Breaking Nelly news everyone. (It’s not often you get to write that sentence in 2016).
Nelly wants your help, New Zealand. It seems like our tax-adverse rapper hasn’t been keeping on top of his bills, and not just in a “skimping on the odd bit and attempting to attribute it to spurious expenses” way – he owes the US Government $2.4 million!
In what is hopefully an attempt to deal with his current predicament, Nelly is making his way to our fair shores in November to put on two shows at Vector Arena, and he wants you all to help him out and go along. Now I’m as big a fan of nostalgic hip-hop as the next man, and I have absolutely no problem with Nelly’s fans doing just that and helping him pay off his bills.
However, what I do have a problem with the other part of the equation – the highly publicised #SaveNelly campaign which saw SPIN’s Brian Josephs’ call on the Internet to stream Nelly hits like “Hot In Herre” in an attempt to earn the rapper enough to payoff his debts. My issues with this ill-advised campaign are multifaceted, so let’s deal with them in stages.
#1: It won’t work
The first problem with Brian Josephs’ unsolicited financial advice – and it’s a biggie – is that Spotify (and to be fair, all other streaming services) doesn’t pay much in per-play royalties (between 0.006 and 0.0084 cents per stream) and this means “Hot in Herre” would need to be played a shit-tonne of times in order for this approach to make a meaningful dent in Nelly’s tax bill (SPIN estimates 287 million and 403 million streams).
Now with all due respect to Brian Josephs’ math (actually, scratch that, his maths deserves little in the way of respect), this is way off. This is because an artist would need to be completely independent – no label, manager, co-writers, producers, sampled-artists, etc. in order to collect that chunk of change without having to give away a significant portion of it.
The general rule of thumb according to Andrew Farrior of Street Execs is that for every million streams you get, you make between $4000-5000 of actual cash which is then divvied up. Nelly is at best making 18% of that revenue as the rest is probably gobbled up by Universal Music Group with a little also going to co-writers The Neptunes, the producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, and Chuck Brown, the artist whose 1979 single “Bustin’ Loose” was sampled throughout.
Put simply, the revenue that Nelly will earn from you streaming the shit out of “Hot In Herre” is low if not zero. You’re basically just pouring money into Universal’s coffers.
#2: Save your charity for those who deserve it
When I see tweets like “I couldn’t save Harambe but goddammit I’m saving you”, whether they be in jest or not, I die a little inside.
My argument here is best summed up by a quote by Criss Jami:
“Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it.”
In other words, children with nothing who find themselves homeless deserve our charity. Refugees fleeing their homes in fear deserve our charity. Animals who are abused by deserve our charity.
Nelly does not.
And sure, you could argue that Nelly might have nothing to do with this social campaign, but he should have the common decency to tell his fans to stop – to tell them that he appreciates their support but this is his problem not theirs. Every second we spend focusing on this tax dodger is one that we’re not spending on worrying about issues and causes that matter.
#3: Nelly won’t learn his lesson
Bit of a common theme here but this kerfuffle was Nelly’s doing and having us bail him out will likely mean that he won’t learn his lesson. It’s not like this is an isolated incident either – Nelly has a well-documented history of failing to pay taxes and I, for one, would rather not contribute to the lifestyle of another ‘hard done by’ multimillionaire who fails to learn from their mistakes.
Keep in mind, it’s not like Nelly didn’t have the money to pay his taxes – he just chose not to. He made his choices and should have to live with them – like the rest of us have to. It was his choice to spend his millions on champagne and facial plasters rather than stay on top of his bills – not ours. So why should we have to bail him out for failing to settle his personal debts.
As Habeeb Akande once remarked:
“The difference between greed and ambition is a greedy person desires things he isn’t prepared to work for.”
Pay your bills Nelly.
This #SaveNelly is just another example of the rich subsidising their lifestyles off the sweat of the poor. You’ve made your money Nelly. And just like the millions of people who earn considerably less than you do, paying your taxes is the law. We wouldn’t start a campaign to pay off a Wall Street bankers debts (the US Government does enough for them already as it is), so why should we extend the favour to a past-his-prime Rapper? Nelly has allowed greed to make him think that he’s exempt from that reality – that he’s above the law. But guess what? He’s not, and we shouldn’t be helping him get away with it.