As the streaming wars continue, artists are both manipulating streaming platforms and being exploited by the services. Tekashi 6ix9ine is the latest subject in talks of new streaming content.
Just days out from his hearing, Spotify and Complex announced their upcoming collaborative project Infamous: The Tekashi 6ix9ine Story Podcast. Hosted by Angie Martinez, the eight episode podcast will narrate the transformation of David Hernandez into the viral sensation that is Tekashi 6ix9ine.
Available from January 28, the Spotify exclusive cover everything from his Deli career to his success as a rapper to his federal racketeering and firearms charges. With memes and controversy surrounding his case, it was almost inevitable that streaming services would find a way to profit off this mess.
Spotify isn’t alone either. 50 Cent, who at one point referred to the rapper as his ‘son’, will be dipping into the world of Daniel Hernandez with his latest project, A Moment In Time. The doco-series will reportedly feature episodes on 6ix9ine and Snoop Dogg.
Snapchat has also taken an interest in the 23-year-old’s story, announcing their new series back in September. ‘TEKASHI69 VS THE WORLD’ was reportedly in the works at Snap, and to be produced by Complex, however with the latest collaboration between Complex and Spotify, it is unclear whether the miniseries will continue production.
6ix9ine’s woes began when he arrested in November 2018 on six counts of racketeering. Eventually in February 2019, the rapper pleaded guilty to nine counts of federal racketeering, however, he was working on a plea deal to shorten his sentence.
The deal included information regarding “multiple violent people associated with the same criminal enterprise.” Originally facing 47 years in prison, Tekashi provided information on the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, cutting down his sentence to 2 years.
It’s unclear whether 6ix9ine will receive royalties from the upcoming documentaries. It’s not like he isn’t aware of his worth at this point. While in prison, he has reportedly landed a record deal with 10K Projects, valued at over $10 million. With multiple entities capitalising on 6ix9ine’s controversy, streaming wars seem to be shifting the way the music industry works.
A New Way To Profit
Nominated for Grammy Award for Best Music Film, Beyonce’s ‘Homecoming’ is a prime example of artists stepping into the streaming wars. Released in 2019, the pop star wrote, directed and executive produced the documentary diving into her Coachella performance. Partnering up with Netflix, Beyonce secured a $60 million deal – the first of many artists to come.
In August, Travis Scott teamed up with Netflix to bring fans, ‘Look Mom I Can Fly‘. A documentary looking into the Houston native’s come-up and his career, Travis capitalised on his booming star power by stepping into the content game. While details have not emerged about the deal between Scott and Netflix, it is safe to assume that he received a wealthy payout for the exclusive. After all, Netflix gave up $100 million to Jerry Seinfeld, $60 million to Dave Chappelle and $60 million to Beyonce for their Netflix exclusives.
While Netflix may be struggling to beat in-house content from other streaming services, attracting superstars is a major plus in the midst of the streaming wars. Beyonce herself raked in 1.1 million viewers upon the release of ‘Homecoming’. Naturally, other streaming services are beginning to reply.
Apple has offered Billie Eilish $25 million for her upcoming documentary while Amazon has reportedly paid $25 million for the rights to a documentary about Rihanna. Two major pop stars on two different platforms. There is clearly money to be made from the streaming wars.
While platforms such as Netflix and Amazon are producing visual content, Spotify is sticking to audio. And it doesn’t just begin and end with the upcoming Tekashi podcast – they’ve been taking charge for a while now. Boasting podcasts such as In The Dark and The Joe Budden Podcast, Spotify has experienced a 39% quarter-over-quarter spike in hours spent listening to podcast.
“We need to give [listeners] a reason to think of Spotify when it comes to podcasts […] And having shows they want and can’t find anywhere else is only going to help us gain more [users]” said a Spotify Employee via The Wrap.
But with unfortunate circumstances fuelling some of the original content produced by these powerhouses, exploitation may become a genuine issue in the near future.
Homage Or Exploitation?
