A River of Nickels

“In business it’s about who wants you the most” 

– T.I. (Interview with Larry King for OraTV)

Record Dea;

In recent years, the phrase, “How did [insert rapper here] get a record deal when my flow and lyrics are so much better” has been said one too many times. The truth of the matter is that maybe you are better, but you are failing to make the necessary connections in order to enhance your career. Those who have generated organic, viral fans bases rather than spamming people on Twitter and Facebook have seen the greatest reward. One of the beauties of seeing your music reach maximum attention gives you the ability to understand your fan base and value your worth as a musician. 1 million followers do not translate into $1 million dollars.

“We’re a team, 360 degrees, we will reach your goals!

We’ll get a third of the merch that you sell out on the road

Along with a third of the money you make when you’re out doing your shows

Manager gets 20, booking agent gets 10

So shit, after taxes you and Ryan have 7% to split”

– Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (“Jimmy Iovine”)

Record deals come in two forms these days: 360 deals or joint venture label deals. Recently, we have see Drake form his own label through Warner Bros. Records, in 2011, A$AP Rocky’s deal with Sony/RCA Records/Polo Grounds gave him $3 million and the ability to form his own label A$AP Worldwide, and most recently Trinidad Jame$’ $2 million and Chief Keef’s $6 million deals, respectively.

Bottom line is that you get what you negotiate and despite the hate Chief Keef frequently receives, he got exactly what he wanted. In a recent article by DNAInfo.com Chicago, Keef’s lucrative deal was broken down in ways most people outside the industry rarely see.

chiefkeeffinallyrich

Below, I have simplified and broken down the deal so that aspiring artists/record label owners know what to look for and negotiate when the time comes.

  • Number of albums: 3
  • Must sell 250,000 copies of debut “Finally Rich” by Dec. 31, 2013 in order for Interscope to continue to release Keef’s music

         Note: “Finally Rich” has sold 192,137 copies as of August 1, 2013

  • Advance: Upfront money that is paid directly to a recording artist: $440,000
  • Album Budget: Money used to pay for studio time, producers, and other expenses during the creating of album: $300,000
  • Creation of imprint “Glory Boyz Entertainment (GBE)”
    • Separate 3-year deal
    • GBE Advance: $440,000; additional $180,000 + 40% ownership internship for Chief Keef & manager; additional $10,000 + 10% ownership interest to GBE rapper Fredo Santana
    • GBE Overhead Expenses: Expenses of operating a business: $200,000
    • If Interscope suffers $4.5 million in loses, contract is terminated

“You ask for slack and wanna get cut loose from the label

Not able ’cause you signed at the table

For a pretty cash advance, now they got a song and dance

That you didn’t recoup, more soup wit’ ya meal?

‘Cause this is the real when you get a record deal”

–       A Tribe Called Quest (“Show Business”)

Although Chief Keef may have had the luck of the draw, others have to earn their multi-million dollar deals by way of seniority and longevity. After the December 2012 release of his album, Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, Atlanta rapper T.I. became a free agent. After being signed to Atlantic Records for almost 11 years, rumor has it that the self-proclaimed “King of the South” is negotiating a highly structured deal that could earn him an estimated $75 million. If Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Sony, or Universal, all whom T.I. has met with, want him, they’re going to have to make some big promises.

TI-Dre

T.I. with Dr. Dre

  • 3 albums
  • 10-20% of publishing, touring, merchandise, film and TV rights
  • Endorsement deals with major corporations
  • Exclusive signing of all Grand Hustle artists

Ultimately, it’s your decision; you can be swimming in millions or you can be swimming in pennies and nickels. It’s simple; but you must recognize the difference of perception and reality first. You might be the best lyricist in the world, but can you make a hit record? You might have over 1,000,000 YouTube views, but do you have a local/regional foundation? Have you made your mark and created an impact? You also must take into consideration how times have changed. When T.I. went to L.A. Reid’s office at Arista Records in 2001, following his debut album, I’m Serious, and asked for a $2 million budget for his second album, he was dropped from the label immediately. Today, Trinidad Jame$ has one major song under his belt and limited rap experience, but earned himself his $2 million deal from Def Jam.

Remember, the same about of time you spend hating on an artist for the accomplishment, you could be spending advancing yourself; Talib Kweli taught me that!

T.I. with L.A. Reid

T.I. with L.A. Reid

Trinidad James

Trinidad Jame$

Missed my interview with T.I.? Check it out here!

Update: May 10, 2013 – T.I. Talks ‘$200 Million’ Major Label Deal & ‘G.D.O.D.’ Mixtape (via Billboard)

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Understanding Musicality & Perception: An Interview with Talib Kweli

Video

Talib Kweli-Breezy

When an opportunity presents itself, you take it. As soon as I heard acclaimed rapper Talib Kweli was coming to school to speak on social justice and activism, I knew I needed to set up an interview. One week later, it happened. This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with him to talk about his new album Prisoner of Conscious (due April 23rd), the music industry, and more. Talib also took the time to call me out for spelling “Conscience” correctly on my paper, but not in the way the album is titled. Good thing it was only for radio! Enjoy!

Listen to the audio version here

Filmed & Edited by Dash Galaxy