Rap Coalition

A HOW-TO RESOURCE FOR RAP ARTISTS, PRODUCERS, & DJs. Since knowledge is power, here is your best defense to succeed in the urban music industry...

Sunday, December 31, 2006

All I Want for Christmas Is a New Music Industry

Steve Jones: Punk with a bubblegum heart On Christmas Eve, I had a fever of 103. In a state of half-waking delirium, I was visited by an angel calling itself the Ghost of Music Yet to Come. He chain-smoked and wore white jeans. His wings were beautiful.

In this fever-dream, I was allowed to glimpse what life would be like — what music would be like — if only I were in charge. In this dream, I was the All-Being Master of Rock and the Universe.

When I awoke on Christmas morning, I found the following manifesto — scribbled in my own hand — on the sleeve of a Stylistics record.

• AS ALL-BEING MASTER of Rock and the Universe (AB Master), with unlimited power to reshape the music world, my actions will be swift, sure and brutal.

It may seem cruel and undemocratic, but the first thing I’ll do as AB Master is eliminate 55 percent of all new music currently available (including music on major labels, indies and homemade demos thrown up on MySpace).

I will not force anyone to actually quit making music, recording or playing live. I will merely forbid them from putting it out in accessible, recorded form.

The reason is plain. There are simply too many records being released these days. All of us who love music are overwhelmed by the quantity — and underwhelmed by the quality — of records today.

Only 10 years ago, I was shocked to learn that more than 30,000 albums were released on an annual basis. It seemed outlandishly daunting: How could any single person keep track of even a fraction of it?

Since then, that figure has skyrocketed. What does this mean? Well, it means many things, but partly it means that too many people seem to think their music is worthy of our dollars and ears. At both major and indie labels, too many raw, young talents are being given too much exposure too soon, with too little quality control — and then tossed aside when their albums fail to ignite the planet. Too many undeveloped talents are being forced to compete against one another, and most of ’em end up bloodied and broken. And broke, to boot.

Missy Elliot: Pioneer woman It will benefit artists as much as listeners when 55 percent of all music currently being made is — after thorough quality-control evaluation — denied release. This will be administered by the Council of Twelve, a pop-musical star chamber that will initially include Jesus Christ, Steve Jones, Sarah Vaughan, OutKast, Dick Clark, John Peel, Stevie Wonder, Missy Elliott & Timbaland, Frank Sinatra, and Lennon-McCartney. Note: Production values will not necessarily be a barrier. Four-tracks will qualify, if brilliant.

Say what you will about Motown founder Berry Gordy, but he did know something about quality control from his days at Ford. Gordy forced artists to test their songs against a panel of savvy musical judges every Friday. And the standards were do-or-die shit, like: If you had a dollar, would you buy this record or a sandwich?

Everyone at Motown felt the sting of rejection from their peers at times. Yeah, it sucked. But it sucked a lot less than if they’d been expected to somehow sell a million records on their own, with no real creative support, and were then tossed aside after their first flop (or three) — which is what happens at major labels every day.

Almost as bad is today’s indie-label situation, where, often, labels are hardly more than glorified distributors for bands who are expected to do all their own marketing, promotion and “artist development.” (I have to use quotation marks, because real artist development hardly exists anymore.)

Under this new law, fewer artists will be able to put out records. Then again, we’ll be saving thousands from premature failure, both commercial and artistic.

Of course, even with all the quality control in the world, some perfectly wonderful records just don’t hit, and no one ever knows why. (Just ask the Temptations or the Supremes, who both flopped pretty hard in their early years.) But in such cases, it is spiritually preferable for the artist to be able to move forward with a fine record in hand — if not a gold one. History will absolve them.

• MY SECOND ACT AS AB MASTER will be to call an immediate halt to the use of most pop music in advertising. Artists will be free to write product jingles, of course, as they always have (from Jeff Barry to Mark Mothersbaugh to Jack White). In very rare cases, an older hit song may be reworked for jingle purposes if the results are particularly rad (e.g., “Whip It/Swiff It”). But this too will be subject to thorough evaluation by the Council of Twelve, who will test the proposed ad for sufficient whimsy, charm and That Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi.

