Rapper Drake and OVO Mean Business, Big Business
Rapper Drake and OVO Mean Business, Big Business
When I aggressively embarked on a journey to write a biography of rapper Drake, after getting prodded on to do so by my journalistic peers from both American coasts, I was much less interested in documenting his artistic output, as I was in his corporate portfolio. Never mind his raps, it was his business acumen that tickled my hip hop fancy, and stood out front and centre.
Certainly, when a rapper is signed and so strongly aligned to a company that’s named after the almighty greenback – Young Money Entertainment – it had become painfully clear that Drake was not only embroiled in the rap game to rhyme off some catchy rap quotables.
A solid economic empowerment scheme must have been put in place by his financial advisors so that his grandkids’ grand kids would be living comfortably in the year 2123. Especially if he continues at this frenzied pace of engaging such a wide array of revenue generating activities. When fellow rapper Kanye West recently admitted in GQ Magazine that Drake dominates the contemporary rap game, he seemed to be referring more to his popularity as an artist, than to his astute business sense that continues to make major cents.
While his estimated net worth (between $35-$40 million) doesn’t come anywhere near that of some of his hip hopreneur peers. Take iconic producer Dr. Dre whose wealth is estimated to have hit the $800 million mark due to the recent acquisition of the Beats Electronics enterprise (which he co-founded) by Apple for $3 billion. Or how about the ubiquitous Diddy whose estimated net worth runs at about $700 million. However, these moguls are 22 and 17 years older than Drake respectively, which means that Drake’s cash earning cachet is nothing to sniff at for a spry 27 year old.
While there have been times where Drake has been mocked for a few of his expenditures; blowing $50,000 cash one night at a North Carolina strip club last year; purchasing an excessively lavish home just outside of Los Angeles with a reported $7-9 million dollar price tag. Or how about just two weeks ago his label had to fork over a $100,000 payout to rapper 4-Tay for Drake reportedly using lyrics from rapper 4-Tay's mid-90’s “Playaz Club” hit song without any authorization or credit given.
But these alleged financial hiccups pale in comparison to what Drake is bringing into his coffers. Let’s start on the traditional music industry earning tools he’s fully capitalized on. First off, Drake has legitimately sold over five million records worldwide which come royalty and publishing cheque-cutting time is quite worthwhile. Typically, musicians make a large chunk of their revenues touring, and his forthcoming “Drake vs Lil Wayne” tour is expected to sit near the top of Pollstar’s annual top earning music tours lists. According to Forbes Magazine, the 31 city tour wich was held from August-September carried an average ticket price of $249.20 – which is higher than Jay Z and Beyonce’s On The Run tour.
Then there’s he and his OVO (October’s Very Own) business partners brand which produces a number of diversified revenue streams from different sectors; the upcoming OVO Festival which received a $350,000 grant from the Ontario government in March to help boost tourism features iconoclast Atlanta-bred rappers Outkast and has sold out both days at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre (capacity 16,000); the OVO Sound record label signed a $10 million dollar deal with Warner Brothers to release music from in-house recording artists Majid Jordan and PartyNextDoor among others. And then there’s OVO clothing line revenues, which must be mounting, given that wherever large music loving youth congregations are found, someone will be sporting some clothing item (i.e. hats, hoodie, tee’s, varsity jackets) that has an OVO logo on it.
As far as some of his “part time” jobs go, he’s secured quite a few prime ones. One thing people might tend to forget is that Drake originally generated the vast majority of his cash while acting on hugely popular teen TV drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he appeared in 138 episodes between 2001 and 2009. Therefore, his master thespian skills have always been exploited for good commercial returns, whether it be him hosting Saturday Night Live which he did in January of this year, to his most recent stint hosting the ESPY’s in Los Angeles in mid-July.
Drake has always been a basketball junkie, and he’s managed to parlay his love for the sport into a gig as the Toronto Raptors Global ambassador, working with Canada’s lone NBA team to create the noteworthy “We The North” marketing campaign during the team’s spring playoff run.
From a product endorsement standpoint, Drake and his OVO team have always been attached to crafty scene stealing campaigns linked to everything from soft drink Sprite (remember those commercials that seemed to air 24-7, with him obeying his thirst in the recording studio) all the way to shilling limited edition $5000 exclusive Canada Goose OVO jackets. More recently, his partnership with one of the most enduring global sports brand of all time – Nike’s Jordan Brand – has already produced a successful run of limited supply OVO sneakers, with more products to come in the immediate future.
Following the lead of a Diddy or Jay-Z, might a Drake endorsed vodka, OVO restaurant chain or TV network be next? No one knows for sure. What we do know is that much like the cash cow that was Y.O.L.O (Drake popularized the YOLO acronym - You Only Live Once - in his 2011 song “The Motto”, only to see department stores like Macy’s selling YOLO branded clothing attire without him seeing any proceeds from its use), look out for Drake and his camp to possibly exploit the use of the term “6” (as in Toronto area code 416), as dubbed on his forthcoming album title Views From The 6. Reportedly Toronto rapper Jimmy Prime coined the use of the term 6 to refer to his city, so hopefully he will be included in any profit earning schemes that might arise as a result of this great branding opportunity. When all is said and done, it’s all true. Drake is not-so quietly and slowly becoming a bazillionaire.
OVO Festival takes place at Toronto’s Molson Ampthitheatre, August 3rd and 4th