Chance The Rapper can add another bullet point to his increasingly impressive resume as Fast Company has named the Chicago native one of the most creative persons in business for 2016, with Lil Chano from 79th being one of only two musicians on the list (the other being jazz artist Kamasi Washington).
In describing their selection of Chance, Fast Company references Chance’s strategy to give away his music for free and instead generate revenue through other means:
“The Chicago-based musician has always given his music away, including his most recent project, the critically adored album Coloring Book (2016)...he makes his money touring and selling a random assortment of merchandise from the usual (T-shirts) to the bizarre (socks, Styrofoam cups).” —The Most Creative People in Business, 2016
The strategy of releasing his music for "free" for consumption by millions means passing up short-term music sale revenue but the decision has set-up Chance to tour relentlessly, sell an exorbitant amount of merchandise (enough to warrant a 15-person team), and hold unique events such as his recent “Magnificent Coloring World” event in Chicago. The latter, while selling out in mere minutes, was a money loser for Chance to the tune of $250K... at least initially. Ultimately, the event was an investment in a burgeoning empire for the Chicago emcee that will inspire every new convert to his mission to buy into everything Chance-related, whether it be tours or merch.
And while the magazine didn't write it explicitly, one would assume they also factored in his White Sox endorsement deal and the important role he played in seeing the GRAMMY’s change their stance towards considering stream-only albums for awards. (Whether the allegations that he doesn't pay producers also makes him a savvy businessman is open to debate.)
It will be interesting to watch Chance’s next move. As his profile and business continue to grow, the record labels will no doubt be turning up the heat with checkbooks wide open to try and get a piece of the business. But as Chance has shown, sometimes it’s more lucrative to turn down even the all-powerful Kanye West and just do it yourself.