Now I'm pretty sure that at some point in the past couple of years I posed the question of do the record sales actually matter. To me, they don't because there are so many extra things that go into the actual numbers when it comes to sales, some of which I will get into as I detail this post even more.
As a consumer, sales don't matter to me. You could say Nelly or Mase who both sold great numbers were two of the weakest rappers ever, but their numbers show they have what it takes to make money for the big companies who need to move huge numbers to make a dent in their bottom lines. Does that make any of their albums classic worthy or that they are two of the greatest rappers of all time? No. There is a different set of criteria for that, and unfortunately, just being nice, or able to craft quality albums doesn't automatically turn into units moved. Bottom line some of my friends might say, this is a business and the business is going to go with what accomplishes their goal, getting money. Trust me, that's real "gwop" so if you think Rick Ross is doing his thing, think about what the guy who has pressed up all those cds and who's name is on the letterhead of that company that Ross has on the back cover of that cd makes. In some respects I can get with it, that's what you do then make money. But there is a thin line between being a responsible business and just leeching off of the people.
You see for Nicki Minaj who moved almost 350 thousand units in a time where the average artist can hope for 100k max it was a validation of her 'sold-out?' persona and goofy antics and gimmicks. Listening to the album, it also ignores the idea that her album needed to have some lyrical step-up if you will to placate hip-hop fans like myself who want to see some nods to the mid-90's when hip-hop became king of the charts. In short, it validates her entire existence. You know who else needed those sales, Baby aka Birdman. This allows him to milk the spotlight and Universal for even more money because at the very least, the sales of the Nicki and Drake albums will at least get those two artists second shots and more money that comes with it.
That in a nutshell, is why sales matter. If you can get the sales, you can get the opportunity to get your vision to the world. Now why your album sells or doesn't has more to do with outside influences than what music you create. Look at Trey Songz, he had a solid track record but both of his first albums came out with Chris Brown or Ne-yo within two weeks in either direction. Trey didn't dance like C. Breezy nor did he have the polish of Ne-yo and wasthisclose to becoming the next Jaheim. Lyor Cohen came into Atlantic took over and made it his business to get trey to the next level. Conversely, look at a guy like Joe Budden who had a monster first single, yet due to label politics and promotion, never got a second, never got a second major label release and almost disappeared before the internet made it possible for him to have a career. But Sales still matter.
Hell, even Nelly can't get promotion even more and just 6 years ago, he was the hottest thing out. Someone over at Motown figured just slapping Nelly on something was all the money they were going to spend on radio and visual promotion and whatever happens happens. Guess what, he hasn't sold squat. Now I know a lot of people have been looking at this very blog to read about Nelly's album so he has a serious fan base but itunes singles, couple with a lack of knowledge and promotion have already placed this album behind the eight ball. Sales matter, especially when you're used to getting a lot of them.
Hell even the popular feeling that you are a decent rapper is affected by sales numbers. No one wants to be the person left out of the loop so when you hear Kanye just sold half a million records, you are more likely to get yourself a copy if you haven't already. Hell in No Limit's heyday, 30% of the record sales were from people who just wanted to know what B.G. song everyone else was raving about. Sales matter.
Bottom line for the artist, is the more records you can move, not only do you get bigger checks from the label, but then you can charge more for shows, book more, and sell more licensed merchandise. Getting your song on Madden or being picked to be on American Idol because you have that large appeal leads to mo' money mo' money mo' money. So sales do matter for artists as well.
But one thing has changed the game, Itunes. Singles are once again the king. I remember when you could cop a single on cassette for like 3 bucks and the whole album was 10. Highway robbery right? The labels alwas throw an ill B-side on it to make it worthwhile. Then cd's became king and no one was walking around with all those damn discs and cases so the single died until itunes came along and made it reasonable to just grab the song that you like from an artist and keep it moving. So while album sales are way down, singles are driving the industry. I don't know anyone who has a Flo Rida album but dude is making money some kind of way.
I know, I'm not the person you would be expecting to read saying that sales matter because the implication is that I'm saying that sales are important. They are, but not the end all be all for a fan of hip-hop music like myself. Having a high selling album doesn't mean that it is the best album or that you are the better rapper or artist. Likewise, not being able to sell doesn't always mean that you are a great artist but unappreciated. It's saying that you didn't sell. Some of the greatest sellers I would consider to be sub-par rappers but more goes into sales than just you and your rapping ability. But at the end of the day, if you're also trying to make a living you're going to need to move some type of units.