, starred in two movies, and developed a relationship with her now-fiancee, Alex Rodriguez, who’s been on his own comeback redemption tour. Not bad for someone who once got teased by Mariah Carey for getting eight hours of sleep a night. Ha!
Shakira, who has a management deal in place with Roc Nation, rounds out the billing with her strong following in South America and her deep catalog of crossover hits. I was way off in my prediction last week that Roc Nation would get Megan Thee Stallion involved in the show, but it’s time for some new predictions!
Here’s what we should expect for surprise guests.
- Latin hip-hop stars: At least one of the following people: Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Daddy Yankee, or Becky G. An appearance by one or both of them would expand the show’s reach considerably. It would push the show’s international ratings through the roof. These stars dominate on YouTube and other ad-based platforms.
- Pitbull and DJ Khaled: Pitbull already has a standing partnership with Pepsi and is a force in Latin music in his own right. Miami’s DJ Khaled is obviously not Latino, but he, like J. Lo, is consistent about his business opportunities. And since Khaled has a management deal in place with Roc Nation, you can bet your boy’s already hit up Jay Z about this!
God’s Plan and Streaming Records
Add another trophy to the 6 God’s collection. From Forbes:
“Drake’s single “God’s Plan” has just become his first-ever diamond-certified song in the U.S., meaning it has officially moved at least 10 million equivalent units. The track is the thirty-second title in the country to reach the milestone, which remains one of the greatest accomplishments an artist can reach for throughout their career.”
I was surprised to see that “God’s Plan” is technically Drake’s biggest hit ever. “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” felt like bigger cultural moments. But I attribute this to the rapid growth of digital streaming providers. Scorpion outsold Views, but is that because more people checked for Scorpion? Or because more streaming growth and revenue nearly doubled from 2016 to 2018?
Rolling Stone’s Amy X. Wang wrote about this in last year in an article aptly titled, Drake Just Broke Another Streaming Record That Doesn’t Matter:
“All of these virtual trophies speak to Drake’s musical prowess, to be sure. But the accomplishments belong less to the rapper himself and much more to streaming services his album is listened to on, which have exploded in popularity at unparalleled speed and thrown all the traditional metrics of “success” in the music industry into unfettered chaos. Billboard‘s decades-old charts, for instance, now have to factor in streams against CD sales and digital downloads at a somewhat arbitrary rate; as of this summer, those charts weigh the success of songs differently depending on whether they were streamed for free or via a paid streaming subscription.”
Let’s compare 2016’s Views to 2018’s Scorpion, the top albums both of those years. Views, an Apple Music exclusive for its first few weeks, sold 1.04 million album units, but 852,000 of those were pure album sales (digital or physical). Meanwhile, Scorpion sold 735,000 first week, but just 160,000 were pure sales. Views had 188,000 streaming album units, while Scorpion had 575,000. The strategy to sell those two albums are night and day. They had entirely different business models.
Here are View’s three biggest singles based on RIAA data:
- “One Dance” (8x Platinum)
- “Hotline Bling” (8x)
- “Controlla” (3x)
Here’s the top three for Scorpion:
- “God’s Plan” (Diamond [11x Platinum])
- “Nice for What” (5x)
- “In My Feelings (5x)
“God’s Plan” still seems high when compared relatively to Drake’s other biggest songs, but those are the numbers.
The music industry is not alone in this type of data measurement. The broader entertainment industry relies on numbers that are dependent on inflation. Growth is automatically built-in to its reporting. Every year, a new album becomes the most-streamed album ever. That stat is heavily reliant on DSP subscriber growth. Similarly, a new movie (often made by Disney) breaks a new box office record. That stat is heavily tied to the rising ticket prices. These “record-breaking” stats drive the media narratives for industry growth.
This doesn’t diminish the success of “God’s Plan” (or any Avengers or Star Wars films). The song was a huge viral hit. But it’s more of a representation on how we report this data.
Kanye West and Album Delays
Guess who didn’t drop on his album on time! Kanye West has now failed to meet his album release date on nine of his last 11 projects. Jesus is King did not hit the streets as planned today. There’s been no direct word from Kanye or anyone in his camp.
Kanye maintains a trend that has largely died down in the modern streaming era. In August, AWAL wrote an interesting study on why album delays were once frequent and why they’re far less common today.
It’s worth a read, but here’s the TL;DR version:
Why Delays in Hip-Hop Used to Happen
– Guest verses were harder to keep on schedule
– Samples weren’t cleared. Reluctance from non-hip hop acts
– Competition (e.g. 2007 Kanye’s Graduation vs 50 Cent’s Curtis)
– Leaked copies, bootlegs in the CD era impacted release dates
Why Delays Happen Less Today
– Guest verses timeframe is reduced
– Fewer leaks in the digital era
– Consistency matters more than perfection on the digital streaming platforms
That last point should be framed. Here’s a direct quote from the article:
“Meanwhile, perfectionism — in itself a key catalyst for album delays (sometimes for the better, in all honesty) — took a big hit. As algorithms increasingly rewarded consistency and listeners rapidly moved from one release to the next, the content rat race hit music.”
This is the underlying notion of my 2018 article on Drake, Nothing Was the Same After “Nothing Was the Same”. After that album, Drake stopped trying to release a classic hip-hop album. He shifted his strategy to take advantage of the streaming era:
“Once Drake embraced his core competency (achieving commercial success with mediocre albums), his success rose. More Life (2017) was Drake’s “playlist” between albums that still set numerous streaming records. Scorpion went platinum in a day and has already gotten mixed reviews—exactly as intended. Drake has become even more bankable, leveraged his scalable fanbase, and built partnerships to increase his accessibility.”
Consistency matters more in the subscription economy, where customers pay recurring fees to access recurring content. This notion directly conflicts with Ye, whose claim to fame is perfection, and rose to fame in an era where perfection mattered more. He spent years working on “All of the Lights” and STILL doesn’t think it’s perfect. He treated The Life of Pablo like an overzealous product manager who went above and beyond to ship weekly updates for his company’s flagship product.
For better or worse, he hasn’t truly adapted to the streaming era. It helps ensure that Kanye delivers a higher quality of music (excluding 2018’s Ye) but it makes his delays more noticeable than ever.
Note – the shift from quality to consistency is an unfortunate trend for music lovers everywhere, but that’s a bigger conversation for another day…
Good Content From Elsewhere
- O.J. Simpson’s First Months on Twitter Show Why He’ll Never Leave the Public Eye (Justin Tinsley / The Undefeated ESPN)
For a man who’s been famous most of his life, and loathed for the last quarter century, abstaining from public notoriety was never an option
Have a great weekend! It’s my wedding anniversary on Sunday so I’m getting away for a couple of days. See y’all on next week!