I know the vast majority of the hip-hop consuming public don't care how their music gets to them, as long as the music gets to them. But the vast majority of the hip-hop consuming public isn't RefinedHype Nation. Time and time again y'all have shown that you're interested in all the behind the scenes, rap interwebs maneuverings that eventually lead to a mp3 playing in your headphones. So.... I thought I'd take a minute to address this whole "sites paying to host mixtapes thing, a topic that was spurred via a ye olde Twitter convo:
First things first, yes, I've heard from enough sources to make me believe it's true, some sites like LiveMixtapes and DatPiff (and others) do occasionally pay an artist to release a mixtape through them. And as far as I'm aware, that's a relatively recent phenomenon. While normally sites would charge artists to be featured, this is the exact opposite of Pay For Post fuckery, with the money going from the site to the artist. Frankly it's a huge shift.
Therefore, it's a lot less ethically shady. In fact, while anytime money's changing hands some red flags should be raised, I really don't see any problem here. Artists invest heavily in their mixtapes, why not make some of that money back? I've heard numbers ranging from $5K to $20K for more prominent mixtapes. From the artist's perspective, as long as they're not compromising their project in the process, why not get paid? After all, those sites will be making money off the traffic from the tape, right?
Well...kind of..not really. (Warning, this is where things are going to get really internet nerdy. You might want to stop reading here and just look at some hot random girls.) Every time a site streams a song directly (as opposed to embedding a player like SoundCloud/YouTube/AudioMack/etc.) off their server, it costs money, as does a download. So streaming and allowing users to download whole zip files, usually over 100 mb? That can add up; counter-intuitively, the more popular a mixtape is, the more money a site can lose.
Of course, that cost can be offset by an advertising on the page, but often sites like DatPiff won't run any ads on a download page from a prominent artist. Instead, they'll "skin" the page entirely with an ad for that mixtape (ex.).
Now, there may be behind-the-scenes deals I'm not aware of, but on the surface, it's hard to see how these sites are making enough money to cover something like $20K, or even far less. So why do they do it? My guess is that it's really just the equivalent of advertising. Sure they lose money on that specific mixtape, but in the long run being associated with an exclusive, prominent mixtape raises recognition of the site and brings enough people back to make it worth it.
For the record, that's also why RefinedHype and the mothership don't pay to host projects. Mixtapes and albums are an important but only a part of what we do, so it just doesn't make financial sense to invest so heavily in one mixtape. For sites that only stream and download mixtapes though, that math is (apparently) different. If a site wants to pay an artist for that advertising, and it makes sense for them, they can have at it.
Ultimately though, I don't understand why artists like Pusha T, 50 Cent, Rick Ross, etc., artists for whom even a few thousands bucks probably doesn't mean much, don't invest in building their own sites. For relatively little they could create their own site for that specific mixtape, buy enough server space to make sure it never crashes, and never have to involve anyone else. But as far as I can tell they're just too lazy to put in the work, so in the meantime I guess they'll continue to select which site they give their mixtape to based on relationships, audience and, maybe, how much money's being put on the table.
So there you have it, a more detailed look at how that big new mixtape ends up where it ends up than you wanted. You're welcome. For the small handful of people who are still awake enough to read this, feel free to ask questions in the comments below...