When you first hear that Nipsey Hussle has sold 60 copies of his album, it seems like the perfect preface to a doomsday treatise on the state of the music industry. But when you find out how much he’s selling each copy for, the whole story changes.
In an interview with the Guardian earlier this week, Nipsey discussed how the decision to print only 100 copies of his Latest album Mailbox Money and charge $1000 for each has actually worked—a testament to a new, Kickstarter-esque mindset about how people want to pay the musicians they like.
“It surprises me,” he says. “As much as I believe in it. Every time I get a transaction, I get a text on my phone, and I’ve been hitting them back. The feedback and the connection I have with these people help me understand the psychology of the person paying $1,000 for some songs that, realistically, you could download for free.”
The album is also available to download free online, a concession to digital music’s abundance. As Nipsey put it, to do things any other way “would be like charging for air.” He’s been using alternative methods to sell his albums since leaving Epic Records in 2010, releasing 1,000 copies of 2013’s Crenshaw for $100 apiece—Jay Z bought 100, and the rest quickly sold out.
Experiments like this show the necessity of a whole new way of thinking about how to make money from music, and even how to gauge the success of artists. A deal with a major label only goes so far in 2015, and if we’re to believe the griping of embattled signees on Twitter and Instagram, they can be as much of a hinderance as a help. Instead, entrepreneurial artists (like Nipsey) are finding success by relying on their connection to their fans, using the Internet as a vehicle for increased access (and lower overhead).
So take a listen to Mailbox Money at whatever price point you choose—and report back if you go with the $1,000 option.