Megastar Using Apple Music as Launchpad

If you truly want to glimpse where music distribution and marketing are heading, look no further than what Drake has been doing the last three years at Apple Music

Since making his deal with the company in 2015 when the service launched—spearheaded by Apple Music Head of Content Larry Jackson, along with Drake and his manager Future The Prince—the OVO Sound collective has turned its partnership with Apple into a worldwide launchpad. The arrangement allows the artist to singularly control his own release flow and creative blueprints—encompassing music, touring (The Summer Sixteen and Boy Meets World Tour), short films (Please Forgive Me) and his weekly Beats 1 program, the OVOSOUND Radio Show. All funded by the fruitful Apple partnership. 

Drake has been particularly clever in how he’s used the radio component in order to orchestrate highly converged moments of “appointment listening,” galvanizing his fans in a way that reverberates throughout the social-media universe, igniting interest and searches on the other streaming platforms. This is the formula that has worked again and again, to huge advantage, by Team OVO: Massive Drake “moments,” like the debuts of both Meek Mill-diss records, “Back to Back” and “Charged Up,” at the height of all the drama—were made through the radio show, racking up huge audience numbers.  And don’t forget that “Hotline Bling” also made its worldwide debut this way. 

On top of all that, the Apple Music partnership has spawned multiple exclusive albums from the superstar—notably Views, which sold more than 1m copies on iTunes in less than five days and went on to stream 250m times in its first week as an exclusive on the service; the “playlist” project More Life, which was streamed 300m times worldwide in its first week—surpassing the record previously set by Views—and let’s not forget the 2015 Future collab mixtape What a Time to Be Alive, which opened at close to 500k SEA in its first week as an exclusive. 

In the three years since launch, Apple Music has amassed an audience of 38m, and has done so much faster than most analysts had predicted. While there’s still huge debate on the value of exclusives in the digital ecosystem, it’s tough to argue how effective this tactic has been for Drake.

But as 2017 drew to a close, Drake made it known through his usual channel—on the record, in the rhyme—that there was some new negotiating to be done in order for him to re-up as a partner. That verse on Young Money label CEO/longtime mentor Lil Wayne’s Dedication 6 mixtape track, “Family Feud,” made things quite clear: “Somebody get Larry Jackson on the phone/I need some ownership if we pressin’ go/’Cause business is boomin’ on behalf of me/I need a bite outta the Apple like Adam and Eve.” 

Next thing we know, The 6 God crashed into 2018 with the biggest hit of the year, “God’s Plan,” which has been streamed 367m times since its release eight weeks ago. Its heartwarming video, meanwhile, has earned somewhere about 250m views. Of course, even when the album is exclusively available elsewhere, Drake's singles have reached dizzying heights at Spotify as well, and "God's Plan" smashed the streamery's single-day streaming record with 4.3m+ streams in January.  

Drake then mysteriously returned to the Apple fold last week (3/18), as the OVOSOUND Radio Show suddenly resurfaced on Beats 1 after a three-month hiatus, and, along with co-host Oliver El-Khatib, immediately delivered two new exclusives: a N.E.R.D. “Lemon” remix with a new Drake verse, along with an eight-minute long Lil’ Pump “Gucci Gang” remix crammed a viral-ready lineup of features including Gucci Mane, J. Balvin, 21 Savage, Bad Bunny, French Montana and Ozuna; that track remained an exclusive for the service for several days after its debut on the OVO show. 

Does this mean Drake’s arrangement with Apple Music has been re-signed? The notoriously tight-lipped tech behemoth does not regularly share information about its transactions, but all signs point to a reboot. That $19m payday last time around causes us to wonder how big the check will be this time, considering that Apple is in business with a global superstar who is dropping the biggest hits in popular music, and that Drake can also point to the extraordinary measurable impact in the value he’s brought the service.

Somebody get Larry Jackson on the phone.

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