Should artists bother releasing albums anymore?
Since Jay Electronica has already managed to make it to middle age without putting out an album, he should seriously consider never putting out a real album, ever.
What if all he ever did was put out singles, like this one he's got out now with Diddy on the ad-libs, and "Exhibit C," and the occasional mixtape? Yeah, he'd never have that big album sales payday, but there probably isn't a big album sales payday to be had at this point. It'd be hard for me to say for certain, without knowing Jack Schitt about how the music business really works, but I suspect that, if artists weren't making any money from album sales back when people were actually buying CDs, they can't possibly be making anything these days. Even artists who go gold, which must be the equivalent of, like, 4x platinum back in the late '90s. If they generate anything beyond what the album cost to record, I'm sure the label just "reinvests that amount in the artist's career," i.e. funnels it back into their own pockets.
And there's no guarantee that an artist like Jay Electronica could sell very many albums anyway. He'd probably just end up doing Little Brother numbers. And I'm not even talking about '05-era, "failed attempt at a major label career" Little Brother numbers; I'm talking 2K10-era, "completely given up on rap music altogether" Little Brother numbers, i.e. low triple digits. Okay, maybe not that bad. But even if it did as well as that Wale album, it would still be a huge, embarrassing failure by any objective measure. And Wale had the benefit of being willing to compromise himself in whatever way necessary, possibly up to and including teh ghey Illuminati initiation rituals. We've yet to hear Jay Electronica do, say, a song about a pair of Nikes, or a song with Lady Gaga.
Lil Wayne put out free music for years and years, and it paid off big time. Tha Carter III had first week sales to rival any album from back when people were actually buying CDs, let alone any contemporary release. If going gold is the modern day equivalent of going 4X platinum, per my own random assertion, I'm not even sure what going 4x platinum would be at this point. That might be the modern day equivalent of Thriller. (Let that sink in for a bit.) But it doesn't really count for much, because it's an LCD rap album, and I'm at a loss for why selling millions of copies of something that was purposely designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator should be considered an achievement. McDonalds has sold billions and billions of hamburgers at this point. Possibly trillions. (They might need to change their sign.) I guess that makes it the best restaurant evar?
Alright, bad example...
It might be hard to get worthwhile producers to contribute beats, if they're not for an album, and if there isn't a label willing to pay an exorbitant fee, but I think we all know producers aren't making very much money these days anyway. Pharrell Williams will give you a Neptunes beat for free, in exchange for an executive producer credit on your album. It almost certainly won't be worth a shit, but the name Neptunes still holds a certain cachet. Just Blaze, the man behind "Exhibit C," recently had to close his studio down and move to a studio in Harlem somewhere, in a move that struck me as the hip-hop equivalent of when Jason Schwartzman's bicycle got run over and he ended up having to ride that girls bike, in the movie Rushmore. I can't imagine Just Blaze got paid much, if anything, to do "Exhibit C." Is Jay Electronica even on a label? It seems odd that he's become as prominent as he is, if he isn't. He might be one of these guys who pretend as if they aren't signed to a major label, for promotional purposes, like Wiz Khalifa.
If you've ever heard an interview with Jay Electronica, he seems a little bit too loopy to be managing his career by himself. To hear him speak, you wonder how he even found his way to the radio station. I realize at least part of it is a speech impediment, but part of it's the actual shit he says. He comes off like a five percenter version of that character Tracy Morgan used to play on Saturday Night Live that got kinda rapey with Britney Spears. For all we know, he might not be able to concentrate on any one thing look enough to put together a coherent album. Fortunately, there might not be any need to anymore anyway.