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December 8, 2006

Rap’s Evolving (Business::Artistic) Model [11:15 am]

In major awards, rap gets no love - pdf

Nominations were announced Thursday for the 49th annual Grammy Awards and, for the first time in six years, no rap stars made it into any of the marquee categories such as album of the year or best new artist. Instead, the glory went to soulful singer Mary J. Blige (who led with eight nominations), the scarred rock survivors of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, British newcomer James Blunt and the Dixie Chicks, the latter nominated for album, record and song of the year.

The Grammy snub caps a fairly miserable year for the rap scene.

[...] Some say the malaise of 2006 is due to shifting economic realities.

“Hip-hop and urban music is just as strong as it has been, it’s just that now its success is coming in new places and in new ways,” said Jay Frank, the chief of programming for Yahoo Music. “There’s a lot of digital downloads and ringtones being sold, and in some cases this is music that is being very successful in ways other than selling CDs.”

Sixteen-year-old rapper Jibbs is an example. His debut album has sold a humble 126,000 copies since its release in October. But one sing-song track on the CD, “Chain Hang Low,” an ode to diamond necklaces, has sold 1.4 million ringtones. Those sound clips, used to personalize cellphones, usually cost about $2 each.

[...] Erica Grayson, an executive at Geffen Records, said the label saw ringtones as an integral way for Jibbs to get in the ear of teen fans. “It’s just not the way we’ve done it in the past,” she said. Privately, though, other executives worry that ringtones are a novelty and new phone technologies will make them even easier to steal.

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