Initially, this new ban will hurt up-and-coming bands who can sometimes pay rent for a few months after getting their music placed in a TV ad. Then again, it will level the playing field for those who don’t have such industry connections. And, in the long run, it will shake out to the greater good. Consider the benefits:

A. Our most treasured musical heirlooms will be allowed to age with some dignity, rather than whoring for Cadillac.

B. The sudden paucity of identifiable rock & roll, hip-hop and all other pop in ads will restore the sense that this music is special.



Different, somehow, than normal, everyday bullshit.



I tell you this: If Jesus were a musician today, instead of yelling at the moneychangers in the temple, he’d be screaming at the dumbfucks who’ve sold our musical soul to advertising — the suits and the artists.

C. As pop music becomes less ubiquitous in mass media, and more special, fans will become more likely to pay for it. Kids really do like to save up for stuff they want. That’s part of the fun, and always will be. Anybody can download an MP3 — but that can’t compare to the Total Fun of going to the record store to buy an album.

• MY THIRD ACT AS AB MASTER will be to ordain that all albums be sold in record stores for $11.25. Just a little more than anyone wants to pay, but just a little less than what anyone would pay for something special.

iTunes sells albums for about $10, but that’s basically just the songs and the odd video or PDF. People should pay a little extra for the packaging, and they will — for $11.25. As we all know, the reason kids first turned to Napster was because CD prices exploded in the late ’90s, for no apparent reason, topping out (ridiculously) at nearly $20. A return to a reasonable sticker price would draw people back to brick-and-mortar shops, which is where they really want to be anyway, in the long run. Believe me, no 15-year-old is going to wax nostalgic in 20 years about that day, alone in his room, when he downloaded his first illegal MP3 off Limewire. (I happen to love Limewire — but it’s just not gonna happen.)

• MY FOURTH ACT AS AB MASTER will be to save radio. I will do this by restoring government regulation of broadcast ownership to something near its pre-Reagan conditions. Media companies will be allowed to own a total of two radio stations per market (one AM and one FM), and one TV station.

Initially, this will hurt all the Wall Street investors who’ve helped to make commercial radio what it is today: fucking weak. The stations’ actual owners won’t be too happy either. Then again, in the long run, they may be grateful.

After my laws take effect, the playing field will be leveled, once again. Hundreds of different companies will own stations, instead of a handful. Because of this, the profit potential in radio will be slashed. The real gold diggers will move on to greener fields, like pharmaceuticals, and the mom-and-pop radio owners will creep back, little by little. And they’ll be crass and competitive and cheap too — but they’ll be local, and they’ll by necessity figure out ways to keep the music more interesting. Best of all, everyone in commercial radio will be relieved of the inhuman pressure to constantly, exponentially expand profits. (I will never forget the time Mel Karmazin, former Viacom honcho, bragged that he expected KROQ to turn a 20 percent increase in annual profits. [“We think that’s cool,” he told me in 2001.] No stable, ethical, quality business demands that kind of growth of its staff on an ongoing basis. That’s just not real life.)

As AB Master, I will single-handedly turn radio into a slow-growth business, instead of a cash cow. By doing this, I will help to return our most magical medium to its original purpose. Upon its development in the early 20th century, radio was intended to be a public resource to be shared and used for the collective good of the people, not of those few who can afford to invest in Viacom.

And to help stations fulfill that role, I will offer incentives for more adventurous, thoughtful music programming. I will decree that the DJ is allowed to play one song of his or her own choice every hour, as was the policy at KROQ in its heyday. (“Jock’s choice,” it was called.) It may not sound like much, but even this incremental change will radically improve the sound of our music on the radio.

• FOR MY FIFTH ACT . . . I’m still deciding, but I might choose to eliminate iPods. Or . . .

I might demand that commercial radio play more music overall, with a wider catalog, and present more local-music concerts.

I might demand that public radio fulfill its mission as public radio — not merely white, male, yuppie radio.

