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The leader in music catalog activations
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In the three-year period from 2019 to 2021, Paul Anka’s original song streamed 300% higher than the three-year period prior. That’s the impact of a great placement. It drives revenue for both the original and sampled track.
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Travis Scott’s distribution game
“First-time founders focus on product. Second-time founders focus on distribution.” That phrase has been etched in the brains of startup leaders everywhere (even if they struggle to execute it). Travis Scott took that advice to heart and built his career on it.
The Houston rapper is one of streaming’s biggest success stories. He proved himself from SoundCloud to “Sicko Mode,” from the Super Bowl to strategic partnerships with PlayStation.
But it’s been five years since his last album, Astroworld. A lot has changed in music, a lot has changed for Travis, and many factors he took advantage of have evolved. How will the hip-hop rock star adapt?
the stars aligned and he took advantage
Travis Scott was dealt the perfect hand and played it wisely. He had the G.O.O.D. Music co-sign from Kanye West. He leaned into hypebeast culture with endless merch drops for his young millennial male fanbase. And he had a high-profile relationship with one of the most-followed people in the world, Kylie Jenner. If ChatGPT was prompted to construct a commercially successful artist for the 2010s, the output look like Travis.
His 2018 to 2020 run was a flex on corporate America. He finessed the Billboard rules, performed on the biggest stage in music, launched a music festival, released a Netflix documentary, performed on Fortnite, had his own McDonald’s meal, dropped his own Air Jordans, and had a song on the TENET soundtrack. The only thing missing was a viral TikTok challenge.
Travis put in work to reap those rewards, but he also relied on short-lived trends that were out of his control. Like the ever-changing charting rules, hip-hop’s first-mover advantage in music streaming, the fickleness of hype fashion, the COVID-19 quarantine lockdowns, and the aging of his youthful 18-24-year-old fanbase.
It’s similar to a startup that’s too dependent on Google and Facebook to drive its growth. Sure, those platforms can offer quick and efficient returns. But if either company tweaks its algorithm—which happens often—the startup is left hanging. It exposes the company’s lack of foundation and vulnerability to changing market conditions.
In 2021, the Astroworld Festival tragedy was a shock to the system. It’s especially challenging to navigate for an artist who built his rager brand off of the wild antics at his shows. Travis laid relatively low in the festival’s aftermath, but now that he’s back, where does his brand go from here?
You can listen to the episode here or read below for more takeaways.
Is Travis Scott a ‘forever artist’
Travis will perform at the Pyramids of Giza to promote Utopia. He has numerous “fan packs” to maximize the latest Billboard rule change. And he has the biggest names in the world featured on his album. This is no surprise. Travis always does it big.
Unfortunately, the tactics that Travis Scott maximized in the late 2010s have now become table stakes. Other artists have performed at the Pyramids too, every other artist in 2023 with have their album bundles, and superstar collaborations don’t move the needle.
What Travis needs is another song like “Sicko Mode.” A true #1 single. Not a song that releases at #1 and then falls off, but a hit with staying power that dominates airwaves for months. It’s harder than ever to achieve in 2023, but Morgan Wallen and SZA prove it’s possible.
In a recent interview with Kevin Hart, Dr. Dre talked about how Kendrick Lamar is a ‘forever artist.’ Even if K.Dot only drops once every five years, it doesn’t matter. He’s Kendrick. He’ll always have an audience because of his body of work. Even if his latest album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is less acclaimed than others, his product has built enough of a reputation.
Is Travis Scott a forever artist? Utopia can help answer that question. The culture has evolved quite a bit since Travis Scott’s music and brand were inescapable. Let’s see if he can recapture that moment.
Make sure you check out the rest of the episode. Denisha and I talk more about the following:
– What happened to the Travis Scott A24 movie?
– Could Travis have launched a company under Cactus Jack?
– Over/under sales predictions for Utopia
[00:00:00] Denisha Kuhlor: When we look at the caliber of the brands that he was able to pull, I think that was the difference between him being a 10 or 20 million a year artist that we were who we would be praising his work ethic versus this $100 million artist that were like, wow.
