memo 016: the verzuz impact

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by Dan Runcie

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Hey! This week’s Trapital Memo breaks down Verzuz, Nicki Minaj and hip-hop documentaries, and more.

new podcast: Cameo CEO Steven Galanis

Steven breaks down his company’s marketplace for personalized celebrity video shoutouts. He discusses how Cameo blew up in 2020, how it found product-market fit, got early success with Snoop Dogg, and wants to solve the gap between fame and monetization. He also shares where the company is heading and potential future products from the company.

If you’re interested in creator business models, marketplaces, and flywheels, this is the podcast for you.

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, other platforms, or watch on YouTube.

The Verzuz breakdown

(photo via @verzuztv)

Gucci vs Jeezy had all the primetime event elements. There was anticipation, tension, drama, and a happy ending. A few people on Twitter said that Jeezy won the popular vote but Gucci won the electoral college. There’s a number of ways to interpret that… and somehow, they all make sense.

The event drew over 9.1 million viewers across all platforms including Instagram Live, Apple Music, and Apple TV. There’s definitely audience overlap in those numbers, but it’s still impressive.

Verzuz has branded itself well, but peak viewership still relies on the matchup. How many remaining matchups can draw an audience that can match Jill Scott-Erykah Badu, Brandy-Monica, or Gucci-Jeezy? The number is limited, but the rising success may increase participation.

The ultimate goal for Verzuz should be to get like NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Marquee matchups still get the highest ratings, but bad matchups still get tons of viewers. It’s tough task, but it’s not impossible.

The new promo run. Jeezy used the opportunity to drop his latest album, The Recession 2. It’s a smart move. This is the most mainstream publicity Jeezy has had in years, and he wisely took advantage. Brandy did the same when she released a new album around the same time as her Verzuz. This will be true for most Verzuz participants since the platform favors those who hit their peak popularity years ago.

In the 2010s, the hip-hop and R&B promo runs were on The Breakfast Club, Hot 97, Big Boy’s Neighborhood, etc. Those outlets still matter for promo runs, but not as much as they did in 2015. In the 2020s, the top hip-hop promo runs will include these massive livestream events: Verzuz battles, Fortnite and Roblox concerts, and more.

Verzuz audio on Apple Music. One of the overlooked benefits of the Verzuz-Apple Music partnership is the audio simulcast. Fans can listen to live Verzuz battles in the background while commenting on social media or group chats without switching back and forth between apps.

Apple should promote this feature more heavily. It’s an exclusive feature that Spotify and others can’t offer. Also, there’s a big opportunity for Verzuz with drop-in audio. On Clubhouse, there was a post-Verzuz discussion room that had over 1,200 people—the largest I’ve seen yet on the beta app. Verzuz and Apple can build or partner on a feature for listeners to engage in post-game commentary.

Nicki Minaj, HBO, and the hip-hop docu-series

Nicki Minaj (via Shutterstock)

On the 10th anniversary of Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj announced a six-part docu-series on her life coming to HBO Max.

The docu-series wave. Nicki joins dozens of music stars who have taken us behind the scenes with their documentaries. But I’m not gonna lie, six episodes feels excessive. The same content could have been stretched over three 1-hour episodes or four 45-minute episodes. But more episodes means more repeat visits to HBO Max. That means more opportunities to pitch viewers on the other HBO Max content. It’s all part of the game.

Nicki’s career. I’m intrigued to see where Nicki takes this documentary. She’s one of the most successful rappers ever. But she’s also been frustrated with the media’s portrayal of her. She’s had feuds with Lil’ Kim, Cardi B, Remy Ma, and drama with Meek Mill. Nicki says this docu-series will be ‘raw, unfiltered’ but it’s tough for any artist-produced doc to have the same authenticity as an independent production.

HBO Max’s role. The streaming service now has 38 million subscribers, one-fifth of what Netflix currently has. By doing a deal with HBO Max, Nicki’s reach is limited relative to her peers on Netflix.

But there are several considerations. Nicki might get more favorable placement and algorithm favorability on HBO Max than she would have gotten on Netflix. Also, Netflix might have only been willing to produce one 90 minute documentary (e.g. Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana and Travis Scott’s Look Mom I Can Fly).

Also, HBO Max might have been willing to pay more money than Netflix. At this point in her career, Netflix might not have paid Nicki the same amount that Beyonce, Travis Scott, Lady Gaga, or others have received. As I explained in Why Rihanna Partnered With Amazon, there are multiple reasons why streaming services are picked.

Netflix proved earlier this year with Cobra Kai that it can guarantee reach that can’t be matched on any other platform. The closest competitor is HBO, but it’s still far behind.

Trapital Players of the Week: Janet Hubert and Will Smith

After a 27-year public dispute, the actress who played Aunt Viv and Will Smith talked through their differences at the 30th anniversary of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion. It took a lot of strength on both parties, but especially Janet. Will’s comments damaged her career and caused her family tons of trauma. I’m glad they finally came together and talked it out.

This is now two straight weeks of Trapital Player of the Weeks related to feuds being settled. Anymore feuds getting settled in 2020? Think we’ll ever get a Taylor Swift – Scooter Braun reconciliation? Seems unlikely now, but if Gucci and Jeezy and Janet Hubert and Will Smith can sort it out, anything is possible.

Coming soon from Trapital

Happy Thanksgiving! Stay safe.


Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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