The Black List was released on December 16 and featured the film industries’ favourite, unreleased screenplays of 2019. Amongst these screenplays laid ‘Blue Slide Park’ – an unofficial biopic of the late hip-hop artist, Mac Miller.
“After his first album topped the Billboard Charts, life was never the same for Malcolm McCormick aka Mac Miller. This is his story of music, love, success, family, and addiction.” – Blue Slide Park Logline
Set to be directed by CJ Wallis, production on the biopic came to a standstill following requests from Miller’s family and manager. Wallis complied and has not returned to the biopic since.
While Wallis eventually steered clear of exploiting Mac Miller’s death by abandoning the project, the battle of streaming has seen some artists be exploited posthumously.
The most recent accusation of exploitation comes from hip-hop artist, BH. The rapper claims that hip-hop artist, The Game “is really doing his best to profit off of Nipsey Hussle”. Artist and entrepreneur, Nipsey Hussle was tragically gunned down on March 31, 2019, bringing the entire industry to a halt.
Since then, The Game has gone on to launch his own label record, titled ‘Prolific Records’ – a name that doesn’t sit well with BH. While Hussle cannot exactly own the word, ‘prolific’, he was an avid user of term – one that The Game did not openly use prior to Hussle’s death.
View this post on Instagram
Can’t believe I had to design this billboard in your memory. Your absence is still surreal. Just 2 months ago we designed billboards for our Victory Lap Grammy campaign that went up all over the city. I made this design with a heavy heart but with the detail and creativity you deserve bro. You did it like no one’s ever done it! A true 1 of 1. #TheMarathonContinues #Prolific
PROLIFIC is the term tattooed near Hussle’s right eye. Prolific is also the term Hussle uses to kick off his 2018 studio album, ‘Victory Lap’. Prolific is also the term used in the billboard that honoured Hussle after his death. Designed by none other than his manager, it’s clear that ‘prolific’ was more than just a word to the late rapper.
“Y’all know who got this shit cracking […] So prolific anything …. that’s like us trying to say ‘Documentary Records’ or some crazy, weird shit like that. No, we not gonna do that.” – BH via No Jumper
Following his death, The Game began posting pictures of Hussle daily, which seemed to bother BH who was signed to Hussle. “Nip respected Game for taking him on his first tour […] That’s cool and all Game, but all this clout. Like, you posting the homie everyday? Don’t you got dead homies? Go post them. You posting the homie? I don’t even want to see this.” BH said.
The Game is really doing his best to profit off of Nipsey Hussle lol he’s sick. Even Nips friends are mad about it pic.twitter.com/QGx7oV4jwh
— . (@YaniG4L) October 17, 2019
The Game has not publicly expressed whether the profits made from his merchandise and ‘Prolific Records’ will be going towards the Hussle family.
On June 18, 2018, Jahseh Onfroy – aka XXXTENTACION – was shot dead as he was exiting a motorcycle dealership. A hip-hop artist with his fair share of controversies, his death at 20 sent out shockwaves.
Following his death, Spotify began adding the artist’s music to several playlists, including RapCaviar. Normally, this would seem normal from a streaming giant, however, the platform banned his catalogue from their playlists in May 2018.
Originally removing the artist’s catalogue from playlists due to ‘hate speech’ and ‘hateful conduct’, Spotify seemed to contradict their policy following the artist’s death.
— James Cameron (@JamesPich) June 19, 2018
@Spotify fake as hell. You gonna make a whole policy against Xxxtentacion then put him at the top of Rap Caviar. Even if you resecinded the policy, that’s a clown move ?
— Dante Webster (@Dante_Web14) June 19, 2018
While the moves from Spotify and The Game seem to be clear acts of exploitation, it’s tough to say what exactly the Tekashi related content is. Violating the trust of many associates and artists, it’s highly doubtful the content will come from a place of homage. However in the same instance, should Tekashi not receive royalties as they profit off his story, is that necessarily exploitative? A fine line.
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