[00:00:17] Dan Runcie Intro Audio: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from the executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.
[00:00:43] Dan Runcie: All right, we’re going to get deep into the world of Utopia. Travis Scott is upon the release of his fourth album, and this one has been long anticipated for several years now. But a lot’s changed since the last time that Travis Scott released his album, Astroworld, which came out summer 2018. But there’s been two big things that have happened.
One, the pandemic. And then two, the tragedy of the Astroworld concert, and we have seen the heights of Travis Scott in that era, thinking specifically about the Fornite series that he had, we’ve also seen the lows of it as well, especially given the aftermath of the people that died and all of the injuries and all of the broader conversations around concert safety.
Travis Scott’s role in this himself and other things too. And I want to talk about this with you. So we have Denisha Culloran, who’s the founder of STAN. You work specifically in artist engagement and have written pieces on many of the superstars. Let’s first start with where hip hop is because we’re now in 2023, and I feel like we’re in a very different spot than we were when Travis Scott released his last album, Astroworld. So what’s changed for you? Where were we with hip hop then and music then? And where are we now?
[00:01:59] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think that hip hop is, undergoing a new era, at least from a quantitative or commercial success standpoint, in the last few years and probably in some ways due to the pandemic, I feel like we’ve seen the emergence of what I like to think of as dance music. I mean, Beyonce released a dance album, Drake, one of the biggest hip hop stars himself released a dance album. Even when you look at the rise of music, non English music, right? Whether that’s music coming out of Africa or, you know, what Bad Bunny has done as well. People are, gravitating to music that doesn’t necessarily have to do with the lyrics in the way that rap shines.
So I would say to sum it up that rap is having, a bit of a fall from dominance.
[00:02:46] Dan Runcie: And it’s interesting with Travis Scott too, because I feel like he benefited from this transition to an era where people aren’t necessarily listening for. The lyrics, the people that love Travis Scott were so much more interested into the vibe, this rager mentality, and he was a hip hop rock star in terms of how he built himself.
And I don’t know if a song like highest in the room is necessarily 1 that you’re trying to hear in a club, or you’re trying to hear dancing, but and so do you think that this transition away from lyrics and more divides? Do you think this hurts someone like Travis or helps them?
[00:03:22] Denisha Kuhlor: You know, I like that categorization, hip hop, rock star. I mean, if we were to look at the charts, the one person who has waved the flag for hip hop this year, truly from a commercial standpoint, is Lil Uzi Vert. And I would compare him or categorize him the same way. So when I think about, when I think about that, I say it helps him.
[00:03:44] Dan Runcie: Lil Uzi Vert did sample System of a Down in his most recent album. And he definitely has a few songs that sound like that post grunge early 2000s types of artists like Switchfoot and stuff like that. So there’s a bit of that mixed in there. Travis Scott has benefited from that too. He’s also benefited from having songs where.
You heard multiple sounds being merged into each other. I’m thinking, of course, like sicko mode where you can break the whole song. It sounds like three parts in one together. But again, that was 2018. We’re in a very different time right now for hip hop and its releases. And I say that to say the success that Travis Scott had in 2018 to 2020, because I do feel like in a lot of ways, that was the commercial peak.
Said as much about him as it did about the broader streaming era, as it did about where culture was. So 1st, he himself, he emerges on the scene. He speaks to this audience of hip hop fans that. Really didn’t have someone that was reaching them specifically Travis Scott born in the early 90s. So he’s still millennial, but he definitely reached more of that older Gen Z audience.
And let’s say someone like Drake or Kendrick or J Cole did and he related to that hype beast culture. He did it with how he dropped his music, how he thought about merch collaborations and any of the partnerships that he had. And we’ll get into those in a minute, but that was the ethos of what he did.