I might call for a return to eccentric, stylish, rhythmic, comic, non-elitist brilliance in music criticism.

I might demand an end to whiny emo vocals.

Instead, though, I think I’m done. We needn’t eliminate downloading, legal or il-. We needn’t villainize the Pitchforkers. We needn’t even villainize major labels. None of these forces, however undesirable, can ruin music and musical culture as long as we reinstate genuine quality control — call it curatorship, if you prefer — at radio, record labels and online outlets. The laws I have established will save American popular music, and serve us for decades to come.

See you at the record shop!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wendy Day

Damn, you can find anything on YouTube!!!

rap olympics 1997 - battles - eminem

The scumbag I paid $1500 to film this never delivered the video, but here it is for free on YouTube.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Words Of Wisdom From DJ Impact... (I couldn't have said it better myself):

As the year comes to a close I wanted to drop a few gems on ya...yeah not only am I the dude w/ the ears that can pick a hit in less than 10 seconds...I know a few things about this business. 2007 is coming, and some of y'all are in trouble... betta get the kid on ya team...

Anyway, take these...there FREE this time...and get ya business model tuned up:

1. Managers & Agents of NEW artist w/ ONE hit single...$15,000 for a 10-15 min show, yeah sounds good if you on that get rich quick...nice little bragging piece huh? But in the long run...you killing them. And you wonder why they're albums drop and flop...outside of that one song that everybody sees on the video channels and gets beat up on the radio the fans don't really have a personal connection w/ them. If you wanna talk about longevity you betta ask the Roots...now they may not drop and go platinum...but that road money...that real money...THEY EARN IT and they're smart enough not to try to get it ALL AT ONCE that's why they still GET IT after all these years. If your artist ain't got an HOUR worth of live heat SHUT UP w/ that 12,500-15,000 sh#t. That's why the promoters DON'T RETURN YOUR CALLS.

2. Artist...T-Shirt & Hoodies is not a clothing line they're promo items & tour merchandise...oh wait you don't know what TOUR MERCHANDISE is because your manager is trying to book you for 20,000 a show to walk back and forth saying "Uh huh, yeah!" holding ya nuts w/ 25 of your goons crowding the stage...and that's a good segway to number...

3. Live shows...
A. Okay we've thrown enough $ money from the stage to get the crowd exited...come up w/ something new.
B. Your road manager & an IPOD... stop playing...stop being cheap...
hire a Tour DJ...you never know we'll probably "Make
your show tighter."
C. Just cause you bring 30 people on the road w/ you doesn't mean that they all need to bring they're asses on stage w/ you...ask DMX; one man, a mic, & a DJ. If you can't keep the crowd interest w/ that... reevaluate your career choice. (BTW, I'll let you slide w/ a hype man to do your adlibs... but dammit turn his mic down! He's shouting your verse louder than YOU.

3. My album, then my crews, and then their solo albums/I started a new label...STOP IT...ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. If your mans an 'nem ain't NICE, NICE, NICE, on the mic stop trying to FORCE their damn albums on us...IT DOESN'T WORK. It just SO cliche'...everybody can't be Wu-Tang & G-Unit...besides somebody always ends up being U-God & Masta Killa...don't do that to your friends.

4. My LABEL dropped the ball on my project...WHAT?!!???!!? Hello, reality check...just 'cause you signed a deal doesn't mean that it gets easier...THAT'S when the real work starts...stop taking your advances and buying "rapper starter kits" and use that money to continue to advance your street movement...continue to PROMOTE and ADVANCE your OWN career like you never got signed, MAKE yourself a priority at the label. When people see you HUSTLIN' it makes 'em wanna HUSTLE with you instead of FOR YOU.

5. A&Rs...news flash...stop watching soundscan & BDS to find new talent...what used to be guaranteed sales...AREN'T. Get out in the streets and find what's hot...going to to the club w/ the intent of chasing chicks is not scouting TALENT. Finding out that your "next big thing" has a TERRIBLE live show as they bomb on 106 & Park is not a good look...shouldn't you have known that already? Signed 'em off one song huh...NO NOBODY BELIEVES 'EM huh...you got a problem now huh?

