A billion for Mr.West :The Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide To Wealth

I have not listened to more than 60 seconds of hip hop since 2009. I personally got tired of the genre and felt I could get more value in listening to gospel music.

Recently I was discussing the money side of the creative industry with a friend and Kanye West came up. Apparently he said something about being in debt and wanting a billion dollars in investment from Mark Zuckerberg.

The investor in me starting thinking,
 “Would I invest a billion dollars in Mr.West?” “What kind of ROI would he promise?”

Out of curiosity I decided to look up the net worth and business interests of the top earners in the hip hop community. Since I’ve been out of touch since 2009 it was impressive to see the growth in terms of business ventures.
 What bothers me is that according to Forbes there are not hip hop artists who have become billionaires.
 With all the hundreds of millions of raving fans, how come the hip hop community has so little financial clout to show for it?

The answer lies in a statement Steve Stoute made in an interview. He said(paraphrasing). “We are translators of culture…”

His statement is the reason Mr. West and many other creative entrepreneurs do not have a billion dollars.
 As creative entrepreneurs we are all translators of culture. Our translations can be seen in music, art, design, fashion, movies and so on.

What the creative industry as a whole lacks is conversion not translation.
 You see business is an exchange of value. You take something of value to the marketplace expecting those who value it to give you money (or whatever you deem valuable.).

We as creative entrepreneurs have celebrated metrics like number of likes or fans for too long.

What we should have kept our eye on is how many of those fans, likes and social media mentions translate into sales.

Many artists have millions of fans on Twitter and Instagram but they do not know how to monetize even ten percent of that number. From my research most artists have no passive income streams.

That means if they quit working for 24 months, their income would either drop or only increase marginally.
 The hip hop community is especially guilty of this. They have thought the achievement is a massive following, recognition and the ability to influence hundreds of millions of people.

Let’s use Mr. West as the subject of our investigation into how to make a billion dollars as creative entrepreneur.
 I pick Kanye because he has either intentionally or serendipitously positioned himself as an authority in the music, design and fashion worlds at the same time. (I don’t know about his clothing line though.)
 For the first time in years I have seen urban American youth forego buying Jordan’s just because Kanye West has a new shoe.
 I saw parts of Runaway a few years ago and I was blown away by Mr. West’s creative vision.

The long term strategy to get Mr. West a billion dollars in the next 5 years is to help him to do two things.

1. Stay relevant in the eyes of his fans
 2. Create a system that will convert at least 20 percent of his fans into lifetime customers

The first step is to position himself as a leader.
 Someone said, “Bob Marley did not invent Rastafarians. He just chose to lead them. “

Mr. West’s fans need a leader to show them how commercially valuable hip hop culture is. Unfortunately the culture in itself is largely one of consumers and not producers. Most of the content talks about how to spend money instead of how to build assets that contribute to the GDP of a nation.
 I’m not impressed by the reach of the hip hop community because a people that do not control the financial destiny of a nation with their goods and services will always have the short end of the stick.
 Anyway, back to the subject matter.

Here are the two pillars Kanye can start with.

Content and Technology
 People follow who they can see. I feel he needs to produce more visually engaging content like Runaway at least once a year. He can partner with Netflix to create a series of shows that highlight his creative ethos in fashion, design and music. Storytelling that is packaged like this could bring him a lot of money.
 Mr. West could partner with Ryan Leslie to build a CRM similar to Superphone or create his own. He currently has over $19 million fans on Twitter but if he wanted to send a personal message to only 50,000 of them today, he wouldn’t be able to.

Wikipedia says Kanye has sold over 21 million albums and 66 million digital downloads worldwide. Mark Zuckerberg has over 300 million people using Instagram. The difference between these two men is that Zuck can email all 300 million users of Instagram today if he wanted to. He could tell each of them what new service he is creating and offer them affiliate products if he wanted to.

Having a CRM like Superphone will allow Mr. West to have data on his hardcore fans. He would be able to segment them into different categories according to which aspect of his work they love him for. This will help Mr. West build a relationship with people he can later sell to. The products that could come out of this could be design courses and even a video game. I know a lot of young creatives who would pay to learn Kanye’s creative process. That course could later be licensed to art and design schools all over the world for a fee.

Fashion and Design

My buddy Kwame Adjaye thinks Kanye should stop trying to make it in high fashion and instead become the Ralph Lauren of urban luxury. Ralph Lauren’s polo shirt is one of the few articles of clothing that has what I call the Coca Cola effect.
 Taking a quote attributed to Andy Warhol, “…You can be watching TV and see Coca Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca Cola, too. A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
 A quick google search will show you high school kids and men well over their fifties wearing a Ralph Lauren polo shirt.
 Kwame says Mr. West should use the College Dropout bear as a logo for a clothing line like Ralph did. Instead of trying to impress people at fashion week, maybe he should focus on the millions of urban American youth who can’t go a week without talking about him or his wife online.
 This clothing line can have three tiers of price points. There can be products like $1,500 boots as well as $150 jackets. Mr. West’s people can find Kwame at kwameadjaye.com
 Regardless of what products come out of this idea, it has to be authentic. No one wants a repetition of the Blackberry/Alicia Keys fiasco.

 Part of the reason I wrote this is to educate creative entrepreneurs on this simple formula.

Followers + Conversion = Money

You would think this is common sense but in my years of consulting with creative entrepreneurs, the thing they miss is how to monetize their gifts. Many of them care more about what the press says than what their followers and clients want.
 My advice to creatives is that they should either learn sales and marketing or hire a genius to help them with that area of their business.
 If this helps you, email me at jeff@growingstartup.com. I’d love to hear your success stories.

Originally published at www.sidebusinessextraincome.com on February 24, 2016.

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