We break down four of the most ingenious album rollouts in music culture.

The rollout of an album is a significant factor in the process of its actual release. An album rollout is used to generate awareness about a particular project by incorporating a strategic marketing plan and utilizing those efforts to capture the interest of potential consumers in hopes of selling records. Another element of the rollout is providing insight on the album in terms of production, musical direction, guest appearances, what fans can expect, etc.
In recent years, the music business has taken a huge hit and most albums generally don’t sell anymore. Due to that, artists and their respective labels had to revise their strategies and the importance of the rollout grew immensely. This sparked some very innovative and game changing concepts that have impacted the culture in profound ways. I wish we could shed light on every single artist with a significant album rollout, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. So we’re going to examine four unique ways that artists rolled out their albums releases.

Beyoncé – “Beyoncé”

The first of the four and arguably the most imitated album rollout would have to go to Beyoncé and the “sneak attack.” In 2013, Beyoncé broke all rules and did things her own way by releasing a surprise album with virtually no warning and zero promotion, yet, she still managed to sell over one million units worldwide in its first week of release. That was a bold statement which sent shock waves throughout the music industry. Beyoncé is a staple in music, her position is solidified. She could’ve easily followed the typical promotional formula, but she understood the magnitude of her brand and realized that she no longer needed a machine to reach her fans. It was a risky move, but with great risks comes great reward. Following the release of “Beyoncé,” various artists attempted to duplicate this formula, hoping to achieve similar results, but that just didn’t happen.

Nipsey Hussle – “Crenshaw”

Nipsey Hussle created a much-needed dialogue with the release of his 2013 project, “Crenshaw.” Nip has always been an advocate of artists maintaining their independence for the sake of their integrity as well as the financial benefits, so after reading Jonah Burger’s Contagious: How Things Catch On, he came up with an idea of his own; sell “Crenshaw” for $100. Nipsey pressed up a thousand copies of the project, set a pop up shop in his hometown of Los Angeles and sold every single copy. Even Jay-Z himself reached out and purchased one hundred copies of his own for $10,000.  Every individual that purchased the album received an invitation to an exclusive “Proud2Pay” concert and other incentives, this was a major accomplishment on Nipsey’s behalf. He continued his “Proud2Pay” concept on the follow-up project “Mailbox Money,” but instead of selling the project for $100, he boosted the number to $1000 and pressed up one hundred copies. I don’t have the exact figures for the number of units “Mailbox Money” sold, but the last time I found any information about the release it was well over sixty units. Multiply that times a thousand and you got sixty racks, just from sixty CDs, a serious power play and game changing effort from Nip Hussle the Great.

Starlito – “Mental Warfare”

While a large percentage of individuals credit Nipsey Hussle for releasing the first $100 hip-hop project, I must say that isn’t true. On March 31, 2012, Nashville rapper Starlito released his project “Mental Warfare” on Bandcamp and charged a $100, which sparked immediate outrage from his fans, but they bought into it. Next thing you know, “Mental Warfare” rose to #1 on the Bandcamp album charts and Starlito relished in every moment of it. Later that night, Starlito admitted that the $100 price tag was an April Fool’s joke and he released the project via LiveMixtapes free of charge and lowered its price on Bandcamp to just $10. He also told consumers that he would not be returning their money, but the funds would be utilized for his “Grind Hard Scholarship,” to support a high-school graduate of his choice. In my honest opinion, this is a very significant and heartfelt rollout. Starlito could’ve easily used the funds for his own personal gain, but his act of selflessness is one that will forever stand out in our minds.

Ryan Leslie – “MZRT”

The fourth and final album rollout that we’re examining is Ryan Leslie’s lifetime concept album “MZRT.” Ryan Leslie has always been a very progressive and forward thinking individual, but this is unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed before. On July 4, 2015 MZRT was officially released with twelve songs to begin the process and every month following that, Ryan has released a new song to add to the album. He plans to add a new song every month until he decides to retire from the world of music. Ryan says that the final MZRT project will be well over 120 songs. The album can only be purchased via his website, therefore he is able to obtain all of the revenue generated from the album, which is a rarity in today’s musical landscape.
While these weren’t the only artists that had great album rollouts, they were among those which held the most impact. An effective rollout is more than just about marketing dollars and record sales, but it’s a way to engage the fans and get them involved. As an avid consumer of music, it’s important to have that artist-to-fan interaction because without the fans, none of this would be possible and artists would not be able to monetize their content. If money couldn’t be made from the art, this music industry would be in severe trouble, so kudos to everyone in the business with the foresight of propelling the culture to greater heights.