And especially at that time with the way that Billboard was counting album bundles that really worked to his advantage because he combined his hype beast and his ability to sell things and essentially be a walking Supreme style artists where when he drops Astroworld, he literally has this 24 hour merge operation that is dropping a new product every hour of this.
And that’s how that album is able to do nearly 50% of its first week. Sales coming from more coming from these albums that come through, or these album bundles that come through. He still did quite well in streaming, but the combination of those leads to him having, I believe it was 537, 000 units selling in his 1st week.
And usually the people that project these things are usually pretty on course. And I remember the projections leading up to Astroworld, which like Utopia was also pretty hyped album, but people were expecting things may be in the mid to high 200, 000 range. And he more than doubles that.
And you rarely see that much of an artist exceeding the expectations of that perspective. I think a lot of it has to do with people just not expecting him to have dominated things the way that they did. And even though it is 1 of these things where you have to, in some ways, read the fine print to see how those numbers came through.
The average person just sees the top line number. No different than you may see. Oh, this movie grossed a hundred and fifty million dollars. You’re not trying to read the fine line to say, okay, well, how many of those tickets were IMAX versus cheap movies where it costs less than ten dollars. So go see matinee, you just want to see what’s that top line number and it worked really well to his advantage and because there was still model culture definitely wasn’t around in 2018 in that way, but we’ve only become more fragmented since then. So there was still this opportunity, especially with the growth of streaming and these services to really elevate a star. And I think that worked to his advantage as well. So the timing and everything of that Astroworld release couldn’t have worked better for him.
[00:07:20] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I agree. I think he was really disciplined or it just came natural in terms of building a business that exuded a lifestyle. And it was around the time where having this, like, flywheel of products, benefited, of course, not only the product that he was selling or pushing, but also counted towards his streams.
And I think, you know, in the past, a lot of artists maybe didn’t get to show their dominance in that way, and our catalog episode, we talked about Beyonce, and Beyonce’s numbers and whether they met expectations or didn’t meet expectations in terms of her streaming numbers, or in some ways, how she shows up on the charts.
But when you see what that fandom looks like mobilized in the form of her live shows, one, you know, a few data points in aggregate, especially when it relates to, streaming or listening habits, clearly don’t tell the full story about the fandom. and I think that’s where Travis Scott was really able to at that time, show us the power of what he was building.
[00:08:25] Dan Runcie: It’s good that you mentioned Beyonce too, because that’s another example of people just looking at the high level number. People see how many first week sales that Renaissance did, or even the streams that Renaissance has had afterward. There’s other artists, whether it’s SZA and others that have had albums that have had longer shelf life on streaming versus others, but it’s a completely different fan base.
This fan base is older. They’re not going to sit in front of a computer and just stream your music all day. They’re working, but when it’s time to show up. They may fly to Vancouver, they may fly to Europe to go look at your tour and go check out what it is. And I think Travis Scott, similarly, he had a fan base that was very beneficial for him with things that were related to e commerce, especially around drops, especially around releases and that worked to him.
So when we’re talking about artists, finding what product market fit looks like, finding what everything has that’s available, it worked to his advantage. So if we fast forward a couple months after the release of Astroworld, Sicko Mode becomes a big hit, it ends up charting, and then that brings Astroworld back to the top of the charts.
That February, he performs at the Super Bowl alongside Maroon 5, so then that works to his advantage, and he just continues to have a very strong year. He ends up releasing that documentary and he didn’t end up winning a Grammy as we saw the documentary was quite disappointed about that. But then that sets up everything for 2020 and in a year where most musicians struggle because they can’t tour and they may have planned to release certain things.
Travis Scott’s one of the few that actually did win. There was this Forbes article that came out towards the end of 2020 that looked at all of the partnerships that he had with various companies. And we’re talking about his collaborations with Nike, Fortnite, McDonald’s PlayStation 5, I believe he even had drops associated with the tenant movie that came out that year.
They expected that he would gross over a 100Million dollars or that the revenue that he would generate from these things would gross over a 100Million dollars and. It said so much about where we were, especially because people were inside. They didn’t have anything better to do than just get the latest merch, get the latest drops.
