Let’s take this opportunity to examine a larger issue and an idea that will define the future of not just Rap music, but the music industry overall. Lil Wayne’s purported-to-be final album The Carter V was scheduled to be released in December 2014. But issues outside of his control led to his album being shelved by Cash Money Records. Leading up to the release date, Wayne dropped five singles slated for the fifth edition of the Carter series and none of the singles have cracked the top 25 of Billboard’s Top 100 chart (Drake collaboration “Believe Me” hit number 26, but was a top 10 R&B single).
While the emcee appears more sober and lucid than he has in recent years, the pop stardom once reserved for Wayne (seven top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles in five years) seems no longer at his fingertips. However, for as much as Wayne may be angry about this issue, the music industry’s current climate is such that he may be overreacting. Because, well, Lil Wayne is so big that he doesn’t need a major label anymore.
In the best of all worlds, Lil Wayne could easily exploit the extremely successful model set by caustic female emcee Azealia Banks, whose Broke With Expensive Taste was literally four years in the making, but once dropped from Interscope Records, she was able to regain control of her masters (after a protracted legal battle) and put out the project via Jeff Kwatinetz’s Prospect Park production management company that signed the album, and then inked a distribution deal for it via Caroline and Capitol Music Group.
Not having her album associated with a label has been a great benefit to Banks, whose social media-driven brand is largely based around her being willing to take fans, critics and the music industry itself to task when she perceives them to be less-than willing to acquiesce to her desires. In a situation like Lil Wayne’s, if Weezy didn’t have Cash Money/Interscope to deal with, maybe his concerns could have been more quickly remedied.
Lil Wayne Could Team Up With OVO To Release “Tha Carter V”
Given his publicly made demand to be released from his contract with Cash Money Records, it seems Wayne may be ready to jump to a new outfit. A significant part of J. Cole’s “marketing and promotion” for 2014 Forest Hills Drive involved non-traditional promotion techniques like having fans actually come to 2014 Forest Hills Drive to listen to the album prior to release, leading to 361,120 albums sold in the album’s first week. Perhaps Wayne would seek to move away from the singles he’s released that have underwhelmed on the charts by employing a more up-to-date strategy: directly connecting with fans through private, intimate musical encounters.
What better way to do that than at Warner along with OVO? He could sign a separate deal with his successor, allowing him to drop projects whenever the hell he feels like it. Not a bad deal if you ask us.
Lil Wayne Grabs A Distribution/Endorsement Deal With Redbull
If Wayne — correctly, we might add — realizes that he doesn’t even need a label anymore, he’s certainly making the best move for the future of his career in asking Bryan “Baby” Williams to let him out of his deal. Wayne could lock in a marketing or distribution deal for just this next album alone with someone like, Red Bull Records, a subsidiary of the energy drink leader. Foremost, Red Bull Records is distributed by Sony.
Wayne could have Red Bull Academy and their connections to Wayne’s beloved skateboarding and extreme sports through its strong ties in the social media and video areas support his work. Thus, this makes Red Bull Records the most unique subsidiary of a major label in the music industry. Could this happen? Possibly. Should this happen? Absolutely.
Signing An R&D/Management deal with Roc Nation
Wayne likely already knows Cole’s numbers by heart. Comparatively, in the same week as Cole’s new album dropped, with pre-promotion that included an instant download of a single with iTunes pre-order, appearances by Minaj on Saturday Night Live, The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and a CRWN interview with Elliott Wilson, Wayne’s YMCMB artist Minaj’s similarly well-regarded Pinkprint only pushed 244,000 first-week copies despite “Anaconda” marking her 51st Hot 100 hit.
Intriguingly, Lil Wayne released Sorry For The Wait 2 mixtape to tide fans over in early January until he can handle issues surrounding Tha Carter V. Could the numbers of downloads for this mixtape possibly portend Wayne realizing that he may be able to forego using a label for the release? Maybe.
Peer-to-Peer Downloading Services Like Bittorrent
Wayne would be an immediate icon with this type of service, or others, too. Peer-to-peer service BitTorrent has grown in recent years as a service favored by rap fanatics. Kanye West, Jay Z and Eminem have had their projects downloaded a total of 10 million times in 2013 alone. Realizing that artists are now more willing to use non-traditional ways to monetize, BitTorrent’s “Bundle” service allows for the artist to serve as the direct peer for downloading. While the fan can stream the content for free, for a nominal fee (or an email, etc.) the artist grants the fan a “key” which allows them the ability to download material.
From The Comfort Of His Own Home
Imagine Weezy being able to release as much music as he wanted, when he wanted in whatever format he wished. Not having to worry about labels or industry executives, he could just shuffle down the hall into the recording studio in his home. As soon as he was finished, Wayne could get everything mixed, mastered and released by lunchtime. If he reached a certain profit margin, he could even release a video, too.
Lil Wayne’s case is unfortunate, because as has been shown by artists including Beyonce, J. Cole and numerous others, disruption is the new guiding force that is defining the modern music industry. You don’t like when a label executive wants you to put out an album, nor do you like what he’s telling you that you have to say? No longer must the artist sit in silence. Lil Wayne – like many modern artists – has an active online fanbase that eagerly engages online material. At present, the digital, social and sharing ages are co-conspiring in a revolutionary way to eliminate the need for a middle man forever. J. Cole sold over ⅓ of one million copies of an album that he announced via YouTube only three weeks prior to release. Beyonce went platinum from an Instagram post. Does Weezy just need to drop a date and a link on Twitter? Maybe.