Eminem at Bonnaroo 2018. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Eminem’s album Kamikaze is already on track for some chart-topping records. Other artists can learn some business lessons from the U.S. rapper’s textbook surprise release.
The album is rising up charts worldwide. The U.K.’s Official Chart update has just been released and is the first to put Kamikaze in prime position. The midweek list shows that Eminem is almost certain to have his ninth straight official British No. 1 when the final figures are released on Friday. That breaks the record for the most consecutive chart-toppers that Eminem currently holds with Led Zeppelin and ABBA.
The picture is similar in the U.S., where Eminem’s last album, Revival, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in December 2017. Its placing made him the first act in history to have eight straight chart entries to do that. While Eminem has a fight on his hands thanks to South Korea band BTS, he will be hoping to continue his top placing.
The contemplative Revival last year contained duets with Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran. It was downbeat enough to leave the critics and fans divided and it had only half the sales of its predecessor.
While Revival was rigorously promoted, Kamikaze launched on August 31 with no advance notice apart from simple announcements on social media. Eminem had hinted he was working on something after the muted reception to his last album, though few observers expected something so quickly.
While any Eminem album gets noticed, the star has done plenty to make the headlines and help sales this time. Kamikaze is a return to the old persona of the angry Slim Shady, who has scores to settle. Eminem disses just about everyone. His lyrics are seen as jibes about fellow artists such as his unnamed rival Drake. He declares that every rapper “is a goner” apart from a few like Kendrick Lamar, who gets one co-writing credit. President Trump is also attacked: “Agent Orange just sent the secret service,” the rapper warns us at one point.
The “surprise album” release strategy is now becoming increasingly common. We have seen it with Beyoncé’s Lemonade and her Carters album with her husband Jay-Z this summer. Kanye West’s surprise The Life of Pablo had a confusing surprise launch via Tidal as the star reworked it.
Eminem’s release is much more carefully planned and ties in with Kamikaze merchandise such as $70 bomber jackets and $60 hoodies already announced.
Artists are trying various release methods to maximize sales. There is the option of just allowing physical releases initially, as was the case with Adele; and the method of restricting digital platforms, as used by Taylor Swift. Eminem is adopting the course of not making the record currently available in physical formats. As the result, as many as 60% of the album’s sales tally is from digital downloads, with the rest made up of streaming equivalent sales, the Official Charts Company said.
Eminem’s earnings will be further boosted when the physical versions of the album follow. According to his official website, the Kamikaze CDs will start shipping in four to six weeks. Red vinyl LPs and cassettes will follow in three to four months.
In Britain, Kamikaze has 27,600 combined chart sales so far, 20,000 ahead of Slim Shady’s nearest competition, the sophomore album by U.K. band Idles titled Joy As An Act of Resistance.
On the Forbes Five list of hip-hop’s wealthiest artists compiled in March, Eminem placed fifth, tied with Drake with a net worth of $100 million. Eminem is long trumpeted as the bestselling rapper of all time. Clearly, he is far from done, critically and commercially.