I wasn’t sure what to think, when I read yesterday that Jay-Z had bought out the remainder of his contract with Def Jam for $5 million.
As a journalist, my natural tendency is to think he overpaid. But it’d be hard to say, without being privy to all of the facts and figures. Would Def Jam have made $5 million off of the Blueprint 3? Something tells me that, if they thought they stood to make anywhere near that much money, they never would have gone through with the deal.
I mean, it’s not like they had to sell Jay-Z the rights to the last album under his contract with them. They could have just as easily been like, “Fuck that shit. We want another Jay-Z album.” And Jay probably would have been hamstrung. He wouldn’t have been able to put out an album on his joint venture with Live Nation, while he still owed an album to Def Jam.
These days, you don’t really think about a label being able to make $5 million from an album. Which isn’t that much money in the grand scheme of things. But still, $5 million is $5 million. I know some of you fruits are more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the record biz than I am. How many copies would an album have to sell to make $5 million for the label? Is it more than we think? Less than we think?
Probably less, right? I doubt this deal was based on the Blueprint 3 selling any more than about a million copies. The last couple of Jay albums sold about 2 million copies each, but that was back in ’06 and ’07. There’s probably all kinds of shit that went 2x platinum back then that wouldn’t sell nearly as well today. You saw what happened with the last Fiddy album. It struggled just to hit 1x platinum – and Fiddy’s albums usually sell better than Jay-Z’s.
And that’s not even taking into account whether or not the album is any good. I’m assuming it isn’t. Otherwise, they probably would have put it out a long time ago, and Jay could have been on to his next album by now. He almost certainly could have made more money with it this past holiday season than he can now. I wonder if the TIs at Def Jam listened to the album before they decided how much they were gonna sell it for? They’d kinda have to, right?
Actually, there isn’t anything about this deal to suggest they even bothered. First of all, who can tell what’s bound to make money, in the age of Tha Carter III? Would guys like Doug Morris and LA Reid even be able to tell a hit rap album these days, or do they just release whatever a rapper hands in, provided there aren’t any references to tall Israelis and such? I’m not trying to knock them or anything. I’d probably be just as clueless.
Jay-Z suggests there was some sort of coin toss involved, and he lost, and that’s why he had to pay $5 million. I wonder what he would have had to pay if he’d won the coin toss. Half that much? Nothing at all? Would Doug Morris have just up and given Jay-Z $5 million, based on the results of a coin toss? What kind of coin was it, anyway? Jay-Z probably didn’t think to have it looked at, before he agreed to the deal. For all we know, there might not have been any way he could have won. Roffle.
But I doubt Jay-Z gives a shit about $5 million anyway. The way his deal with Live Nation works is that it doesn’t matter if you make any money from album sales. The touring is the key. Now that he doesn’t have to sweat putting another album on Def Jam, he can hit the road, where all of the real money is. What’s another $5 million, when you’ve got something like $100 million to recoup? And it’s not like he’s getting any younger.