6. Record Promoters...sigh...Serato made your life easier huh...ya think all you gotta do is send out an e-mail blast...haha. STOP IT...back away from the keyboard & monitor look at that thing on your desk with the numbers and a little handset that you can hold to your ear and talk into...USE IT IT'S CALLED A PHONE. Yes, you still need to TALK to the people you want to play those records. Oh yeah side note...if your sitting at YOUR DESK doing all of your communications from your Blackberry/Sidekick...STOP IT...get yo ass up and get in the streets and work your records...that's what a handheld is for to communicate when your ASS is ON THE MOVE!!! (I'm shooting this out from as speeding SUV as we speak)

7. DJs...stop lying...if the RECORD sucks...TELL THEM...I can't get any clearer than that. Don't lie and say your gonna play what you know your NOT. If they can't respect that YOU play records for REAL PEOPLE all of the time and they'll let you know real quick what they do and don't like...eff 'em. But at the same time...try to give the music a chance...the record might not fit your personal taste but SEE IF THE PEOPLE like it...but like I said...IF IT SUCKS...TELL THEM. So what if they stop servicing you...that's what Digiwaxx, The Industry Soundbank, and New Music Server are for...we all have CDJ & Serato by now (Send me my damn vinyl though...stop playin'...budget cuts my ass...fire a couple clueless executives that should free up ya budget. Oh yeah, what you want me to do with that ONE piece of vinyl...besides get pissed off?!?!)

8. And for my final tidbit of the day...SENIOR EXECUTIVES...if those clowns were on the same team that got your ass FIRED from your last POST...why do you keep dragging their asses to every NEW opportunity you get...the business needs a new business model and NEW IDEAS...you're not gonna get that dragging the same OLD dogs from one imprint to another.

OKAY, that's it..that's all you're getting outta me today...any more and I'll have to invoice your ass.

I wish you all a prosperous and sucessful New Year. Thanks to everyone that has supported the kid this year...it a new day y'all...let's go!

RIP Carlos "Carl Blaze" Rivera
RIP James "The Godfather of Soul" Brown


DJ Impact || The Main Event

Core DJ Radio on
Sirius Satellite Radio
Hot Jamz Channel 50 (SIHJ)
Saturday Nights @ Midnight (EST)

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Past, Present & Future
of The Industry
In 2006, the traditional music business kept taking body blows. For the first time this millennium, no album sold more than 1 million copies in its initial week of release. Plus, for many, the liquidation of Tower Records symbolized another tolling of the bell for brick-and-mortar record retailers. Through the end of November, overall album sales were down 4.6% from 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Not surprisingly, digital download sales continued to rise, up 67.1% over the same time period. While many pundits are quick to nail the coffin shut on CDs, physical goods remain 94% of all albums sold.

How will this impact independent artists? For most indie acts, such stats mean little, though Tower was one of the largest major chain retailers to stock indies. The good news is while the boys and girls at the major labels may be quaking about the continued downturn, opportunities for indie labels and artists continue to rise.

For many artists, being independent is now preferred rather than a necessity - with music licensing soaring and methods of reaching fans increasing - it’s easier to get music heard—if not by the millions, than by the mini-masses. However, with so many small fish in endless small ponds, how does an artist transition from minnow to mogul?

Here’s a look back at 2006, most of which indicates that the old way of doing business is due for a big overhaul. One thing is for sure: established businesses and business models are either evolving or dying.

The days of major labels signing and nurturing developing acts appears to be a thing of the past. The majors continue to sign fewer artists - only seeking those that come with an established fan base built by the band’s own sweat and tears.

A major label contract remained the Holy Grail for some independent artists, though. Following Death Cab for Cutie’s migration from Barsuk to Atlantic, by year’s end, indie darlings Interpol had moved from Matador to Capitol. Its first album for the label is expected in 2007.

But other artists saw the indie waters as much more inviting than the major tide pool. A number of acts, Joanna Newsom and Hellogoodbye among many others, continued to make headway on indies.