That worked so well to his advantage. And his songs were still popular. I do feel like Astroworld was probably one of the last hip hop albums that felt like it had some legitimate staying power. And then I think that was probably The peak of him, at least what we’ve seen so far in his career.
[00:10:59] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, no, I completely, I completely agree. he was in many ways on top of the world. I think he was really thoughtful about how he got to that position. in some ways, even, you know, when you look at things like, the fortnight show, he was really a pioneer, and the days to follow when it came to Web3 or embracing the Internet or new models for artists, who was frequently cited and maybe he doesn’t even really get the credit he deserves, for that, and, you know, I’d be remiss if I’d say, I think, he’s lucky in a way that, his fan base demographics skew, a population that consumers or that brands want to attract, right? So the brands that really saw an appeal in his music, were brands willing to spend, I mean, Video games, Nike, the brands that he was able to attract, some artists and a lot of hip hop artists, especially, even when we did our ice spice episode, female artists, right? They’re able to get a lot of, brand attention.
But when we look at the caliber of the brands that he was able to pull, I think that was the difference between him being a 10 or 20 million a year artist that we were who we would be praising his work ethic versus this 100 million. artist that were like, wow.
[00:12:18] Dan Runcie: He literally had the biggest brands in their category, right? It wasn’t like he had some subcategory. I feel like the only thing he was missing was a visa or master card type of partnership to be like, or American express or one of those, right? It was always the leader space.
[00:12:33] Denisha Kuhlor: The time is now with that. I mean, with Kendrick’s tour, I don’t know if we would have all guessed that, his partner would be in tech company. So I think it’d be really interesting for his next tour to see who he aligns himself with.
[00:12:47] Dan Runcie: The interesting thing with Travis though, is that. As I mentioned, I feel like the 2020 was that peak that we had seen, but then by early 2021, this is when we first start hearing about this forthcoming album, Utopia, he announces that he has this, or he posts a screenshot, which is quite cryptic, but he has this movie coming out with a 24.
That seems like it may be titled Utopia. Fans are already anticipating it, and it did feel similar to the Astroworld, but Hype in some ways, because even 2 years before that album came out, even before birds of the trap sing McKnight, he was talking about Astroworld. So we felt like we’re back to this era and things seem to be cruising.
He had already had successful Astroworld festivals on the ground, especially that 1st 1 he had after, the Astroworld Album that came out in 2018. I believe he had another one in 2019 was quite successful. Obviously, he didn’t have one due to the early part of the pandemic in 2020, but he then comes in 2021 and you could say that things were already starting to shift at this point because fans were already in that anticipation point. Okay, when’s it going to come? We thought the album is going to come, but then everything changes after the tragedy of the Astroworld festival that he has, as we talked about in the beginning, many people died.
There was a stampede. And I think there’s a few things that we can dig into, but we don’t necessarily need to dig into the depths of that in this conversation here. But how do you feel like that event, set the tone for Travis’s career and how much it impacted and everything else that we’ve seen and maybe we’ll expect coming forward.
[00:14:28] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. So, you know, when I, recently rewatched the documentary, his documentary, Look, Mom, I Can Fly and it kind of highlighted some of the culture, right? Around his shows, how his fans showed up at his shows and the overall like tempo of his performances. while in a lot of ways, I think, it didn’t matter if people didn’t like it, right? Because the ones that did loved it and were truly embracing that culture. I feel like it showed a new light, and light actually probably is the wrong word, but it cast him, in a way, where I think it was the first Big events in a long time, especially post pandemic or post COVID, in which fans were forced to grapple, with like the predicament of other fans, right?
whether you’re Travis Scott fan or not, we all know what it’s like to be at a show, hopefully, or a big show. And so I think it’s really tricky, his reaction and his response. I mean, he did the follow up interview with Charlemagne, and in some ways laid a bit low, obviously his legal stuff was sorted out and things like that.
