Apple has just over $246 billion in cash reserves. Last year, the company paid Chance the Rapper 0.000203252 percent of that for an exclusive of his Coloring Book album, which streamed on Apple Music for two weeks before becoming available on competing platforms and for free on SoundCloud. In a string of tweets on Friday, Chance revealed that he was paid $500,000 and “a commercial” for the deal. “I needed the money and they're all good people over there,” he wrote.
Chance’s admission was in part a response to questions — and accusations — about his self-proclaimed independence. In addition to his music, which is good (Coloring Book earned him three Grammys earlier this year), Chance’s refusals to sign with a traditional label or to “sell” his music have shaped the public’s perception of him as a noble, almost-radical artist. In defense of that characterization, he tweeted, “I think artist [sic] can gain a lot from the streaming wars as long as they remain in control of their own product.” He added, “If you come across oprtunities [sic] to work with good people, pick up cash and keep your integrity I say Do It.” Is a corporate payout different from a label investment? Yes. Can you be independent and still accept a check? Yes.
Still, the announcement was most interesting, to me, not for what it could mean for the state of streaming but for Chance’s transparency. I can’t tell if $500,000 is a lot, or even fair. On one hand, the federal minimum wage is a cruel $7.25 per hour. On the other, Drake was reportedly paid $19 million for an Apple deal of his own (albeit with presumably broader terms and a considerably larger listenership). It can be hard to talk about money if you have a whole lot of it, and even harder if you have none. While many of Chance’s peers will remain coy about the subject, and the president will remain evasive about his tax returns, I hope the rest of us will consider the benefits of salary and income transparency.