Nettwerk head Terry McBride made headlines this year when he announced that he’d ultimately like to see all of the clients he manages-whether they be Barenaked Ladies or Sarah McLachlan— record for their own labels than for a major. BNL are already triumphantly doing so. After leaving Warner Bros., the band has released a Christmas album and a new studio album on their own Desperation Records. Even if sales were less than the group had on Warner Bros., the band’s profit rose because it got to keep such a bigger piece of the pie.

Shucking the constraints of a record contract enabled some artists to completely cut out any middleman. In 2005, Garth Brooks, who owns his masters, made a landmark deal with Wal-Mart that allowed his catalog to be repackaged exclusively by the retailer. This year, the Eagles and Wal-Mart entered into a long-term agreement that will cover sponsorship and exclusive audio and video releases.

Even Little Steven is getting into the act. He inked an exclusive deal with Best Buy for a line based on his syndicated Underground Garage radio show. The retailer will create displays around the artists, many of whom are independent, that Little Steven features on his show. It will also include releases from a new record company, Wicked Cool Records, set up by Little Steven.

While these deals all differ financially, they can be a windfall for an artist and a window into the future. In many cases the retailer does a one-way buy, so regardless of whether the releases sell or end up sitting on the shelf or warehouse, the artist is paid for all copies bought by the retailer.

Brick-and-mortar’s continuing retail woes were exemplified by the liquidation of the 89-store chain, Tower Records. According to Billboard, the closures are hitting the indie artist sector hard. Tower accounted for around 4.5% of total indie sales, but for an indie rock act sales at Tower could make up to 30% of their order.

Music sales at independent retail also continued to fall. According to Nielsen SoundScan, for the week ending Nov. 26, sales at independent retailers were down 19.7% from 2005.

Even before Tower’s shuttering things were looking bleak. According to the 2005 year-end figures tallied by the Recording Industry Assn. of America, only 39.2% of CD purchases were made through a traditional brick-and-mortar record retailer. That figure was down more than 10% from 1995. Customers bought 32% of their CDs at other retailers, such as big boxes like Best Buy or mass merchants like Target and Wal-Mart.

Because of limited shelf space, and because many of the big box outlets sell CDs as a loss leader, the selection rarely extends beyond major label artists and the largest indie acts. The future of traditional brick and mortar record retailers is any one’s guess.

Online retail seems to offer better options. CD Baby remains the gold standard for indie artists– reportedly paying out more than $37 million to the 160,000 artists who sell their own product through the site. CD Baby also serves as an aggregator of self-released CDs for Apple’s iTunes.

Digital delivery and user-generated content continued to be buzzwords in 2006. Microsoft introduced Zune, its long-awaited answer to the iPod. While initial sales of the digital media player were hardly impressive, Microsoft says it expects to sell 1 million units by June. In what could be another new business model, Microsoft agreed to give Universal Music Group a cut of every Zune sold and other major labels were expected to receive the same treatment. According to Billboard, Microsoft was also working out revenue-sharing deals with independent labels.

While iTunes continued to dominate digital download sales, eMusic made news of its own in December when the online store, which specializes in independent music, surpassed the 100 million download mark.

The Orchard, top digital distributor dealing mainly with independent labels, continued to make deals in 2006 with new stores, mobile partners and labels. Additionally, the Orchard launched a synch licensing division to push its distributed acts. Among the successes was the use of Ragg’s "I Want More" in a nationwide commercial for Target.

News of user-generated content sites continued to dominate the financial pages. Following Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of myspace in 2005, Google followed suit in 2006 by gobbling up YouTube. As the New York Times’ Jon Pareles notes in a recent article, such sites as MySpace, purevolume and YouTube remove all gatekeepers between artists and audience, but to what end?

With 2.2 million artist pages and growing, MySpace continues to reign supreme as the go-to site for posting content. A quick glance at MySpace’s home page revealed that 39,875 videos had been uploaded in one day alone, but what good does a MySpace page actually do for an artist unless there is some way to light a cultural fire under your site?

