run the jewels

Run The Jewels are no strangers to giving music away for free, to say the least: it, along with a well-managed mailing list, has been one of the key factors in the hip-hop duo’s rise over their first three albums. And along that journey, giving away their music has only boosted their income from merchandise, tickets and yes, music sales.

We reported last month on the group’s deal with BMG for their fourth album ‘RTJ4’, and the way they sold more than $1m of pre-sales of it in 48 hours. But earlier this week, Run The Jewels changed their campaign plan, releasing the album early (“F**k it, why wait? The world is invested with bulls**t, so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all”) and asking fans to donate if they could to the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Fund.

15 hours ago (at the time of writing) band member El-P provided an update on how those donations were going. “bout to hit $150k raised for charity in just over 24 hours,” he tweeted, also adding: “when your team somberly informs you that because you dropped on Wednesday and not Friday your first week of sales tallies is literally based on 2 days and not 7 as though you’ll be upset and you remind them we are the group that just gave our record away for free” with a cry-laugh emoji.

Sales figures, suffice to say, are not the priority for many artists at this specific moment in time. As the week has gone on, more news has come out on where and how artists have been channeling their own donations, as well as those of their fans. Kanye West, for example, has donated $2m to assist the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, whose killings are at the heart of the ongoing protests in the US and elsewhere in the world.

The artists, in turn, are keeping up the pressure on music companies, from labels to streaming services, to detail exactly who and how they are financially supporting. We covered Warner Music Group’s $100m fund yesterday, and now Universal Music Group has revealed that its initial $25m ‘Change Fund’ will be starting with grants to an array of organisations: Black Girl Ventures, Black Lives Matter, Black Mental Health Alliance, Colin Kaepernick Foundation, Color Of Change, Equal Justice Initiative, National Association of Black Journalists, Silence the Shame, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, The Bail Project and When We All Vote.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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