Hey! Today’s update covers the impact of COVID-19 and what artists and the industry should (and shouldn’t) do in response. This update also includes a collection of articles on Pusha T’s new label, K.Dot’s new company, Spotify, and TikTok memes.
Jessica McKinney | Complex
In late February, Pusha-T announced that he has started a new record label called Heir Wave Music Group. The company, which is based in his home state of Virginia, will concentrate on signing and developing artists from the local area. Push tells Complex that Heir Wave’s roster will eventually include artists from other regions, but starting the label at home was his first priority. “I have a particular need to build out Heir Wave as a platform and build out a circuit for artists within this region, simply because I feel like it’s something that we’ve never had,” he says.
Note – Music discovery has been a big Push for the DAYTONA rapper. He is co-founder of the Heir App is a music discovery platform, so this is a natural extension—especially for his home state. He’ll remain President of G.O.O.D. Music. YUGGHCK.
Glenn Peoples | Billboard
Podcasting has helped Spotify accelerate its user growth. It hasn’t come cheap, but the strategy is already paying off. Will others follow? At 12 years old, and 23 months after going public, Spotify is still acting more like a venture capital-funded startup than a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Note – great breakdown here. Glenn does great work.
Dylan Smith | Digital Music News
Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny is taking full advantage of Spotify’s soon-to-be expanded advertising tools to promote his newest album, YHLQMDLG, and the early results speak for themselves. Late yesterday, we reported that Spotify was ramping up its pay-for-promotional programs (or, ‘pay-for-play’ programs according to some folks).
Trace William Cowen | Complex
Drake’s “Nonstop,” of course, is not a new song. The Scorpion cut served as the sixth single from the 6 god’s 2018 double album and received a still-rewatchable video from director Theo Skudra. It later inspired a meme in which participants flipped the switch to the sound of Drake’s first verse declaration about him having done the same.
Note – Virality is random. Artists can’t manufacture these moments. But artists can capitalize on the moments when they happen. Get involved, join the fun! Reap the rewards later.
Jonathan Sawyer | Highsnobiety
Kendrick Lamar has announced a new project, but perhaps not the kind many are hoping for. While the TDE emcee has not revealed plans for a new album, instead he teased his new company, pgLang, with frequent collaborator Dave Free…Upon visiting the website, we learn that pgLang is an “at service company,” specializing in music, film, television, art, books, and podcasts. Their mission is to deliver “stories that speak to many nations, many races, and many ages,”…
Note – not quite real estate, but Kendrick is adding new mediums for his message. If he puts the same energy into his albums and real estate as he does these projects, we should expect quality content that matches the brand and strategy he has put out for years. If you haven’t already, read last week’s Trapital article on Kendrick Lamar.
COVID-19’s Impact on Hip-Hop
(photo via Larry W. Smith/ EPA / Shutterstock)
COVID-19’s impact continues to spread. Companies keep pulling out of SXSW and other events. Coachella is in major doubt, which means other festivals are in the same boat. Italy has moved to extreme measures with sporting events in empty stadiums, and other countries may follow.
The outbreak had led to more remote work, sanitary purchases, and food delivery. Instacart demand has surged up to 20x in certain U.S. states. The company started a new service to deliver groceries to your doorstep without human contact. It’s a reactionary measure that solves a primal fear. It sounds shameful to think “how can I still make money during the COVID-19 outbreak?” but it’s top of mind for many business leaders.
Companies are seeking alternatives. Artists are at exceptionally-high risk since live events are their bread and butter. Many have considered virtual reality and technology-enhanced experiences as an outbreak-free option. It’s a logical place to land, but any team pursuing these paths to mitigate risk needs to take a few steps back.
Remember, this is a crisis. Maslov’s hierarchy of needs will reign supreme. Instacart, Amazon Prime delivery, and Walmart have surged in recent weeks because they provide safe measures for base-level needs: food and water. Entertainment is at the top part of the hierarchy pyramid. It’s less critical for survival until other needs are met. Expecting an Instacart-level surge for entertainment’s COVID-19-friendly alternatives is foolish.
But once those base needs are met, there will be a decrease in human interaction and social connections. There’s only so much Netflix and HBO someone can watch before they lose their minds (sorry, Reed Hastings). People will be eager to fill that void.
This is where artists come in. If I’m on an artist’s team, I want a frictionless way to interact with fans while the world figures this crisis out. I’m doing impromptu livestream videos and Q&As on Instagram Live. I’m jumping in my subreddit to do an AMA with fans. I’m letting folks know how COVID-19 has impacted my business and hearing how it’s been for them. Games like Fortnite will likely see an uptick in usage. Top gamers like Ninja can set up another livestream like Drake and Travis Scott did a couple of years ago. These are seamless opportunities that are already ingrained in what folks use every day.
VR/AR/MR experiences all face challenges at a time like this. VR has made strides, but it has a long way to go. The last thing someone wants to do during a worldwide crisis is order a $150 Oculus headset and troubleshoot until it works. There’s too much friction. The best AR and MR experiences require outside travel and outdoor interaction, which will turn consumers off. It’s not the best time.
This is a time for artists and companies to be temporary relief during a stressful situation. There’s that classic bit from Dave Chappelle’s 2004 For What It’s Worth special where the comedian mocks MTV for asking Ja Rule’s opinion on the 9/11 attacks.
Despite the hilarious delivery of the joke, and how well its aged given Ja Rule’s Fyre Festival and other gaffs, Dave Chappelle is wrong.
To be clear, I don’t need Drake to turn into a CDC spokesperson and tell me how to stay safe! But Drake can hop on Instagram Live to talk about how COVID-19 impacts his business and hear how his fans are dealing with it. He would attract millions of viewers. It’s the type of connection that will serve artists well once the outbreak subsides and we can all get back to regularly scheduled programming.
P.S. – now I’m on a Dave Chappelle “Killing Them Softly” YouTube rabbit hole so the rest of my afternoon is probably shot.