There was once a time -- not that long ago -- when major record labels specialized in discovering and developing new talent. In the music industry of today, artists are expected to essentially develop their own careers through the Internet before even meeting with major label executives.
It is not uncommon for record labels to sign artists based on the public's reception to made-for-YouTube music videos. This practice is especially common within the world of hip-hop where San Francisco's Kreayshawn, Atlanta's Trinidad James, and Harlem's ASAP Rocky signed seven figure record deals thanks to creative music videos that generated millions of organic views.However, just because an artist was able to generate millions of video views without a marketing budget does not guarantee a commercially successful project (see Kreayshawn).
ASAP Rocky has proven to be worth the investment. After reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Charts, Rocky's debut album "Long. Live. ASAP" has sold over 300,000 copies and spawned a platinum single in "F---ing Problems". The success has led to a 47-city tour where crowds of up to 3,000 people have paid money to see their Rocky and the ASAP Mob perform.
I recently spoke with ASAP Rocky's touring agent Peter Schwartz, VP and Head of Urban Music at The Agency Group in New York, about Rocky's transformation from a YouTube rap star to an in-demand artist performing all around the world.
Chris Franco: When the news broke that ASAP Rocky signed a $3 million dollar record deal, it was, for many, the first time any hip hop tastemakers had heard of Rocky outside of a YouTube video. What gave you the confidence that he would be able to have success as a live performer?
Peter Schwartz: There are no guarantees of course. We really liked Rocky's music most of all. We watched the online response; obviously he got a great record deal, the press was there [...] many good ingredients. We then met his management and Rocky and knew he had that special star quality. We had no concerns in working with him and ASAP's live show continues to get better with every performance and tour.
Chris Franco: How are concert goers going from hearing of A$AP Rocky, listening to and liking his music, to spending their hard earned money to see him live? What is giving them the confidence that they will see a return on the money they spend for his show?
Peter Schwartz: I think it’s hard to quantify what makes the money worth spending on a ticket. If someone takes a chance on seeing Rocky perform live for the first time, I think they will find their money is well spent. I am also confident they will come back and see him again. He continues to improve his show and the production, so things are getting bigger with each tour. He is clearly worth that initial risk.
Chris Franco: Are there any particular markets you were surprised that ASAP Rocky was so popular in?
Peter Schwartz: Not really surprised although it is always good to see Rocky selling out venues in secondary and tertiary markets, as well as ones he has never played. Last week Rocky sold out a 2,500 capacity venue in Pittsburgh, and it was his first time playing there. I was happy about that, although not surprised. We are definitely impressed to see how well he is selling tickets internationally. 4,000 capacity venues blowing out in a matter of days in Australia and Rocky has never been there before. [That's] definitely impressive.
Chris Franco: Speaking of tours, can you speak to how social media may have helped sell out shows on the 47-city tour? Do you find that it really makes a difference?
Peter Schwartz: Social media is huge for ticket selling. Word of web is far stronger than word of mouth. Being that many of these artists developed their careers through the internet, clearly that is a great place to sell tickets and create hype on a tour or show.
Chris Franco: As a touring agent, what do you believe is the appeal of an artist like ASAP Rocky in markets around the States?
Peter Schwartz: He makes great music and is very charismatic. [Rocky has] great lyrics, beats, videos and he puts on a killer show. He’s collaborated with many of the top artists in the business. He is also well connected with his fans, which is how he took off in the first place. I think the sky is the limit for ASAP Rocky.