Hey! The next podcast episode is dropping soon. I chatted hip-hop business with Tarik Brooks–COO of Combs Enterprises, so stay tuned for that!
Today’s covers Roddy Ricch’s continued success, the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and the recently announced Hamilton movie.
Roddy Ricch’s run continues
“Roddy Ricch’s Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial returns to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for a third nonconsecutive week, while Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? vaults back into the top three after Eilish’s big night at the Grammy Awards…
The vast majority of Please Excuse Me’s units in the latest tracking week was driven by streaming activity, with 92,000 SEA units contributing to its overall total of just under 95,000 units. The album’s remaining units were registered via a little more than 1,000 TEA units and about 1,000 in album sales.”
It’s great to see rappers come up as Roddy has. “The Box” is still the #1 song in the country. But it’s hard not to feel skeptical about the forces behind his rise.
A few weeks ago, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber pleaded to their fans to stream their music so they could top the charts (and beat Roddy Ricch). Ever since, fans have streamed TikTok-influenced hit endlessly. But how much of this is true support from a rising star in hip-hop? And how much is merely support against opposing forces?
Last year, “Old Town Road” gained initial notoriety when Billboard removed the song from the country charts. That decision led to widespread backlash, which boosted Lil’ Nas X’s public image. Lil’ Nas X knew how to capitalize on the moment, but even he knows that the initial rise driven by factors out of his control.
Similarly, Roddy Ricch’s initial success seemed more driven by a meme that soon became an opportunity to push back against an established entity that wants to take something away from a young, rising artist. This is dynamic is compounded when that established entity is two pop stars with massive followings and have already achieved the success that Roddy has.
There are pros and cons to this. The “pro’ is that stars can gain traction and success faster than ever. True success does not happen overnight for anyone. But in today’s environment, all that hard work can pay off instantly if the right meme or campaign catches steam. If “The Box” didn’t become a TikTok meme or an anti-Bieber movement, there’s a strong chance that Roddy may not have catapulted himself into a performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
It’s a “con” because this type of fame doesn’t necessarily develop longstanding fans. The backlash to Justin Bieber’s self-promotion doesn’t translate to a day-one fan. Neither does a TikToker looking to capitalize on the latest wave—regardless of who it is. Can Roddy and his team capitalize on his success to extend the song’s run while preparing for what’s next?
Let’s revisit this chart from How Lil’ Nas X Will Impact Hip-Hop:
We don’t need 15 remixes of “The Box,” but there are opportunities to lean into the song’s popularity. Roddy can continue telling fans to stream the artist that is challenging Roddy’s top spot. He did this to both Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber and fans loved it.
stream yummy by justin bieber 💪🏽
— Roddy Ricch (@RoddyRicch) January 11, 2020
stream rare by selena gomez 🔥
— Roddy Ricch (@RoddyRicch) January 17, 2020
If he did the same to Drake and Future, who currently have the #2 song in the country with “Life is Good,” fans would love it.
The Lil’ Nas X playbook, while effective, can’t guarantee success. Who knows if the “Old Town Road” artist will have another chart-topping hit in 2020. Five ago he said he was taking a break from music, but who knows how long that lasts. He can check all the right boxes and his music may still not take off. That’s a reality for the entire entertainment business. The same can be said about Roddy Ricch. Most rappers would dream of a #1 album and a #1 song in the country. He’s checking all the right boxes, but his next steps are important.
Super Halftime Show “Gains”
Another halftime show, another report on the proverbial Super Bowl bump.
According to initial sales reports to Nielsen Music, the collected songs performed during the halftime show (which aired live on Fox TV in the U.S.) garnered a 1,013% sales increase in the U.S. on Feb. 2, the day of the big game. In total, the tunes sold 16,000 digital downloads on Sunday, up from a little more than 1,000 sold on Saturday, Feb. 1.
The biggest selling song among those performed was Shakira’s “Whenever, Wherever,” which sold nearly 4,000 on Feb. 2, snaring a 1,194% increase compared to the negligible figure it posted the day before. The second-largest selling halftime tune was another Shakira track, “Hips Don’t Lie,” moving 2,000 downloads (up 1,126% from a negligible sum the day before).
