I Demand a Column: Tiger, Tiger, Barely Burning

Or how Tyga’s debut album is an excellent representation of the current state of music
By: Danny Sedlazek
Who here has heard of Tyga? I’m going to assume quite a few of you. For those who don’t know, Tyga was the voice behind one of the biggest rap-radio smashes in recent history, “Rack City.” And for those of you who still are clueless, I’m sure if you heard the opening bass line, you’d have some vague memory of hearing it before.
“Rack City” went platinum in a little bit more than a month, which is a huge accomplishment in a world where a Jay-Z and Kanye West collab takes that much time to sell as many copies. At the same time, he is signed to the most branded label in hip hop, and possibly in pop music as a whole: Young Money Cash Money.
So when it was announced he was dropping an album this February, I was expecting a massive commercial success (musical success…that’s another issue for another column), but why? Well, he has the huge label, high exposure, and a massively popular radio single.
Then the guest features were announced, and somehow the young boy who laughably used a slurred form of the word “tiger” as his rap name, pulled some of the biggest names in hip hop to jump on his record: Wale, Nas, Chris Brown, J Cole, and numerous others.
Also, his label mate Drake moved 631,000 copies of his 2011 album Take Care in the first week of release. Sure, Tyga doesn’t have half the hype Drake does, but it’s fair to say he has a solid 35% of it.  By that logic, I estimated that he would move at least 100,000 copies his first week, and even that would be a failure. He probably would push upwards of 200,000, right?
Heck, he even named his freakin’ record Careless World: Rise of the Last King. You can assume at least 40,000 easily-confused Drake fans will purchase it, in addition to Tyga’s hardcore fan base.
The Sunday following the “Careless World” release, I harnessed my hand’s inner Michael Johnson and Googled its 1st week sales numbers with a speed previously thought humanly impossible.  My jaw dropped, then I burst out laughing:
Tyga barely moved 61,000 copies.
That’s ridiculously low. But surely, that means other hip hop album sales are also scraping the bottom of the cesspool sales wise.
Enter Childish Gambino. Ever heard of him? I’m guessing some of you have, but he doesn’t have the name-recognition that Tyga does. But Gambino has been gaining buzz on the underground for the past couple of years without any mainstream attention.  He dropped his debut album Camp last November on Glassnote records. Ever heard of them? If you have, either you’re  lying or so hipster your jeans are cutting off circulation to your legs.
You know how many copies he sold his first week? More than 51,000.
What did he do so right that Tyga did so wrong? Well for one, Tyga is an example of the changing times.
Ever heard of Iron Butterfly? Maybe.  Ever heard of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” their massive hit single? Much more of you have. Outside of that song, they had next to no hype or label backing. The album that contained that single became the 31st bestselling album of all time. But that was in the late ‘60s.
Now, it’s not about having a huge single and radio airplay anymore, it’s about having a dedicated following. That’s why artists like Curren$y pushes out enough mixtapes each year to supply a small country. That’s why artists tour relentlessly, even to the point of physical harm.
Sure, Tyga put out mixtapes, but he barely got more than 25,000 downloads on his most popular mixtape. That’s your hardcore audience. When it’s harder to open a jar of pickles than to pirate music, only the most dedicated fans put up sales numbers.
So what does that mean for the industry? Well, for one, one-hit wonders will become increasingly more prevalent, as a hit single no longer nets album sales. So we’re going to see more and more artists go the way of Taio Cruz and TG with startling regularity.
Due to that, 360-deals are going to overtake the music industry. That’s when the record label not only get most of the dough from the actual album sales, but they also pocket a portion of all merchandise, ticket sales, and literally everything the artist has their name attached to. The record industry is flailing to keep their head above water, and this is one of the signs that it’s starting to slip under.
By that logic, more and more artists will stick to indie labels, take the garbage record sales, but at least keep as much money as they can with them. Coupled with the Internet, who knows what this could mean for the future of music.
Then again, we’ll have to wait for the 6-month sales figures for Tyga’s album. Maybe I’m just jumping the gun on all of this.