Published on March 21st, 2016 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson0
Live Sessions: Soulja Boy (A Major Player in the Digital Evolution)
Soulja Boy, A Major Player of the ‘Digital Evolution’ in the entertainment and media industries
Can you imagine making around $25,000 a day and not having to look over your shoulder? At age 15? Many look to Soulja Boy as the Godfather of the digital evolution in music promotion and according our Executive Editor Toya T’s conversation with the young dynamo, that’s what he was making via digital downloads…at the BEGINNING of his music career. Mostly tied with the MySpace explosion, Soulja also talks using platforms like SoundClick from which he began selling his songs on the internet. Not that he didn’t stay in the trenches and hit the hood and high schools because he did on a daily basis, however he expanded his reach exponentially by engaging on the web.
After getting rich as an early adopter of digital tools and resources to get the word out and sell his work, Soulja signed to Interscope Records at age 16. Now he had a machine at his back. His first single through the giant, Crank That (Soulja Boy) shot Soulja to No. 1 in 45 countries with his debut single on the imprint.
His secret to success in the early years? He continued to grind on the internet and let the label do their thing which made for an early template of success for indie labels. Proof? His first single Crank That, according to Soulja’s recollection, went seven-times platinum and his debut album also went platinum. I guess that should be a hint to up and comers…the same thing it took to get your baby, it’s gonna take the same thing to them. You still have to gut it out and romance your career personally to make it continue to blossom. You can’t depend on the label to be your Cyrano de Bergerac spouting pretty words to woo your fans for you…YOU have to engage. He touts his big four social media platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat although says he feels the need to be on every single one available.
Soulja acknowledges that in fact, he was the case study for most of the major labels in how to create this successful partnership between traditional music promotion and new media outlets and platforms on the internet. He says they studied him and he would show them how he did it, creating a template on how major labels pushed new signees.
What Soulja did for music promotion via the internet, is just a minuscule look at how digital technology has changed the face of our culture…globally. For instance, Japan, which according to studies, is expected to have 106.4 million mobile phone users by the end of 2016. (statistic.com) The country has a population density of roughly 336 people per square kilometer (just over have a square mile) (indexmundi.com), what’s important is that most of the news and entertainment is distributed in Japan via a wireless device. For about 67% of the population of Japan, this how they view movies, listen to music and listen to the radio…via the internet or wireless device. (motionpoint.com) Remember, every major record label has interests in every cultural center around the world, even war torn SW Asia. I’ll let you chew on that. Even China, though restrictive, has a massive internet community as do other communist countries…no major country is totally devoid of the internet that I know of. Too technical? Sorry…
So let’s talk about the money, according to records and the 2010 Forbes list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings, utilizing the internet in conjunction with the major lab machinery, Soulja cleared around $7 million that year. Multiply that type of success times 10,000 artists really about their business, he just single handedly gave music marketing and promotions a new dynamic which turns to gold, platinum and diamond.
Soulja Boy, now having grown his empire to include breaking new artists and producers like iHeart Memphis and Buck Nasty (Hit The Quan / Lean and Dab) with long time partner and manager CEO Miami Mike, Soulja is also a successful serial entrepreneur. You see his touches in the fashion industry with outerwear, sneakers, limited edition electronics, film and much more.
Listen to THE man of the Digital Evolution in music and by default, industries and countries across the globe, tell our Executive Editor, Toya Tharp how it all came to be and what part he played in the advancement of a global platform. Quoted and cited in programs by many entertainment university programs like Full Sail University (Orlando, FL), there simply is no greater subject matter expert on the subject of Digital Evolution.
You will also see Soulja in Season Three of Love and Hip Hop as well his own branded reality television vehicle.
Words by Jerry Doby
Audio Interview by Toya Tharp