Thanks to streaming, underground British rappers are benefiting from the success of Drake’s new album

Thanks to streaming, underground British rappers are benefiting from the success of Drake’s new album
Image: AP Photo/Arthur Mola/Invision
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More Life, the newest album released by rapper Drake this weekend, is climbing the charts—and with it, a slew of other artists that most Drake fans had never heard of before.

Since the album is a self-described “playlist” instead of an official album like Drake’s last one (Views), More Life features a ragtag group of other musicians collaborating on the rapper’s 22 tracks. Several of them are big names in the homegrown British rap scene known as grime, but they aren’t particularly well-known by audiences outside of the UK.

Not so, anymore. Spotify says that over the weekend, Giggs—one of the grime rappers featured heavily on Drake’s new album—saw a 146% increase in streams from US listeners. Skepta and Jorja Smith, two other British artists in the same genre who also appear on the album, saw more modest increases (21% and 12%, respectively).

There’s nothing special here about the boost in listener interest; after all, collaborating with bigger and more mainstream acts has long been a good way for smaller artists, particularly rappers, to get their names out.

What is new is the instantaneous way in which music streaming creates a sales boost for these artists. In the age of vinyl records, CDs, or album downloads, listeners would have to find and sample the music of a newly discovered artist for free—via services like YouTube or iTunes song previews—before committing to buying his or her album, and there was no guarantee they’d like it enough to do so.

But because streaming services offer on-demand catalogs of tens of thousands of songs all within one monthly fee (or, in the case of Spotify’s ad-supported tier, entirely for free), listeners can jump from streaming Drake’s music to Skepta’s music to Jorja Smith’s music within minutes—and rack up money for all three artists without paying an extra cent themselves. (Streaming services pay artists at a set rate per song played.) This means we might see many other artists in the future collaborating on music in the style of More Life. Never has the domino effect in music sales been so fluid.

And the business of music streaming pays out so little to artists that—unless they’re record-breaking megastars like Drake—they need all the money they can get.