West’s mostly-streamed album breaks the mold – like the artist himself
Kanye West’s ‘Life of Pablo’ went platinum not in spite of streaming, but because of it.
The success of the “Famous” rapper’s eighth studio album, which has had more than three billion streams worldwide and became the first album to top the Billboard 200 chart almost solely through streams, proves that streaming services are the soundwave of the future.
“This says Kanye West is very popular, and streaming has really taken hold the past couple of years,” said Keith Caulfield, Billboard’s co-director of charts. “This continues to push the needle farther toward the popularity of streaming.”
In fact, 19% of global music industry revenues now come from streaming, up from 14% in 2014, according to a recent report. Streaming now accounts for 43% of digital revenues, and is coming close to overtaking music downloads (45%), as an estimated 68 million people paid for music subscription services in 2015.
Granted, “Pablo” was briefly on sale at Kanye West’s site in February 2016, and can still be downloaded online for $20. But downloads contributed only 0.7 percent of its first-week units, Billboard reports.
But this is also Ye we’re talking about. And fans were excited about listening to “Pablo” after its controversial release last year. There was the drawn-out rollout, which included the album title and tracklist changing several times, as well as the glitchy live debut at West’s Madison Square Garden fashion show, and the record first streaming only on Tidal before expanding to other services like Spotify.
Then there was the public feud with Taylor Swift for West’s lyrics on “Famous” that suggested they “might still have sex” and that he “made that b—- famous.” And don’t forget the music video that depicted Swift, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Donald Trump and Bill Cosby lying naked with West and Kim Kardashian in a giant bed.
West also made headlines for canceling his “Saint Pablo” tour last fall to be hospitalized for stress and exhaustion. And raised eyebrows by meeting with then president-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower.
“You can’t wait to hear what he’s going to do next,” said Mark Zablow, a celebrity marketing expert and CEO of Cogent Entertainment.. “You never know when you’re going to wake up and read about Kanye doing something extreme in pop culture, or you’re going to wake up and read about Kanye doing something successful in business, whether that’s with his music, his Adidas partnership, or his exclusive ‘Life of Pablo’ merchandise. He sets up the model for everyone to copy. Now the new bar is set.”
But you’ve got to have skills, for all of that. And whether you love West or hate him, he’s mastered the art of mixing his talent and his Twitter rants to leave people wanting more.
“He’s an incredible force in music, and he draws an incredible amount of attention, and he wouldn’t be able to do that if there wasn’t music to back it up,” said Caulfield.
Plus, “Pablo” is an album that encourages fans to experience the entire record in one sitting, rather than replaying hit singles, which supports streaming the whole thing.
“Singles became very popular because people have short attention spans and like to consume things in small bits, but now Beyonce and Drake and Kanye are showing people there is worth in a full album, and they really want you to listen to the whole thing,” added Caulfield. “And this is part of that.”
And just wait until West spins this platinum milestone on his next album.
“You’re going to see Kanye figure out a way to take this achievement and monetize it even further,” added Zablow. “Kanye will probably come up with a couple of great rhymes about it, and probably make another couple million just by bragging about it.”
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