The Owners of the Music Industry

To further my discussion of my previous article on the revenue artist make within streaming, I wanted to look at the whole picture. Where is most of the revenue going if in 2014 global recorded music totaled in the US at $6.9 billion?  To break down the consumption of music in the US by genre, although possibly in broad terms, according to a study released by Nielson Music, rock music was twice as popular in 2014 as pop musicaccounting for 29% of the industry’s music consumption across album, track purchases, and music streaming.

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Forbes magazine also provides us with the top three paid musicians of 2014:

With Dr. Dre’s (Aftermath Entertainment) most recent sale of Beats, the company he cofounded, to Apple for $3 billion, he is listed at number one going home with $620 million this year before taxes. Coming in far second is Beyoncé (Columbia & Sony Music) with $115 million as her most successful year yet.  And finally, The Eagles (Asylum) with their longevity in the industry at $100 million.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that after securing $400 million in fresh funding, Spotify is now worth more than the entire US recorded music industry at $8.4 billion.

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Sony leads the record label trio at $4.9 billion but if we look at Live Nation it will not be long when it takes a step ahead of all three. With Live Nation’s monopoly in live music, being that most revenue is from cold hard ticket sales, it would not be surprising that Live Nation takes the lead within a year.

Berklee As A Frontrunner

Just two weekends ago, Berklee College of Music hosted the Women’s Empower Symposium at their campus in Valencia, Spain.

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With speakers from all over the spectrum, the event brought the likes of music journalists, producers, composers, PR agents, and everything in between. Featuring some of the top names in the business, the affair drew in sizable crowds for the various lectures, workshops, and presentations by women such as Beyonce’s PR agent.

This puts Berklee in a significant position in relation to other music schools across the globe. Though they’re certainly not the first to host an event like this, this particular event garnered enough attention to make it one of the more significant ones. Upon Googling “women in music symposium”, 7 of the 10 top hits on the first results page link to Berklee’s event.

What does this mean for Berklee, then? They’ve shown that they’re willing to put a foot forward when it comes to matters of diversity in their business- and their business is creating musicians ready to storm the industry, and what good is that if your female students lack equal encouragement? Of course, with a hefty handful of music schools within the US as well as elsewhere, there’s been a slimming disparity between the genders of students. Which is great news- more women are feeling more confident in their abilities and are, therefore, more willing to pursue their dreams in lieu of “more practical” options. Guys don’t have to be the only rock stars.

And so Berklee has set a precedent not only for other music schools but also for themselves. While other institutions will have to up their pace to keep in stride with them, Berklee will have to continue clearing boundaries and making an example of themselves. Perhaps this is contingent on the promise of more events like this in the future, perhaps it’s reliant on their emphasis on their female students. No matter- it’s a huge step in the right direction.

See, the reason an event like this is so monumental for Berklee is in its impact. Looking past the search engine results, there was a resounding physical response at the campus. Not only was turnout an indicator of the event’s success, but the coverage throughout the school it received proved that as well. There wasn’t a hallway you could walk down without passing a poster for the symposium. Professors altered class times to ensure students could attend the event. In maintaining the appearance that Berklee was really passionate about the event, it fostered the same passion in the students. Write this down, Juilliard.

Throughout the day, attendees could sit in on panel discussions regarding various topics in the music industry- particularly how the particular women speaking were involved. Or they could attend various workshops crafted for specific interests, such as music blogging or banishing stage fright. When it came down to it, there was something for everyone, and there was something at almost every hour throughout the event. Never a dull or free moment.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the event, you can watch clips from some of the panels here.

 

My Anaconda DO

Fuse, MTV, VH1…they all used to be the places to go for your music video fix. But just because they’ve died down doesn’t mean music video culture has as well- in fact, music videos are more popular than ever, thanks to YouTube. Especially when it comes to pop artists- particularly female pop artists- we’ve seen a niche brand of music videos. Stylized choreography, dramatic vignettes, and flashy outfits. And more often than not, our diva herself wearing hardly anything or something skintight, completely and utterly sexualized. Recently, our pop stars have been fighting back against this very paradigm.

