With hipsterised adult colouring books proving a publishing phenomenon, the timing of Chance The Rapper’s new album (amazingly titled Coloring Book) is perfectly surfing the zeitgeist. But that is possibly the least interesting thing about it all.
His third album (or, as he prefers to term them, mixtape) arrived exclusively on Apple Music, making it onto a very limited list of streaming exclusives that didn’t fall on their faces (hello, Kanye; hi-ya, Rihanna).
In fact, this is actually a glorious moment for the digital music industry; there have been plenty of streaming milestones this year, Beyoncé (Tidal) and Drake (Apple Music) have helped to break streaming records since April. Now Chance has created another landmark – Coloring Book was initially released with no retail or download option, making it the first ever album to get into the Billboard 200 on streams alone.
There has been a clear lead up to this point. Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo was the first album to make it to #1 on the Billboard 200 with over 50% of its album equivalent sales coming from streams. Apple Music, however, has well and truly trumped Tidal’s exclusive attempts; as initially the only place to listen to Coloring Book, it generated 57.3m streams in its opening week, accounting for 38,000 equivalent album units in the US. Chance hasn’t made any vast claims of perpetuity either, promising the exclusive would only last a fortnight and the album made its way onto other streaming platforms on 27th May.
Chance also created an event called Magnificent Coloring World, held a few days after the album’s release in Chicago. The tickets, priced at $40-60, sold out within a day for the event held from 2pm until 10:30pm in a secret location in the city. It was not a private concert as suspected, but rather an interactive listening experience.
Despite being friends with Kanye West, Chance’s event was also much more than Kanye’s laughably self-indulgent live stream, debuting The Life Of Pablo alongside the launch of his new fashion line which, due to buffering issues on Tidal, became a bit of a dog’s dinner.
Magnificent Coloring World was an interactive funhouse designed to reflect Chance’s album, made up of nostalgic board games, bouncy castles, colouring pencils everywhere and, of course, beer on the house.
The event was to thank those fans happily taking a punt to pay $60 for something completely unknown: a celebration of collaboration and an exchange of gratitude between artist and fan. It has been suggested that he ended up losing $250,000 on the event and, unsurprisingly, is keen to have sponsors involved if he does it again. Coloring Book has also, inevitably inspired a real colouring book to be produced by alternative merchandise company The Interns, which is now allowing free downloads from its website.
This is certainly one of the more genuinely exciting exclusives we’ve seen recently. Chance has proven the momentum behind streaming by removing the option of downloads and purchases – keeping faith with the digital world. This was a brave move that will hopefully see more artists trusting streams to get them to the charts alone, creating a brighter and, ahem, more colourful future for streaming.