I think that it positions him in a way that as fans or casual fans or listeners. Want to really get to know more of him and his ethos the documentary helped a bit with that to understand him better but I think that social relationship or feeling like that one to one relationship is there is going to be stronger than ever, for the success of this album is, I’m sure in that, that events, divided many of his fans, whether it was the event himself or his reaction and follow up to it.
[00:16:25] Dan Runcie: I want to dig into that last point, because this may be a tough question to ask. There obviously was very strong reaction to the tragedy of the event, especially considering the lives lost. There was a lot of discussion around that too. Do you think more of the discussion or change in tone about Travis himself was more from the broader people who may not be a rager themselves?
Or do you feel like the ragers themselves, Actually changed after this event.
[00:16:56] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, that’s a great question, definitely tough in a way, but in some ways it’s simple. It was from the non ragers, right? Because that in itself, in some ways, being at a show like that in itself was difficult for people to understand. So seeing the results of the show, I think, invited many people to cast their opinions in a way that was easy, especially because something went wrong.
But, it’s like for any show or any artist that has a fan base, you really can’t explain the momentum of why you’re there in the first place. Now, I do think, though, when it comes to, you know, the second option for that question, if there was to be any, maybe, divide or discussion amongst the fan base, it would be around Travis’s follow up after, especially given they’re all a part of this culture or all a part of this fandom. But in terms of deciding whether to go, and being critical of that in the first place, definitely from non ragers.
[00:18:07] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that’s the sentiment that I captured too. I remember his initial response. It didn’t necessarily feel like it. Sure, I think there’s things that you can say we’re left to be desired. I think we think about the broader context of who Travis Scott is in himself. It’s this balance between do we feel like the person actually does feel sorrow and disappointment for what happened or do they speak in a way that makes us feel that and I know those are two separate things, but I do think that I believe that Travis does have sorrow for these things. I don’t know if he in any interview that he’s necessarily had ever had those bullet points or those breakaways. That’s like, oh, yeah, when Travis Scott said this 1 thing, you know, that’s the thing that, you know, stuck with and not saying that necessarily as a knock that just isn’t him. It isn’t like how Kendrick Lamar may drop some shit in an interview and you’re like, oh, wow, never thought of it that way or even how I think Drake does this as well. Some of that could be a bit of an age thing. I know Travis is now I think he’s like 31 and, you know, these guys straight Kendrick and Cole are closer to 40 than they are 30, but it’s also a bit of a personality and a dynamic thing too. So I think it’s like, just because that it just because a tragedy happened, even though a person may feel bad, I don’t know. Even the best P. R. crafted statement doesn’t turn them into Michael Eric Dyson in terms of how eloquent they may be with using words and things like that. So that was 1 thing that I thought about with the response
[00:19:45] Denisha Kuhlor: I do think when we think about the potential ramifications or how it might affect this upcoming album, that like, this culture of likeability and cancel culture do play a role. And I feel like that’s why the documentary was so fascinating in some ways because For so many of us, we’re probably at the casual Travis Scott, fans or listeners.
We definitely, you know, have audio recognition of the songs. at this point we attribute the songs to him. but little did we know or little did the world know the depth and the passion of, his core fans and his stance. And maybe because, you know, this is a thing with the media. So often, the concept of a stan has been profiled as like the teenage girl, right?
The Swifties back when Taylor Swift was coming up, or the One Direction fans, or the Justin Bieber fans that, which is not necessarily Travis fan base, but the similarities in terms of passion. What he means to them, and the music are right there.
[00:20:50] Dan Runcie: And I think that’s a good place to transition into what we then expect for Utopia. Do you think that those same fans will show up in the same way that we’ve seen them show up with Astroworld, show up with these merch drops, show up with these product sales year in year out, especially the way they did from that 2018 to 2020 stretch.
[00:21:10] Denisha Kuhlor: You know, it’s what I’m most curious about myself. When we look at four to five years, it’d be easy to say, you know, obviously, that was a big part of people’s lives for whatever age or part of their life they were going through, and naturally, they’ll at least give him the first look or first right of refusal to do.