I hadn’t even thought about Miley Cyrus since Hannah Montana’s primitive seasons on Disney Channel. But there was absolutely no avoiding her my first month at college- that’s when the music video for Wrecking Ball was released. Fully immersed in my alternative/indie persona, I’d sworn off pop music. How edgy. But I was also a budding music journalist, so I decided to give the video a watch. I giggled with my friends as she nudely swung past, bright red lipstick the only color in the otherwise stark scene. But introspectively, I couldn’t help but consider what this meant for me.

A song about confusion, submission, and heartbreak, “Wrecking Ball” quickly made its way up the charts, carrying the controversial video along with it. It starts off seemingly innocent- a single tear tracks its way down her pallid face. Then we see her licking hammers. And finally, she’s nude, riding past our eyes atop a wrecking ball. “What the heck, Miley?!” the world cried in disbelief.

Not only is her nakedness a metaphor- for being completely naked in front of a person in a relationship, not just physically but emotionally, mentally. But it’s also a power symbol. We’ve all watched little Hannah Montana transform into a grown woman, and Miley chose this particular song and video to embrace her newfound maturity, both in her sound as well as performance. She’s unashamed of how she’s grown- physically, musically, and especially mentally. After shedding herself for another person- the unnamed lover and subject of the song- she’s taking ownership, and complete control by showing herself completely naked on top of a huge, heavy, destructive device.

And then there’s Nicki.

A year later, Nicki Minaj put out this vaguely familiar song and a booty bumping video to accompany it, featuring Drake. And it’s an absolute feminist masterpiece. I know what you’re thinking- how could that possibly be true, with the myriad scantily clad women, and the shining, bouncing bottoms?

Well…that’s exactly it. Nicki knows exactly what she’s doing and she’s proud of it. Lady Minaj has shown the world that she’s here, she has a huge ass, and she’s not afraid to show it off- under her circumstances. We see a lot of imagery of male arousal throughout the video- the coconut dripping in the beginning, the wine glass spilling over the sides, spreading whipped cream all over her chest, the bananas spinning around on the turntable…yet when in contact with an actual male in the video- Drake- she doesn’t surrender her ownership of herself. She slithers all over him, snake-like, wrapping herself around him in the most enticing way possible. But as soon as he reaches out for a taste of his own, she retracts. No, no, Drake.

There’s also something to be said regarding her sample choice- clearly borrowing from Sir Mixalot’s Baby Got Back. Though catchy, “Baby Got Back” has clear footholds in the concept that women’s bodies are objects for men to admire and drool over. In fact, in the spoken intro, one of the female characters states, regarding the fictional woman whose butt is the subject of the song, “She looks like one of those rap guys’ girlfriends.” They go on to claim that people only talk to her because she looks like- wait for it- a prostitute. The intro closes out with an even more horrifying line- “She’s just so…black!” As if all black women are good for is having big butts.

“Anaconda” is reclaiming the male gaze and transforming it into something under feminine control. It’s also fun to dance to.

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And more and more female artists are catching on. Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” video showcases her essentially mocking the now popular notion that all she does is date guys, who eventually break her heart, leaving her to write another hit song about them. Beyonce has too many to count. Not to mention the countless other artists you may not even know about who are out there making empowering videos, embracing their womanhood. This is an important step for female musicians to take. It’s allowing them creative control over their music videos, and more importantly, the male gaze that’s commonly present behind them. As I mentioned in a previous post, the people working behind the scenes in the music industry are predominantly male. And whether it’s conscious or not, there’s been a clear sexualized skew in female pop musicians music videos.

So pull up those high-waisted shorts and dance along with them. You deserve it, and you look great doing it.

Who Run The Industry?

