This week hip-hop did a collective spit take when it was came out that ASAP Rocky had just signed a $3 million deal with Bryan Leach and Polo Grounds/Sony/RCA. "The situation is almost unrealistic," said Rocky. "I mean, five months ago I had about $3,000 in my bank account. Now I’m worth $3 million. Nobody’s gotten a deal like that since 50 Cent." Actually, you're right Rocky. That is unrealistic.
Before we really get into this, I have to take a moment to acknowledge that so far everyone's passing around this $3 million figure based solely on quotes from Rocky. At this point who knows what's actually in that deal. Like sports contracts, record deals can contain all sorts of advances, clauses and bonuses that artificially inflate the overall value. As a completely made up example, he could have a clause that pays out an extra $500K if he wins a Grammy (unlikely), so even if he got paid $2.5 million, it's now a "$3 million deal." Etc. etc.
Or he could have gotten completely worked in negotiations, with Sony/RCA blinding him with a big advance in exchange for huge long term concessions (masters, publishing. etc.). And as regular readers of "Your Favorite Rapper is Poor" knows, that's not just a $3 million dollar check outright, it's an advance.
But let's assume, because we have to, that Rocky's got a strong management and legal team, that he negotiated a great contract and is now sitting on a legit $3 million. For comparison purposes, Kreyashawn just signed a $1 million dollar deal with Interscope (which was ridiculous), Machine Gun Kelly, who's repeatedly proven he can sell out thousand seat venues, reportedly signed to Bad Boy for $1.5 million (sounds about right) and way back in 2009 a fresh off "So Far Gone" Drake signed to Young Money for $2 million.
So assuming Rocky's right, and comparing him to other recent signings, there's only one honest conclusion to be drawn: Sony/RCA's lost their goddamn mind.
In the '90s, when money was flowing like Cristal from Dame Dash's hands, multi-million dollar deals for relatively unknown rappers weren't unheard of. We're a long, long way from the '90s. No one makes money solely off music anymore, it's all about touring, merchandise and sponsorships. A loyal fan base is paramount, and the artists that are succeeding - Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, etc. - have almost frighteningly large and loyal fan bases that will eagerly line up to hand over their cash.
But building that type of fan base takes time, and there's no evidence that Rocky's got anything even resembling a fan base yet. He's never been on a national tour (his first is the upcoming Club Paradise Tour, which Drake hooked up), he only has 12,000 followers on Twitter, he's had one song, "Peso", placed on local New York City radio and today's "LiveLoveASAP" mixtape is the first project anyone's really cared about. That's not hate, those are facts.
Instead, it appears as if a flood of media hype has artificially inflated his perceived worth, but the media don't buy concert tickets and they don't buy music (trust me on that one), they're only interested in the new thing - and right now Rocky's the new thing.
To use another sports analogy, ASAP Rocky is the rap version of Yi Jianlian. Despite having never played a single game against true competition, execs at the Bucks watched one workout tape from the Chinese phenom and convinced themselves he was the next big thing, forking over millions in the process. Four years later he's been traded three times and is a career back-up.
For the record, all praise due to Rocky, I genuinely wish him the best. If someone's going to insanely overpay you that's their problem, take the money from their insane ass. In fact, this isn't really about Rocky - I'm only interested in his deal for what it says about the current state of the music industry. And what it says is PANIC.
Music execs are now acting like people you see in Vegas at 5AM. They've lost thousands gambling, but instead of cutting their losses and learning their lesson, they keep playing, desperately searching for the big hand that's going to put them back on top. How's that work out for them?
So as fan, here's hoping that ASAP Rocky keeps climbing. But as a gambling man, there's just no way I'm wagering $3 million on the man.
See Also: ASAP Rocky’s “LiveLoveA$ap” Is Better Than You Think (Mixtape Download)