So, I’d be remiss though. If I’d say these last 4 or 5 years will really go down in history. And it changed so many people, and truly transformative ways. So I wonder if the conversion in terms of the amount of, like, stands that he’ll be able to keep from, the last album to Utopia will be as high as maybe it could have been if the world looked a little different four or four or five years ago.
What I do think, though, is, and we saw this with SZA. It really can stand the test of time, especially if the relationship is strong. Fans are ready, audiences are excited. And they want to show up and give that power in a lot of ways. I wonder what’s the difference between a fan base that stays.
I would point to a Taylor Swift fan base, for example, obviously the Swifties versus a fan base that moves on, you know, you think of the J. Cole song, I think when he’s 1985 and he talks about like the actual cyclical nature of hip hop and rap, right? From an artist perspective and for the majority of the artists. They don’t hang on and they don’t convert. So it’s going to be really interesting, but my hunch is that he’s going to have to pick up a lot of new fans along the way, only because his fans are in such a stage of adolescence or figuring things out, at least his biggest diehard fans, and can very much be in a new place in their lives now.
[00:23:08] Dan Runcie: If the over under on what Travis Scott could do for this album. I’m thinking purely on a first week sales metric here, as you mentioned, Astroworlds did 537. If that’s the over under I’m taking the under if the over under is 400. I’m taking the under. And to be honest with you, even if the over under is 300, I’m still taking the under.
And here’s why, there’s so much that has changed in streaming and music since then. And when Travis Scott released Astroworld, hip hop had such an early mover advantage on streaming that it was in the streaming services benefit to push hip hop and to push the hip hop stars that are out in front. So that same summer that Astroworld comes out, Drake had released his album, Scorpion, maybe like 6, 7 weeks before, and there were a few other ones that were strong on the charts, but there were no Taylor, no Beyonce, or no other, you know, big artists that were there at least releasing from that perspective, but a lot’s changed now where I don’t think the streaming services necessarily need to rely on hip hop in that same way as heavily because of all the growth that’s there.
Morgan Wallen is still doing over 100, units sold per week and we’re almost 20 weeks running now. Country artists weren’t doing that in 2018. So it’s a very different landscape now. So that’s one aspect of it. The 2nd aspect of it is this album will be, at least to my knowledge, 1 of the 1st to take advantage of billboard reintroducing album bundle packs.
And that is 1 of the things that Travis benefited from. They took it away for several years. So we saw a lot of hip hop artists take a decline. They’ll now bring it back. It’s going to be slightly different. However. I think what’s changed a bit is that I don’t know if hype beast and hype culture is necessarily the same as it as it was in 2018, because I feel like that was the height of when Supreme was doing its best and getting those big, P E deals from Carlisle group.
And all of these companies were just, and you’re seeing all these specials and document mini documentaries on what is hype and why do these companies start? And why are all these? Gen Z and young millennials lining up at whatever hour across the street. And in a way that, yeah, that stuff still happens, but it doesn’t happen in the same aspect.
And I don’t think someone like Travis Scott has much of a monopoly on that culture, the way that he did then. So I think that hurts it a little bit. And I think the 3rd thing with the absence of a song as big as sickle mode, and even if Travis Scott has better songs on this album, the sickle mode, I haven’t heard it. I can’t speak to that. It’s harder for even a single song in hip hop to capture as much mindshare today in 2013, 2023, as Sicko mode did in 2018. And I remember there was some study that. or some analysis, I think the New York Times or 1 of those places put out where they looked at all the streams of Astroworld and an overwhelming majority of them were people streaming Sicko mode.
That’s no surprise. That’s just the way it is. And you know, it’s a power law thing. You need that 1 or 2 hits really to drive things forward, will he pull a few singles that have been loose ones that have done? Well, potentially, Yeah, probably, but we’ll see, I think actually, and I know you want to talk about this in a little bit, but Lil Uzi Vert’s pink tape could probably be a helpful proxy here.