Sadly, unequivocally, and unsurprisingly: men. Whether you’re scanning the Top 40 list, or searching for the names of the people in charge of your favorite record labels, you’re more than likely to read an overwhelming amount of male names. We have our lady diva pop stars, sure. And there are people like Michele Anthony and Julie Greenwald– but the thing is, women on top are few and far between in any industry. And these two aren’t even the head honchos- they’re assistants to them. “How progressive,” said Peggy Olson.

Billboard cultivated the Women In Music awards as well as a series of articles on their website in 2007 in order to shed some well-deserved light on the female musicians, executives, and everyone in between in the industry. You’d recognize Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and others who have won the award- but skimming their list of the 50 Most Powerful (Female) Executives from last year, after first being blindly impressed, you begin to realize something terrifying- you’ve never heard of any of these people.

Okay, perhaps you’re a little more well-versed in music industry businesspeople than I am and you do recognize them. But chances are, each name is equally unfamiliar and frankly disturbing in this right. But it’s easy to rattle off the names of Brian Eno, Quincy Jones, Mark Ronson, and so many others.

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That’s why organizations like Women In Music are so important. We need more females not only stepping up as musicians, but on the business side of things as well. Started in 1985, Women In Music is a collective of women in all fields of the music industry, working to make what they do seem more attractive and plausible. They host events such as workshops and panels to encourage girls to break into the industry, no matter how off-putting it can be.

Although, it’s worthwhile to note the growth we’ve seen in the past few years. With pop powerhouses like Beyonce and rap queens like Nicki Minaj promoting feminist ideals (more on that in another post) in their music, and heartwarming singer songwriters like Taylor Swift proving that girls can pick up a guitar and make a song just as catchy as any flannel-clad, horn-rimmed glasses wearing guy can, this past decade has certainly seen lots more girl power. Not that girl groups or female-fronted groups haven’t been present in the past- each decade has certainly been host to some talented ladies. It’s just that we seem to be on the cusp of an estrogen fueled revolution in the music industry, as well as the world. There’s recently been a noticeable influx of these female artists, and certainly more of them stepping up in business.

And we can’t lose momentum. Billboard took a step in the right direction with their awards, Women In Music is a beautifully empowering organization that only has room to grow and everything to gain, and there are emerging publications like She Shreds that showcase some talent that might not get picked up in Rolling Stone. More and more ladies are picking up the microphone, the guitar, the drum sticks, you name it. But we need more. We need to keep going until Queen Bey is satisfied, and the industry, and maybe some day the world, is run by girls.

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On the Run:

Jay-Z & Beyoncé Announce Summer Tour

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What could possibly be sweeter? Hip Hop’s “First Couple” will be taking the stage in a North American tour. Both artists are showing no signs of relinquishing their respective thrones and proclaim to have very exciting things in store for their fans.

Oddly enough, this will be the first tour that Jay-Z & Beyoncé will embark on together. Kicking of in Miami on June 25, the stars will visit cities including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Toronto, and more before completing in San Francisco on August 5.

In addition, it has been announced that $1 from every ticket purchased will be donated to the Shawn Carter Foundation, Jay-Z’s organization in support of students.

Tickets go on sale to the general public through Live Nation on May 2.

Coachella Highlights: Part I

It’s that time of year for the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival!  The festival features two consecutive weekends of music held in Indio, California.  One of the great things about Coachella is the opportunity to see some of your favorite vets perform as well as new and up-and-coming acts from diverse musical backgrounds! Catch a few of my fave Coachella highlights below:

Solange and Beyoncé

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Solange Knowles, affectionately known as Solo by her fans, covered Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” during her set at Coachella.  She then performed some of her own tunes, including Sandcastle Disco (one of my faves from her) and her latest single “Losing You.”  The biggest surprise of the night was when her big sis Bey took the stage alongside her!  Looking like a scene straight from one of Solo’s music vids, Bey popped up and the twosome danced in sync to “Losing You.”

