Saturday, November 19, 2011

For Some, Free Music Is an Investment That Pays Off

What’s the value of a career’s worth of Internet buzz? Approximately 175,000 albums sold in one week — then look out below from there. On Wednesday the Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller topped the Billboard album chart with his debut album, “Blue Slide Park“ (Rostrum), selling about 144,000 albums. The week before, the Washington rapper Wale made his debut at No. 2 on the chart (behind Justin Bieber’s Christmas album) with “Ambition“ (Maybach Music Group/Warner Brothers), which sold about 164,000 copies. And last month J. Cole’s first album, “Cole World: The Sideline Story” (Roc Nation), made its bow atop the chart with about 217,000 copies sold in its first week. (All figures are from Nielsen SoundScan.)

First, the good news: A new generation of rappers is actively trying to build a new business model in which releasing oodles of free material online builds a fan base that paves the way for revenue streams: touring, merchandise, even something as old-fashioned as a record deal.