ZOOMING OUT: You likely don’t need reminding that the ongoing prosperity of recorded music—in the midst of a pandemic that has shut down the concert biz—derives largely from the work of black artists. Drake, The Weeknd, DaBaby, Travis Scott, Lil Baby and Future—not to mention new breakouts like Roddy Ricch, Lil Mosey and Rod Wave—are among the acts scoring astronomical numbers, lockdown or no lockdown. We’ll be tracing some of the pathways to the present in June, Black Music Month.

(Speaking of Roddy, what’s up with his management situation? Has he fired Moe Shalizi?)

Drake’s big surprise mixtape drop was a boon for his label and fans, but a big headache to Team Kenny Chesney. The Nashville superstar, having teed up his blockbuster album bundle for what looked like a 200k+ first week and a surefire #1 bow, had to white-knuckle it to the finish line after being challenged by the hip-hop colossus. In the end, Team Kenny got their #1. It’s highly probable that the dates for Chesney’s tour will be canceled or postponed (whichever Kenny and company deem best) once the bundle is certified.

This whole business of canceling or postponing shows after the first-week certification of ticket bundles, we might add, is funky enough to have the geniuses at the Bible looking at one another sideways.

TO RELEASE OR NOT RELEASE: For new acts, there’s no downside to dropping new music now even without touring options, as opportunities still exist to gain traction and move the needle via TikTok, radio and assorted social/viral platforms. For artists coming off successful debut albums, though, it’s a bigger decision. If you’re planning a tour that will take you to the next level of your career, how long is too long to wait—especially in an ecosystem where the dominant acts (Post Malone, Drake, The Weeknd, Travis, et al) are constantly releasing music?

Consider Dua Lipa. Warner’s 2018 Best New Artist winner has seen a solid run for her album since its late-March drop (418k+ RTD). Single “Don’t Start Now” spent six weeks at #1 at Pop radio and remains in the Top 5, as well as Top 10 on the Spotify Global chart; follow-up cut “Break My Heart” is Top 15 at radio. A headlining tour at this moment could very well have elevated her to the next glittery career plateau, but even without it she’s kicking ass.

The livelihoods of the great middle class of artists are so dependent on touring that they need to be strategic and engage their fan bases in creative ways (and that naturally includes releasing new music).

It’s a slightly different calculus for rock and country acts that don’t rack up major streams. That album drop is the E ticket for promoting that tour; just look at the Chesney situation outlined above, or Justin Bieber’s cancellation after his chart-bundle bow (his Changes has racked up about 715k RTD). While it won’t hurt Rihanna to hold her album until 2021, what about a band like The Killers? Their new single has some momentum, but that cash-cow tour is in jeopardy, with U.S. dates slated for August and no tickets on sale yet. (Their 2017 album is at 315k+ RTD). We can expect that 5/29 date to go south soon. So why not just dole out another track and figure out the next best timing for album and tour? Likewise Sam Smith, who could wait things out and keep putting smash singles out one after another—and maintaining a steady presence at radio. His 2017 full-length has done 1.6m+ RTD.

The Dixe Chicks tour will be big—but it’ll be bigger if they have that ticket bundle driving a #1 album, to make it promo heaven for their TV appearances promoting the trek. Is politics a factor in the timing of their new drop date? Would they like to dump Gaslighter on the Orange Infection just ahead of the election? We wouldn’t be surprised. The Chicks’ last album has done 3m+ RTD since its release in 2006.

Lady Gaga had only a few big stadium shows to offer fans; her records may not be bulletproof, but her touring, thus far, has been. The question is, how long will it stay that way? Her 5/29 drop date is now official; a ticket bundle should assure her of a #1 bow—unless something drops that can do 200k first week, which would likely be a stretch for Gaga at this point. Then again, it would be unwise to underestimate the star, her fans or the market prowess of IGA. Will she cancel/postpone her scheduled dates once the ticket bundle is verified?

Beyoncé really is bulletproof—she hasn’t had a big pop smash in years, but it doesn’t matter in the least. She’s a cultural icon and can fill stadiums without releasing music. Whatever she does, the world will go on kissing her ring. Even so, insiders say they wouldn’t be shocked to see new music from her by year’s end.

Adele, on the other hand, is the most interesting case of all. A few years ago, it seemed women between 25 and 60 couldn’t buy her album fast enough; 25 has done more than 11.5m since its 2015 drop. But will that hardcore audience give her streams of comparable volume? In any event, expect great music and the star’s low-key, understated approach, which has galvanized her worldwide legions. And discussion continues about a single in the fall and an album just before Thanksgiving, depending on the state of the pandemic. One would think that those decisions need to be made early enough to set all the moving parts in place.

What about Cardi B? She’s dropped a number of tracks and features in the last year or so, but it’s been a long while since her 2018 debut album (3.3m+ RTD). Still, she’s a monster brand; insiders say a protracted renegotiation of her record deal has held up the release of her next full-length. What’s taking so long to get that deal done? Is something more than money involved?

TAGS: I.B. Bad
Time to get the hell outta Dodge. (7/19a)
The score at the half (7/19a)
Hat trick (7/19a)
He's a one-man dynasty. (7/19a)
One titan salutes another. (7/19a)
Who's already a lock?
Three chords and some truth you may not be ready for.
The kids can tell the difference... for now.
The discovery engine is revving higher.

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)