fetty wap vs. the beatles

Fetty Wap V. The Beatles: Bad Vibes In The Music Business

Fetty Wap’s name–loosely translated–means “Money Money.” Fetty Wap’s self-titled debut album dropped on Friday. Before the album came out, Billboard noted that there are only two artists who have managed to chart three songs concurrently in the Hot 100’s top 11 slots–The Beatles and Fetty Wap.

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Saturday he got into a motorcyle accident.

Fetty Wap--critically acclaimed rapper--got into a motorcycle accident on September 26th, suffering a broken leg but no life-threatening injuries.
Image courtesy of Exclaim

On Sunday, he let his fans know that his leg is broken in three places but that’s “straight” and he will “be back.”

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At present, the conversation about Fetty Wap is dominated by an outpouring of human sympathy, mingled with a sprinkling of crypto-racism as (at minimum) 7,000 media-outlets took time over the weekend to point out that Mr. Maxwell (AKA Fetty Wap) appears to have been uninsured and unlicensed at the time of his accident on Saturday. Music critics of the future may look back at this moment and see Fetty’s survival of a head-on collision with a car while riding a motorcycle as a portent underlining the surreal inevitability of Fetty Wap’s unstoppable rise to iconic status and pop-culture immortality. Of course, if Fetty Wap’s critics are right, they may not look back at this moment at all, relegating Fetty Wap’s invasion of the charts to a footnote. Fetty Wap’s dominance–from this perspective–is a twitching aberration of an already defunct business-model in the final stages of it’s collapse, as the music industry enters an era of decentralized, democratized, interactivity vs. the concentration and consolidation of monetary value around individually cultivated celebrities that was characteristic of pop-music’s major-label phase.

from David Byrne's "How Music Works" 2012

A photo posted by Thomas Kennedy (@mkultralight) on

So is Fetty Wap’s chart invasion prognostic or diagnostic? Does it predict a generational shift in global mainstream tastes or is it just a symptom of collapse? I’d say neither or both, but it’s definitely not one or the other.

Sales for Fetty Wap’s album this week are projected at roughly 70-75,000 copies of the LP, with streams beefing that number up to between 110,000 and 115,000.

Compare this to A$AP’s 2013 debut, which sold around 139,000 copies in its first week. His best-selling single off of that album, “F***ing Problems,” peaked at 66 on the chart (Goldie had been released for free on DatPiff), and “F***ing Problems” only sold 20% fewer copies than “Trapqueen.” Long.Live.A$AP stands at 500K albums sold to date. Fetty Wap might sell 300,000 copies. It’s unlikely to go gold.

How many albums did the Beatles sell the year they put out the three concurrent Hot 100 hits–the feat most recently “replicated” by Fetty Wap? Conservatively: 8 million (not including 7″ singles etc.). In other words they sold almost 30 times as many albums as Fetty Wap is expected to sell this year.

Data is a bit spotty, but it seems likely that the Beatles, in their debut year, sold about 10 times as many albums as Taylor Swift in her debut year (2007). Taylor Swift’s 1989 sold 3.6 million copies in 2014 if it continues to sell at it’s present curve–which is unlikely–1989 might eventually sell 12 million copies, which wouldn’t even land it a place in the top 50 best-selling albums of all time. Some industry experts predict that 1989 might be the last album to go double-platinum in the same year as it’s release.

All of which is a wordy way of Fetty Wap’s chart invasion is more likely an anomaly than the signal of things to come–unless it’s signaling decreased sales industry wide.

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