Hey! Sending this update much later than intended, my apologies. I had a busy weekend. Saturday I joined the protestors on the Golden Gate Bridge. My wife and I were on of the first people who joined the line to stop traffic on the bridge. You can see some pictures on my Instagram page here.
A few quick notes:
- The last Trapital Update will be this Friday June 12. After that, the membership program will transition to access to data resources and virtual meetups with Trapitalists. For more info and details on the reason for the change, read here or read the bottom of this email.
- The first database is The Rap Investor List. More are on the way. If you have suggestions on other databases you would like to see, let me know.
Today’s update is on protest rap and how it’s influenced by streaming era.
Protest Music and SEO (Streaming Era Optimization)
From Rolling Stone:
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25th, streaming numbers for protest songs have soared. Vintage tracks like N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police” that specifically call out police violence serve as a reminder that our current national crisis is nothing new. As Black Lives Matter resistance continues across the country, artists have channeled their anger and sadness into new protest anthems, directly inspired by Floyd’s death and its aftermath. Here’s how artists including YG, LL Cool J, and Teejayx6 have responded to the latest chapter of an age-old crisis.
In the past few weeks, Trey Songz, Run the Jewels, Juicy J, Meek Mill, and others have also released new music to commemorate this uprising. In the streaming era, a protest-inspired anthem can hit your favorite playlist in a few hours. Some artists have fancy home studios to make it easy, but that’s a luxury. Most can get this done with an iPhone X and a strong internet connection.
This trend helps hip-hop to extend the media cycle on this critical issue. Millions use Spotify and Apple Music every day. These songs get added to Black Lives Matter playlists that are prominently placed in each service’s user interface. Most of these services release their own “Black Lives Matter” statements. These playlists are a natural extension.
But it also tracks on two growing trends:
- Today’s content creators have prioritized reactionary content (e.g. The Joe Budden Podcast)
- Rappers are operating more like today’s content creators
On a recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons talked about an unnamed A-List guest he had on his podcast in 2019. He thought the episode would put up numbers, but it didn’t. The downloads were lower than his other episodes where he recaps the NBA. It must have been frustrating since it takes less effort to riff on the NBA than securing an A-Lister. (For the record, I tried to figure out who this unnamed guest was but gave up. He has like 600 episodes. Nobody has time for that!)
The same is now true in music. “Reactionary Hip-Hop” is the music that’s influenced by recent news and search engine optimization on digital streaming providers.
In March alone, hundreds of artists released songs titled “Coronavirus” to capture the widespread media attention. I wrote about this briefly in The Coronavirus Come Up (and Come Down).:
This is the same trend I called out Wednesday’s Cash App article with the hundreds of songs named “Cash App.” Some of those name drops are genuine shoutouts, but most are there to get clicks and streams.
Last October, Rolling Stone’s Elias Leight wrote about this trend:
“…the practice of naming a song after something already famous — coasting behind a proven hit and enjoying stray beams of admiration — seems to be on the rise. A single by the producer Sam Feldt titled “Post Malone” is pulling in close to 900,000 streams a day on Spotify; blackbear’s “Hot Girl Bummer,” which plays off Megan Thee Stallion’s recent meme-turned-hit “Hot Girl Summer,” is doing even better.“Everyone’s fighting for attention,” says Barry “Hefner” Johnson, co-founder of the management company Since the 80s, which includes 21 Savage and J.I.D. on its roster. “If you can get a keyword, you’re gonna name something some shit for attention. You damn near have to.”
The abundance of music has enabled these tactics.
It may seem cynical to imply that some rappers made BLM songs to gain traction. That’s a fair critique, but I’m not questioning the music’s integrity. An artist can drop a heartfelt song and be fully aware of its SEO benefits. Both things can be true. And let’s face it, the likelihood of a protest song getting picked up by the most popular playlists is quite high.
This awareness in the current moment is great, but hip-hop still has an important role in “evergreen content”. Songs like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” or albums like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly take time to make. They are so impactful that they create their own moments (that’s other creators make reactionary content to). But unfortunately, the entry barrier for that level of art is too high for most. It takes a whole lot of talent (and patience) to achieve that.
Reactionary music is a much lower lift. It’s a mentality that prioritizes distribution over product. It’s lead generation for the core business. It’s the core of today’s digital media era, and that’s not changing any time soon.
Thanks for reading. For those who missed it, below is the reason for the change in Trapital membership. Let me know if you have any questions. Have a great week!
Trapital’s membership will focus primarily on community engagement and data resources. In each survey I read, email read, and conversation with you all, I often hear that the biggest value-adds are engaging with the Trapital community and the data resources I had initially pitched at the beginning of 2020. To date, our Slack group attracts a few, but I can do more on the community front, especially since we can’t convene in person. Also, I have only publicized the Rap Investor List as a resource, and want to get the others to you as soon as I can.
Based on that, I will sunset the Monday and Friday Member Updates on June 12. A select few of you read every update, but most of you enjoy the free weekly deep dives and podcast more than those Monday and Friday updates. I had to make a change. Instead of continuing that pattern for another year, I want to refocus that time into what’s most valuable.
In full transparency, this will also give me more time to serve more consulting and advisory clients (learn more here if interested), and to grow Trapital further.
Here’s what to expect:
- More hip-hop-related data resources like the Rap Investor List on various other topics. I’ve heard many of the suggestions, but I’m open to others too. Reply to this email if you have requests
- More virtual meetups and hangouts. We did a COVID-19 related meet-up in March. My goal is to make these monthly. I’m aware that not “everyone” will attend these either. But the value-add will be greater for those who can, and that’s what matters
2. Trapital memberships will become Annual only. Existing monthly subscribers will be grandfathered in at current rate. A lot of work goes into data resources. The $10 / month tier had too much churn to justify the time and effort put into these resources. The one-year commitment will also attract those most interested in the community.
These changes will happen over the next few weeks. I’ll likely share more in a longer post, but wanted to give you all a heads up.
If anyone has any questions or concerns, please reply to this email and let me know.