It’s been almost three years since Drake released an official album. It was around the same time that Robin Thicke was relevant, Bey was headlining the Super Bowl and Justin Bieber was still public enemy numero uno. Soak that in then consider how drastically the consumer landscape has shifted since Nothing Was The Same dropped. But now we’re in 2016 and Drake’s Views has become the barometer for the marketing and release of an album – before it has even been released.

How did we get to this point? It might have started back in Aubrey’s cardigan days, when he was being accused by a pre-presidential Pusha T of being as soft as Tuscan leather. Instead of sparring on records, Drake’s outfits just got more ridiculous as he embraced the memes that his carefully planned outfits triggered. Was he neglecting to see the torrent of ether cast on him from the comments section of every blog, Twitter egg and fanboy? Or was he already harnessing the power of social media on his way to making $25 mill before his 25th birthday?

When Nothing Was the Same‘s cover art dropped, it stood defiantly as testament to the OVO boys doing things their own way. Not only did it look like they let their weed carriers design an album cover but they also poured gasoline onto the pilot light of every social media feed that previously stated “this guy just isn’t getting it.” All of a sudden, hundreds then thousands of versions popped up mocking the cover. It was easy to partake, simple to personalize to show to your sense of humor and alas, there was even a website that generated your very own version with one-click to share out to social media channels!

In the urban online space, anytime there is a joke to be told, you either flip it in your own personal way or you’ve missed the boat. No opportunity goes unused to drop Jordan’s crying meme and “thou shalt never dismiss a chance to use a Drake meme” might as well whisper out of every MacBook speaker the instant Chrome hits the screen. OVO is keenly aware of this and has been using it to their advantage for years.

Peep game – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late surprised everyone in 2015 and again, the cover art was a major talking point. Besides being an insanely simple application of the Chick-Fil-A font, thus easy to re-create in a personalized way for every a**hole with an opinion, there were multiple options for generators to make your own. Before the music could even get released, people rushed to share their own versions on social, hoping to be praised for their timeliness, wit and aptitude at using the Internet.

Drake UGC Campaign for Album Releases

Moving forward, let’s call this ‘social currency’.

Besides generating social currency for the fans who post their own art, it promotes the product being released with an immediately identifiable aesthetic that cuts through the social feed and almost all happened the same week that the album was being promoted everywhere.

With consumers spending over 90% of their time viewing media on mobile devices, it was time for music videos to level up. How did the 6 God take things up a notch?

Remember a little D.R.A.M. remix called “Hotline Bling”? Director X sure does. After shooting Kendrick Lamar’’s “King Kunta” video in 4:3, the perfect fit for smartphones and Instagram’s formatting, X was a hit record away from changing the game.

“Hotline Bling” was shot full format but inside the screen, Drake was literally inside of an on-screen box. The five minute masterpiece was an experiment in triggering memes and it paid off huge. Within minutes of the debut, the Internet took over and through a mix of creativity, pretend-hate and desire for more social currency, promoted Drake’s smash hit unwittingly all the way up the charts.

Did anyone think that he was dancing like that because it looked good? He might as well have had a jerry can and a Dr. Evil pinky biting scene because he masterminded it all with perfection.

How did he close the loop from promoting the video to inspiring fans to create their own memes? They took the best fan art and posted it on his Instagram. Who wouldn’t want their personalised art put on display for over 20MM followers to see, comment on and re-share? By making the foot soldiers who create this art – and promote his projects, he provided more social currency and a target to aspire to for others to make their own piece good enough to earn that retweet or repost.

And here we are on Thursday, on the eve of Views. Earlier this week, the album art dropped and naturally, it was a stock photo with barely any adjustments to it. Could the Boy not afford a better designer? Was he conned by an evil design firm?

Nah, look close and you can see he was Photoshopped onto the top of the CN Tower in a polarizing outfit, with enough graphics know-how to pass as the official cover but not enough to stop the Internet from asking “Is this really the cover?”

Hours after it dropped, I sat in a boardroom in Europe with the CEO of a record label who asked what I thought about Toronto putting out some of the worst cover art in the game. I laughed for a whole sixty awkward seconds because I knew as soon as the Internet woke up, Views would be going platinum. The haters, the fans, the urban media and the “What’s-a-Drake?” media alike would all be covering the trending #VIEWS hashtag attached to the album.

Within hours, Drake wasn’t just sitting on the CN Tower. He was Photoshopped onto Jordan’s crying face, onto Meek’s shoulders and piggybacking on every news story this week. Social feeds exploded with people attaching his album cover to their own memories, sitting on their hat brims and everywhere else you could think of.

What could be more powerful in today’s world than having every single friend of yours creating and sharing their own version of an album cover? The instant it gets posted, it cuts through the feed, it draws attention to the product being sold later this week and it gives people social currency with their friends.

While we’re busy saying “Hey look! We’re in on the fun,” the 6 God is rubbing his hands together like Birdman in his fortress, happy to know his album is being promoted tirelessly across our social networks. After Drake’s official Facebook posted a link to the Views generator, it became clear that the October kids consigned the generator themselves through the Toronto digital agency.

Even as he takes over the restaurant/liquor/shoe/radio//TV world, it looks like Drake is still finding time to revolutionize the music game. When we say “We The North,” we mean it.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 at 12:48 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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