So he released a album in, 2020, and I think it did just under 300, 000, units, and then he released another album a couple of weeks ago, the pink tape, and then that did around one 67. So almost a 50% drop. I mean, he still did number one, but there was a pretty sizable drop. I think Lil Uzi Vert is a different, you know, case than Travis Scott, but this is kind of what we’ve seen even artists like Drake and others. It’s tough to reach those numbers that they did at the height of streaming when they were doing strong numbers and everything else. So I think that if you want to even say someone like J Cole is a cop, I think that his last album was still under 300, 000 or so. So I’d be surprised if Travis Scott got to that level.
And the 1 thing I’ll say, 2, is I know you mentioned, you know, SZA and just how that fan base stays. We did have some hard numbers to be able to show that just seeing how scissors control stayed on the charts for the past 5 years. I don’t yeah, I don’t see Astro world on the charts in that same type of way.
So if that indicates anything from a staying power perspective, I don’t know, but that’s where I sit with it.
[00:27:36] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, no, I’m aligned. I think we’re going to see somewhere between 200 K to 300K optimistically. I think that’s a great, outcome. I also think the point you made about, hype culture. Is really important, right? we’re now in an era where people are covering, the outfits on secession, right?
Where people are leaning towards old money or, you know, that culture. it’s a lot different. you’ve seen, you know, even when you look at major houses like LVMH or conglomerates, the efforts and the investment that they’ve had to put just to stay on top of consumers minds and gain that attention share.
I think while bundles are exciting and while it’s super exciting that bundles are back and will be counted. It really is going to take a lot for it to garner fans attention. Even with Beyonce, I think maybe, I mean, what she did was really interesting with the mystery boxes, but it’ll need to have some type of true pull or gravitas beyond really just the product itself, because consumers have built affinity to a lot more brands, a lot more rising brands, a lot more, influencers even, to justify potentially just that much.
[00:28:58] Dan Runcie: What do you make of the Pyramids performance that’s upcoming for Travis Scott?
[00:29:03] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah. So the first thing that comes to mind is Russ and Russ’s tweet saying that he, you know, he did it first and his fans reminded everyone, what I will say is. I do think it’s a testament to his artistry, and his ability to truly want to or have this desire to maybe think outside the box and try new things.
As someone who, goes back and forth between, I guess, Africa and, the States, I think those types of things are always tricky, in terms of going to any place, right? And maybe in some ways wanting to encompass it as part of your art, while not always fully immersing yourself in the location.
So I know he’s, an artist and obviously want to respect his artistic will. But when it comes down to how it might be more broadly perceived outside the United States. I’m really curious to actually see the sentiment. What are your thoughts there?
[00:30:05] Dan Runcie: That’s a good point. And something that isn’t necessarily talked about a lot, right? A lot of the Westerners may see that and be like, oh, dope. Cool. Did it in one of the seven wonders of the world, right? But yeah, what do Egyptians feel about that? What do people from the Middle East feel about that? Is this a stunt to capture attention?
And in many ways, we know that it is an opportunity to capture attention. Just the statement itself. Oh, I’m doing this. You want to make it big. You do want to make it big. It definitely captured my attention. I’m not going to act like I’m above it, right? Oh, this could be interesting to see, but I think you bring up a very good point about it.
And is there some type of tie in or some type of relationship there? We’ll see, I don’t know, but I think that’s a good thing to think about there. The 1 question I do want to ask you before we wrap things up here is. We talk a lot. Oh, you and I’ve talked a lot about artists, market fit, creator, market fit, and just how they find products and things that work well for them.
And I look at people like Mr. Beast and he’s someone who they’ve launched products. Off of his likeness and off of his brand, some of those products haven’t worked as well. We recently heard that beast burgers had shut down and there’s also been several P. E. and venture capital firms that have tried to spin up investment company or investment firms that are specifically focused on either, A, trying to find the next Mr. Beast or be trying to fund projects or businesses that are based off of the likeness of the influence that these creators do have. Travis Scott has a lot of similarities, especially we think about the influence from an e commerce perspective. I don’t know if the timing was now, maybe the time it could have been a few years ago.