Ugh. These stats are the worst. Each year, we report thousands of percentage increases from the headlining acts, but the base numbers are generally low in the streaming era. It’s like reporting on penny stocks.
Here’s what I wrote last year before the Maroon 5 / Travis Scott / Big Boi performance:
Last year, Forbes (and many others) reported that Justin Timberlake’s music surged 214% on Spotify after the game. They compared his streams from the hour following the Super Bowl to that same hour the week before. It’s a small sample size that doesn’t equate to much money in today’s streaming economy.
Let’s do the math. Drake was the most streamed artist on Spotify in 2018 with 8.2 billion streams. Each Spotify stream is worth about $0.007, which equals $57 million for the Toronto rapper. That’s a lot in aggregate but equates to just over $6,500 per hour. A 214% increase for one hour of Drake’s music would be less than $15,000. That’s less money than Drake gave that boy and his mom in the “God’s Plan” music video. And since Travis Scott (and Justin Timberlake’s) music was streamed far less than Drake’s was, that number would be even smaller.
The official streaming stats are still to come, but the results will surely be similar.
The best type of reporting can measure the impact these performances have on the intended audience. It would be great to see reporting on these metrics:
- Viewership in Latin America and regions with high Latino population (relative to past years): One of the reasons both Jennifer Lopez and Shakira were asked to perform was because of their ties to Latin America. The NFL wants to grow its audience in these regions. Mexico City is one of its largest markets outside the U.S.
- Future checks, endorsements, and deals for the headliners: This isn’t public data, but this is how I would measure a true “Grammy bump.” J. Lo and Shakira were already global superstars who have done the World Cup opening ceremonies in recent years. And while it’s hard to isolate the impact of a single performance opportunity, it can still indicate the event’s magnitude.
- ROI for Roc Nation and NFL: Reading the New York Times interview with Jay Z, it’s clear that the Roc Nation consider Maroon 5’s show a regrettable mistake:
“Then, last year, the Super Bowl was in Atlanta, a global center of hip-hop — and the N.F.L. booked the pop rock band Maroon 5 as the headliner.
It certainly looked like the N.F.L. needed help.”
Ehh, that’s a stretch. How exactly is success measured? In critical reception? Viewership during the show? Engagement with the host city? Cultural capital gained?
As I wrote last year, the Super Bowl suffers from negative network effects. At some point, criticism is inevitable. Even the performances considered the best of the past 30 years (Prince, Michael Jackson, Beyonce) failed to please everyone and would likely get even more criticism if they happened today. That’s a problem that neither Roc Nation or anyone else can solve.
Hamilton the Movie in 2021
The studio is teaming with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeffrey Seller and Thomas Kail on the project, which is billed in a press release as a “leap forward in the art of ‘live capture.’” It explains the live capture method as “combining the best elements of live theater and film,” resulting in “a cinematic stage performance that is a wholly new way to experience Hamilton.”
Producers for this version of Hamilton include Miranda, Seller and Kail, who also directs. The film was shot in June 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and reports began circulating in 2018 that bidders were circling the film version of the stage production. Studios had to pledge not to release it until at least 2020.”
Disney paid a whopping $75 million for the worldwide rights to the musical. Lin-Manuel Miranda has to take the staff to Nobu. It’s only right (I don’t make the rules).
I see this as step 2 in a multi-step process to monetize IP from one of the biggest musical releases in recent memory. This movie may not break box office records, but it doesn’t need to. It was recorded from a live show back in 2016. The production cost will be low. Once the film concludes its theatrical run, it will likely hit Disney+ streaming services.
It makes perfect sense. Last year, Kanye West featured Jesus is King in IMAX theaters, and Beyonce got the big Netflix deal for her Coachella performance “Homecoming.” It’s all part of the same playbook.
Now that Disney owns the rights, expect a Hamilton film adaptation with Hollywood actors, similar to Chicago, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2002, Rent movie in 2005, and Cats, which bombed at the box office. Well hopefully, it’s NOT like Cats then.
This June, Miranda’s other musical In The Heights will hit theaters. He is gearing up for some big payouts in 2020 and 2021.