Yes it delivers an easy access point for fans and A&R execs, but when every act and his dog has a MySpace page (don’t think we’re kidding), the element of discovery becomes akin to finding a needle in a haystack, unless an act can somehow rise above the fray (the clutter, not the band), such as by being designated Filter Magazine’s pick of the week or landing in MySpace’s spotlight on indie videos, standing out seems impossible. Despite the odds, having a MySpace page is still considered necessary for both major and indie acts.

If folks were flocking to the Internet, they were turning away from the radio dial. Terrestrial radio continued to be concerned about sinking listenership. Perhaps the need to adapt explains why a slew of indie country artists are finally getting a shot at mainstream country radio. Whether it be Broken Bow artists Jason Aldean or Craig Morgan, Big Machine newcomer Taylor Swift or former major label kingpin Toby Keith on Show Dog Nashville, country radio is finally adding acts like these to their play lists. Perhaps the biggest coup belongs to Loftin Creek act Heartland, who scored a No. 1 song on Billboard’s Country chart with "I Loved Her First," and a No. 3 debut for the album of the same name.

Other re-calibrations for terrestrial stations included the shift toward developing Internet listeners. For example, more listeners now hear KCRW, the influential non-commercial station based in Santa Monica, Calif., through its website than its terrestrial radio band. That’s good news for unsigned and independent artists, given that Nic Harcourt, host of the channel’s popular "Morning Becomes Eclectic" program gravitates toward breaking artists.

Of course advertisers are following radio listeners to the web. According to a December article in BusinessWeek, companies are moving their advertising dollars away from radio to the internet. A new eMarketer study predicts that by 2008, the dollars spent advertising on internet advertising will be 8.1% of total ad dollars spent. This year, radio advertising accounted for 6.9% of all dollars spent, according to Universal McCann, and that rate is falling.

Satellite radio, once considered the future, experienced growing pains. Both Sirius and XM cut subscriber projections for 2006. However, the good news is that by year’s end, the combined number of subscribers could reach 14 million.

As Sirius’s deal with Eminem and XM’s pact with Bob Dylan & Tom Petty indicate, both outlets are trying to increase subscriptions by luring big-name programming. This could mean less focus on channels featuring unsigned artists or more opportunities for polished acts that appeal to celebrity ears.

If the radio picture remained cloudy, there is one area where indie artists continue to reap benefits: placement on television shows. For every huge synch license (Think Tom Petty’s "American Girl" on the premiere of "What About Brian") there are easily 10 times as many (and that’s lowballing it) synchs on baby bands. This is for several reasons: Many shows pride themselves on developing a reputation for exposing viewers to great new music. So that means that "Grey’s Anatomy" is just as happy to play an unsigned act like Get Set Go or Ingrid Michaelson as it is a major label newcomer such as Anna Nalick or the Fray or Snow Patrol.

Music supervisors are clamoring to use unsigned acts, not only because of the quality of the music, but because, and the truth may hurt, their material can be licensed, literally, for a song. Rates for use of an indie track are often low, sometimes as little as $500 for a cable show synch license, but the exposure is high. By comparison, sources say average cost to obtain a synch license and a master recording is between $30,000 and $50,000, so indie acts may want to negotiate accordingly. And the pattern using indie artists is being repeated with video games and films as well.

Regardless of all these industry dust-ups and shakeouts, most industry soothsayers maintain that live shows are an artist’s best route to success. Slots on multi-artist rock tours, such as Warped and Taste of Chaos, have helped propel unsigned acts such as Lacuna Coil to major indie status and despite high gas prices and an overall slowing economy, most artists agree that nothing is stronger than the connection an artist makes with his or her fans face to face. The oldest trick in the book—-- winning fans over one venue at a time—is still in fashion.

Melinda Newman is a Los Angeles-based music journalist who writes for the Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter, M-Lifestyle and many other outlets. She was formerly Billboard’s West Coast Bureau Chief/Deputy Editor.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hip Hop's Transformation Into A Singles and Ringtone Business

A thought crossed my mind last week as I looked over last week's album chart: What has happened to hip hop? Diddy's Press Play (Bad Boy) debuted at #1 but has dropped to #7 and then to #20 -- and that's an impressive hip hop showing in 2006!