Peep the vid below:

OutKast

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Outkast_Coachella_2(Weekend 2 at the Coachella Festival)

Andre 3000 and Big Boi of the critically acclaimed Southern Hip-Hop group, OutKast reunited on stage for the first time in seven years at Coachella! They were the headliners during the first weekend and the duo performed again this past Friday.  During the first show, they performed 27 songs and was joined onstage by Janelle Monáe and Future. After mixed reviews from the initial comeback performance at the festival, they revamped their production and performance issues for their set on Friday and received more praise from festival attendees this time around.

Vid below from the first performance:

 

 

The Surprise Release Method, Is it Sustainable?

By this time everyone knows of the success Beyonce had with her recent “surprise” release of her 5th Album “Beyoncé”.  Yes, she sold a bunch or records and made headlines for doing so with no promotion whatsoever, but is this strategy sustainable or just accessible to huge artists like Adele, Justin Timberlake, P!nk, etc.  ?  There are definitely some polarizing perspectives.

 

Adam Pyarali over at Next Big Sound  seems to have a positive perspective when discussing EDM artist Skrillex and the surprise release of his debut album “Recess”.  Pyarali thinks that the numbers speak volumes:

Skrillex is seeing a large boost in numbers similar to those of a big-budgeted, label-supported campaign. Since the launch of the app on March 7, Skrillex has seen sizable percentage gains across all social platforms. He’s seen a gain of 359k new Facebook fans—up 71% from the two-week period before. Additionally, the EDM artist has seen spikes of 81% and 53% in Twitter mentions and Wikipedia views respectively—seeing major gains on Tuesday March 11 (the day after the album leak).

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People aren’t just talking about Skrillex on Twitter—he’s also receiving new followers, with numbers up 48% percent. In regular Skrillex fashion, the artist uploaded Recess to his SoundCloud account on March 18, resulting in a 104% spike in SoundCloud plays. Over these two weeks, Skrillex has seen 6.2 million plays on his account—roughly 8% of his total play count.

In terms of developing more of a following  I agree that this method my attract more media attention but it might just be doing so because of the recent success Beyonce had with her album.  “Recess” did sell well but not nearly as close to the numbers that Beyonce hit with her release.  Skrillex sold about 45-50k while Beyonce moved and impressive 600k+ copies.  To me it seems as if though this strategy is more of a stunt to gain a buzz for the album rather than a real strategy and if more and more artists continue to use this strategy then does it not lose its appeal?  Some industry executives seem to think so:

“I think the surprise release is a one-trick pony,” says the distribution executive. “I am not sure it will work again.”

“I wonder when this is done frequently, does the surprise factor wane? If there are a lot of releases promoted this way, it will become less impactful. If mid-level and lower-level artists pile in, will the surprise get applied to the point where the public doesn’t care anymore?”

I side with these executives,  I don’t think is method is going to be accessible and effective for all artists, I mean if the artists want to decrease spending and self release of course it might be less cost effective but I doubt it will induce more sales. What do you think? Can this ‘surprise’ method be a sustainable approach for artists  in the music industry?

Sources

“Skrillex Goes Direct To Fans: And It Works”, Next Big Sound:  http://blog.nextbigsound.com/post/81388559458/skrillex-goes-direct-to-fans-and-it-works

“Is the Beyonce ‘Suprise’  Album Drop Working For Others?”, BillboardBiz:  http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/retail/6029292/is-the-beyonce-surprise-album-drop-working-for-others

 

“Bey Great!”–Beyoncé Releases Surprise Visual Album

beyonce-booklet-main-picThe internet went into a frenzy on midnight, Friday the 13th when music icon Beyoncé Knowles-Carter released an unexpected self-titled, visual album with absolutely NO PROMO OR MARKETING!! Her eager fans (The BeyHive) shut down iTunes while waiting to purchase her album for $15.99 (14 songs/17 music videos).  The digital version was released today, but physical copies (CD/DVD formats) will not be available in stores until December 21st  (Just in time for the holiday season!–A great stocking stuffer for Bey fans!)

