I’ve massively enjoyed writing this case study, I have gone to TOWN on it, especially as I’ve just finished creating the first phase of my product (Instagram Course for Musicians). I feel that playing the Victory Lap in the background will do it justice, hooray!
Nipsey Hussle is the focus of this piece, and I chose to showcase him as I can honestly relate to how he did business – I’ve learnt from him as a businessman. In an interview, he once said: “I think a major label has to be like a venture capitalist”, and this really stuck with me.
Having been burned so many times with the wrong investors on board in my different startups, I’ve had front row seats on how a company vision can DIE if it merges with the wrong investors. I’ve seen the same thing happen in the music industry where record labels are ‘investing’ in these YOUNG artists who know nothing about the business. This tends to result in the artist’s vision becoming blurry – and all of a sudden – they’re essentially working FOR the record label rather than with them. So it’s become one of my career missions to give the artist the right tools to educate themselves around the business side and build themselves UP… In order to be the best, they need to learn from the best, and Nipsey was by far one of the best businessmen out there. So my fascination for him is deeply rooted in his business acumen firstly, and then, of course, his artistry.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways he’s achieved this status and legend. From owning your sh*t to giving back to the community. Nipsey had a way of working to monetize everything and we’re here to explore it.
Know Your Value
In amongst the streaming chaos of recent years, how many up-and-coming artists would have the BALLS to drop a $100 mixtape. Yes, MIX tape, not even an album, MIXTAPE. Nipsey Hussle is that guy. Now, who would be buying that kind of valued mixtape? None other than Mr Jay Z.
Sometimes with some confidence, balls and knowing your value you can make things happen. It’s all how you value yourself and what you do. Then you ask yourself, how can you make a mixtape worth a whopping $100? Start getting creative with the end experience and try new pricing models, don’t conform to the status quo.
“The reason I chose to charge $100 dollars each copy and only start with 1000 units is because I tailor making my music for those who are listening … it’s not about stepping outside of what I’m known for in hopes of new discovery. What that means less is fans that are better served,” he explained in a statement to Rap Radar.
Nipsey sold 1000 copies of the mixtape at $100 which brought in a beautiful $100,000 – which he promptly used as starting capital to invest back into his business(es).
KNOW YOUR VALUE
Damn right I’m repeating this again. Because it was this that gave Nipsey leverage for everything! He knew his value!
Nipsey knew from early on that he wasn’t just an artist, he sold off everything to set up his studio. He knew that in order to get where he needed to be, he had to hustle his way on to the journey. Through doing everything himself that a record label would usually do, such as promotion to recording, he operated as a creative and an administrator of his business.
Then understanding what a record label could contribute through money, resources and distribution he PARTNERED rather than signed to a label. Keeping things the way that HE liked to do things, as he’d been doing things from the start, but with the backing of a label.
This is how you make a partnership with a record label. This is also how you make a deal with an investor… “I think a major label has to be like a venture capitalist” said Nipsey. “They have to put forth the resources – the relationships, staff and professionals to take an artist from 60-100.”
Build A Community
It wasn’t just a community he built, it was more than that. He created businesses to give back to the community from which he hailed from and opened up opportunities for people who would otherwise have very limited options. Like the co-working space, he built, bridging the gap between the likes of Silicon Valley and the underprivileged areas of the US by having access to both sides and opening up the conversations that need to be had. Everything he touched from his music to business endeavours gives something back to the community. And this is worth its weight in gold when it comes to what the real side of music should be about – connecting people with others or things that will develop their life emotionally and professionally.
Know How To Monetize
Essentially knowing how to make money from everything. If there’s a product or a service, there’s money to be made. And not always in the most obvious of ways. Taking culture and giving it commercial value. As Nipsey said “If you start small and build on what you have, you can continue to multiply that into something greater,
while picking up all of the valuable lessons along the way. You learn all of the secrets to the game on your way up.”
Don’t JUST copy every other musician’s business model and revenue streams. Create your OWN that reflects your brand and your music. Take pieces of what works for others and make it into your own, see what works, what doesn’t and improve on it.
Have A Higher Purpose With Music & Work
I have always stressed this for musicians. Their music is just a reflection of a bigger purpose and can clearly see this was Nipsey Hussle’s mantra. His music, his businesses, his work, his activism, everything he did reflect on something bigger which was his purpose. Focusing on giving those underprivileged in the community the pressure to push on for greater things; while showing that being strategic and influential is more beneficial than surrendering to the systemic downfalls that surround poorer communities.