Lloyd Banks' Rotten Apple (Interscope) has moved only 234,000 in four weeks, with nearly 61% of that coming in the first week. After debuting at #3, Rotten Apple's next three weeks were #15, #33 and #43. The critically loved Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (Atlantic) by Lupe Fiasco has moved a scant 184,000 in seven weeks and has dropped to #94. At #95 is Young Dro's Best Thang Smokin' (Atlantic) with 281,000 in ten weeks. Outkast, which previously crossed over to pop and rock fans, didn't bring their new fans with them: Idlewild (LaFace) hasn't even gone gold in 11 weeks.

The list of disappointments and underperformers is a long one. Method Man's 4:21 The Day After (Def Jam) has been out for ten weeks and has moved only 170,000. It's already off the Top 200 and sold a mere 4,000 units last week. In 15 weeks, Pharrel's In My Mind (Interscope) has sold only 341,000. After a strong first week, it eased right down and then completely off the Top 200. Not even The Roots are having a good 2006. Game Theory (Island) has sold a paltry 148,000 in ten weeks, and 41% of its sales came in the first week.

This has not been a good year for hip hop releases in general, but the issue is much more complex. Hip hop discovered the Internet. Its fans -- and there are fewer of them in the mainstream -- are moving beyond the album format and taking songs one at a time. Hip hop is as much a hit-driven genre as any. Promotion requires radio and club play. Those impressions drive album sales. Now they drive single and ringtone sales as well.

The decline of 2006 can be traced to a slight downward trend that started after hip hop peaked at 13.8% of all album shipments (see RIAA's 2005 Consumer Profile). (Year-to-year swings can occur. The swing from 2004 to 2005 was 1.3 percentage points.) In 2005, hip hop accounted for 12.1% of album scans. In 2004 the number was 12.2%. Currently, hip hop accounts for 10.6% of all album scans in 2006. Even a blockbuster fourth quarter probably won't prevent a year-over-year drop. (And the fourth quarter could be good for the genre. The Game, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Akon, Lil Jon and Young Jeezy have new releases in the quarter.)

For proof of the genre's current lack of staying power, one can look at the length of time a hip hop album stays in the Top 40. In 2006, there are no long-lasting hits at the top of the chart. Each album is a flavor of the less-than-a-month. How many hip hop albums are in the Top 40? Five. How many have been there for more than three weeks? One (Ludacris). A hip hop album makes a big splash in its first week, drops around 60% in the second week, and fades out of the mainstream's attention.

Sure, there are a few artists hanging in there. Ludacris has moved 642,000 units in six weeks and is still in the top 20. Rick Ross's Port of Miami is slugging it out in the bottom half of the top 100 and has sold 594,000 in 13 weeks. But wasn't he supposed to be the second coming?

At this time last year, the Top 40 had albums by Twista, Kanye West, Three 6 Mafia, Young Jeezy, Black Eyed Peas (if we're counting them), Lil' Kim and Paul Wall. That's seven. Four of them had been in the Top 40 for longer than three weeks.

At this time in 2004, the Top 40 had albums by Nelly (two of them), Trick Daddy, R.Kelly/Jay-Z, Ying Yang Twins, Black Eyed Peas, Young Buck and Mos Def.

To find hip hop on a chart, go to the Hot 100 Singles chart. There's Ludacris, Akon, Diddy, Bow Wow, Jibbs, Jim Jones, Lil Scrappy and others. Most of them are on the Hot Digital Tracks chart, too.

On the ringtone chart are the artists who can't hang on the album chart. Bubba Sparxx's "Ms New Booty" peaked at #1 and after 34 weeks sits at #6.His album Charm, released in March of this year, has sold 249,000 and is currently scanning next to nothing. D4L's "Laffy Taffy," at #9, has been on the chart for 50 weeks. Their album Down For Life (Asylum) is doing as well as can be expected -- it's about to go gold after a year of release.