It’s amazing that no one caught wind of her project and that it was kept a secret! Beyoncé managed to film 17 videos around the world from Houston to New York City to Paris, and Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, all before the album’s release. Impressive!

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Track listing:
01 Pretty Hurts
02 Haunted
03 Drunk In Love [ft. Jay Z]
04 Blow
05 No Angel
06 Partition
07 Jealous
08 Rocket
09 Mine [ft. Drake]
10 XO
11Flawless [ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche]
12 Superpower [ft. Frank Ocean]
13 Heaven
14 Blue [ft. Blue Ivy]

Here’s what Bey had to say about her new visual album:

“I see music, it’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to music.”

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“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”–Beyoncé

Check out an more in-depth exclusive video that Bey released in her own words about her new album, as well as previews of ALL of the videos that she has made available to her fans from her official YouTube channel.

Some of my faves so far: “Drunk In Love” ft. Jay-Z, Flawless,” and “Blow”

To get a sneak peep at the album booklet photos click here!
Purchase the album now on iTunes!

Bey Great!

A Breath of Fresh Air…Luke James

Two words…Luke James. I wholeheartedly believe that this guy is the next big thing for R&B music. I’m a huge fan of Luke James! His voice will give you chills. In an industry, where it is becoming more common for people to look the part than to have the talent to succeed..Luke is in a lane of his own..Let’s start by giving you a glimpse into this guy’s background…Luke James I Want You

He attended high school with music artist Frank Ocean, in New Orleans (St. Augustine High School). Prior to venturing out on his own as a solo artist, Luke was a part of the duo, “Luke & Q” which garnered the hit single “My Turn” in 2006. The duo split up shortly thereafter because they mutually agreed to part ways since they did not get the recognition that they both were seeking. Luke then focused on honing his songwriting skills, and wrote songs for Britney Spears, Keri Hilson, Chris Brown, and Justin Berber.

In 2011, he was personally selected by R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles to appear as a dancer in her “Run The World (Girls)” music video. In 2013 he was personally chosen by R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles to be an opening act for her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. Luke’s long-term manager, choreographer Frank Gatson, has been pivotal in his affiliation with Beyoncé Knowles and Destiny’s Child since he has served as a long time choreographer for the two acts.

Luke and Bey beyonce-luke-jamesUnder the management of record producer Danja, James released his first mixtape, #Luke, in 2011 as a free download. The mixtape’s critically acclaimed single “I Want You” earned him a Best R&B Performance nomination at the 2013 Grammy Awards. He released his second mixtape Whispers in the Dark as a free music download in 2012. His debut studio album, Made to Love, is slated for release in 2013.

Check out some of his music below…

“I Want You” music video

“I Want You” live performance video

Click on the links to stream or download his mixtapes..you won’t regret it!
Whispers in the Dark
Luke

Resources:
Singersroom
Vibe Magazine
GlobalGrind
B.E.T.

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #3 JAY-Z

 

The purpose of this blog is to inform the class of America’s “Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012” and the various business ventures in different industries that contributed to their individual successes.

Countdown Top 9 Hip Hop Entrepreneurs of 2012: #3 JAY-Z

Name: Sean Corey Carter

Stage Name(s): Jay-Z

Age: 42

Forbes Hip Hop’s Top Earners List: #3 of 9

How Much??? $38 Million

WE FINALLY REACHED OUR TOP 3!!!

Ok, moving on.

Jay-Z.  I’m pretty sure we all know what he’s been up to as a musician/CEO of Roc-Nation, but do we (really) know what he’s been up to lately as an entrepreneur? I took some time to research his recent ventures, and let’s just say, this man is ALL business. It’s amazing how he’s constantly involved in large projects that end up being lucrative beyond belief; he should literally be on the cover of Forbe’s magazine on every single issue!