But do you think there was an opportunity for him to have launched a more traditional business off of Cactus Jack, the same way that we see he’s so synonymous with drop culture and he’s so synonymous with those things. Was there an opportunity to do something like that?
[00:32:06] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think absolutely, you know, nowadays it’s really interesting in terms of some of the biggest brands have, skewed beyond the celebrity. People had a lot to say about Skims, right? But we can’t deny, that it’s a great business and people really like the product. Kim Kardashian or not, they like the product. I think during that period when he was on top of the world, that was a really interesting time, especially during COVID when he wasn’t, traveling as much or touring as much, to be able to bring something to market that would really excite fans and fans and consumers, it almost feels like that opportunities past now, because that like height of fandom is not the same. But I also think that a lot of artists don’t want to, and maybe that is very much okay, when I watched the documentary, I kept reflecting back on. The ownership that he gravitated to taking when it came to the control of his shows.
I mean, getting in the weeds about his lights, his sound, his pyrotechnics, to a level that almost reminded me of Beyonce. In the sense of how much he wanted to direct and produce the show in real time and how passionate he was about that. So while, the answer is yes, right?
And if I was talking to a manager, an agent, they’d be like, hell yeah. I also think it’s okay to maybe recognize that he had, like we said, some of the biggest brands in the world, cutting him really, really great checks that required him to be hands on, Yes, but also gave him a certain level of ability to turn off his laptop for the day or walk away while being able to tap into the supply chains and resources and expertise that they had at their disposal.
So, while yes, in some ways he’s done a great job at becoming really liquid off just his likeness. , and maybe he’s not necessarily from an artist market fit standpoint, the archetype of artists that would have done it long enough for it to be lucrative or successful in comparison to his other ventures.
[00:34:23] Dan Runcie: Great comparison on Beyonce. We’ve clearly seen some of the e commerce and brand struggles that some of her products have had recently, but people will show up for the concert people would show up for the event and you talking about how particular and focused Travis is on the ownership of the performance and the stage. It makes me think of that line in antidote where he’s like kicking the camera man off of my stage. Cause I don’t like, I always capture my angles, which was literally from something that he did at a national concert. So I think that’s a good point there. And of course, underlying, let’s say he launched something either end of 2019 and, or beginning of 2020, like right when things were taken off. It’s one thing for the Travis Scott brand itself to have taken a hit after the Astroworld tragedy. I could even imagine where that company would be today. And especially just given where anything that we just talked about, how, you know, hype beast culture and things like that just aren’t where they are right now.
So we’ll see, I say all that to say, I know that you shared a bunch of caveats in this conversation. I’m still going to listen to the album. I’m still intrigued. I do want this person to succeed. I very much like Travis Scott, but I also realized that for the average artist having a four to five year peak run is much more common, especially for someone that reaches those levels. And then even someone having a true generational career like Drake or Jay Z is few and far between. So even if it doesn’t hit the same numbers, I don’t think it’s necessarily a knock. It’s more so reality of the business.
[00:35:51] Denisha Kuhlor: Yeah, I think, the Drake’s JC’s, even the J Cole’s are only going to become rare and rare as attention gets harder, but a strong 5 year, strong 5 to 7 year career that makes truly like, good income that an artist can then use to divest or maybe even sell their catalog, is like the 1% nowadays, for the industry. I agree.
[00:36:13] Dan Runcie: Indeed. Well, Denisha, this was fun. Thanks again for coming on. And who knows, maybe we’ll have to check in after Utopia at some point to see what the post Travis Scott return looks like. Thanks again for coming
[00:36:25] Denisha Kuhlor: We definitely need an update. Of course, thanks for having me.
[00:36:28] Dan Runcie: All right. Great.
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