Chance the Rapper Has Built an E-Commerce Empire

Posted on January 2, 2019

“You don’t want zero problems, big fella!” So says Detroit comedian Ha Ha Davis at the beginning of Chance the Rapper’s 2016 anthem “No Problem” (feat. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne). The song derides the recording industry, as Chance, 2 Chainz, and Lil Wayne revel in Chance’s success as a labelless artist. How successful was the song? It reached No. 43 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop charts. How successful was Chance the labelless Rapper though? Successful enough that you should consider basing your e-commerce business on his model.

Chance has reached unbelievable heights in both rap and e-commerce. 10 Day released in 2012.

If you aren’t familiar, Chance the Rapper is a Chicago-based rapper, producer, and philanthropist. His first project 10 Day came as a result of a ten-day suspension during his senior year of high school. The project was well received locally and critically, leading him to be offered the opening act for Donald Glover’s rap act, Childish Gambino, during his “Because the Internet” tour. A year later in 2013, Chance made himself a household name following the release of the wildly popular Acid Rap, which was downloaded over 1.5 million times. In 2016, the release of his third album, Coloring Book, cemented him as a staple of American hip hop at only 23 years old, as he earned three Grammys for the album, including Best Rap Album.

Acid Rap released in 2013, and made Chance a household name among hip hop fans.

So you have your classic American dream achieving rapper, but that’s happened several times before, and several times since. What makes Chance special? As mentioned before, Chance never signed with a label, but rather than peddle his music independently, Chance has made his albums widely available on all major streaming services for free. In fact, Coloring Book became the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy. He’s never sold a physical album. Here’s where it gets crazy: despite not selling his albums in any physical form, only making them available for free on streaming sites, Chance found himself the fifth highest earning rapper in 2017, earning some $33 million, while also outearning hugely popular rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne. 

Now, you’re surely asking the obvious question: how? Yes, streams can earn money, and it’s worth pointing out that the man performs constantly, headlining festivals, and scheduling arena shows frequently. But that’s not where Chance built his empire. Chance built his empire on excellent branding, constantly engaging social content, and e-commerce merchandise. In short, Chance the Rapper is the model your brand needs to emulate. 

Chance’s third album, Coloring Book, created the ground for building a merchandise empire.

Chance’s branding stands out instantly. He has always been conscious of his style, dressing in a manner not usually associated with hip-hop acts. Ask any Chance fan about his wardrobe, and two items will be named immediately: overalls and the hat. The overalls are a fun trademark style, but the hat is quite possibly the most important part of Chance’s e-commerce brand. Sporting a 3 signifying Coloring Book as his third project, Chance has rocked the hat everywhere — concerts, tv show apperances, award shows, and even in the studio. There’s a hat for every occasion, and he seemingly never takes it off. Why? Because it’s his top selling item on Currently, there are eight variations of the now infamous Chance hat, six of which are sold out. Demand is through the roof, and they sell like hot cakes both online and at pop-ups during his concerts. By establishing the hat as part of his brand early, Chance has become synonymous with the hat, and that has made his sales boom.

Chance the Rapper is also an excellent social media model for your business. He constantly posts on Twitter and Instagram, populating his Stories with engaging content, either providing previews of music to come or playing with his adorable daughter. He recently completed a project that sought out unsigned, amateur rappers, which led to massive engagement, and he also sponsors bi-monthly “OpenMike” nights for youth in Chicago to display their artistic prowess. By investing in Chicago kids, Chance is also investing in artists to come who haven’t made it big yet, but inevitably will. Essentially, he provides the seed capital for the next generation of artists. 

Lastly, Chance has provided a simple, streamlined process to purchase merchandise. You couldn’t very well be an e-commerce store without selling something, and Chance is no different. In addition to the famous hat, Chance sells shirts, jackets, posters, stickers, and lighters. All of these items are branded perfectly, and the shopping process is painless. The site is built on Squarespace and uses a basic cart mechanic for customers at checkout. A painless process makes all the difference and likely leads to many more sales than other flashier, complicated sites.

It’s not uncommon to see “sold out” beside Chance the Rapper merchandise. Chance says his main revenue stream is merchandise.

In short, your business stands to learn an awful lot from “Lil Chano from 79th.” By shirking the norms of the music industry, and using his branding and pull to create an e-commerce juggernaut, Chance the Rapper has not only solidified himself in the pantheon of great hip-hop artists, but has also established himself as a major player in the tradition of American entrepreneurship. By following his model on branding, social reach, and store operation, you too could make it without a label. In another song from Coloring Book, Chance raps that he can see the finish line, and that he’s “gonna finish mine.” Go finish yours, and color your world with the kind of success had by Chance the Rapper.