Here are some RECENT business ventures he’s been on the past couple years:

  1. In 2003, Jay-Z first opened his 40-40 restaurant & bar night club chain. He has one in New York City, Atlantic City and now in Barclay’s Center (2012), where the new Brooklyn Net’s basketball team play. Link to the new 40-40 location in Brooklyn: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1694595/jay-z-welcomes-rihanna-j-cole-new-40-40-club-barclays.jhtml
  2. In April 2012, Jay-Z’s clothing company, Rocawear, landed a partnership deal with the New York Yankees. Here in the link: http://www.vibe.com/article/rocawear-announces-partnership-ny-yankees
  3. Jay-Z plans to open another 40-40 restaurant and bar chain in London, partnering up with famous footballer Ashley Cole. Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/05/us-jayz-ashleycole-idUSTRE76434720110705
  4. In June 2012, Jay-Z invested in Duracell Powermat – Proctor and Gamble’s Duracell brand and Powermat Technologies partnered together to create wireless mats that charge smartphones and other electronics by just laying them on these mats. Here is the link to Duracell’s Powermat commerical where “B” aka Beyonce is calling Jay-Z in the commerical: Here is the link to the venture: http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2012/06/jay-z-teams-up-with-duracell-and-powermat-for-wireless-power-nation-venture/
  5. In April 2012, Jay-Z joined forces with Will Smith to invest in Viddy, a new app similar to instagram, let’s iPhone users create short videos for friends. Here is the link to the venture between the two: http://uptownmagazine.com/2012/04/will-smith-jay-z-join-forces-for-latest-business-venture/. Will Smith and Jay-Z also made previous venture together a year ago involving Will’s daughter, Willow Smith, who is signed under Roc-Nation (Jay-Z’s label), to make a movie called “Annie.” Here is the link: http://hiphopwired.com/2011/01/26/jay-z-and-will-smith-start-movie-venture/
  6. Put out his second book, “Empire State of Mind: Jay-Z’s Journey from Street Corner to Corner Office” in 2011. http://www.amazon.com/Empire-State-Mind-Street-Corner/dp/1591845408
  7. Part ownership of the Brooklyn Nets (help relocate and build a new stadium in Brooklyn). Rumor has it that he only owns 1/15th of 1% (about 0.067%) of the New Jersey Nets, but he will be earning millions from it. Inside Barclay’s Center includes Jay-Z’s 40-40 restaurant, a Rocawear store and many other interesting arrangements that cater to Jay-Z’s interests, not to mention, eight sold out concerts in the arena. Here is the link for more information:http://www.businessinsider.com/jay-z-brooklyn-nets-power-2012-8
  8. In 2012, Jay-Z executive produces NBA 2K13, basketball video game from 2K Sports. More specifically, he oversaw the soundtrack of the game. Here is the trailer for the video game:
  9. In 2008, Live Nation made a 360-degree deal contract for $150 million with Jay-Z for the next decade. Here is the link: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1584696/jay-z-sign-150-million-live-nation-deal-report.jhtml (This is more old news, but I couldn’t leave it out because we’ve been talking about it a lot in our classes.)

Here is a link to an awesome video I found that wraps up Jay-Z’s business ventures in six minutes: Jay-Z’s Successes and Failures Video in 6 Minutes!

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have a wife that makes a ridiculous amount annually also. Beyoncé and Jay-Z together is the highest paid star couple of 2012. Here is the link to the exact amounts they both earned the past year: http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/09/beyonce-jay-z-worlds-highest-paid-star-couple/

As you can see, Jay-Z’s not going anywhere. I am really interested to see which industry Jay-Z decides to dominate next.

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” Jay-Z

Jay-Z is the 3rd most successful and influential hip hop entrepreneur of 2012.

(We’re so close! Please stay tuned, and let’s count down to #1 together!)

By: Aaron Kim (Duke)

Extra sources: http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2012/0905_hip-hop-cash-kings.html

*Sources are provided within the post.