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The Bag Presents the Drake Business Review
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Aubrey Graham has had the most incredible run that many have ever seen. This is an era where the hot topic today is gone tomorrow. There are endless feeds of content on our phones and millions of songs at our disposal. Even with algorithms influencing every decision we make, Drake still cuts through the noise.
A ferocious work ethic, exceptional talent, shrewd business acumen, and a tight-knit circle of loyalists and advisors has propelled Drake to the top, time and time again.
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When Drake released So Far Gone in February 2009, songs like “Right Round” by Flo-Rida, “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” by Soulja Boy, and “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas were climbing to the top of the music charts. Things have changed drastically since then but Drake being omnipresent isn’t one of them.
His lyrics fill up Instagram captions, his music blasts out of car speakers, and whoever his latest muse is asphyxiates the media.
Many artists have come and gone. They weren’t able to take their 15 seconds of fame and stretch it into this 15-year championship run that the OVO team has been on.
It’s tough to live up to the hype. For every Lebron James, there’s a handful of Greg Oden’s, Andrea Bargnani’s, Kwame Brown’s, Andrew Bogut’s, and Anthony Bennett’s. If you aren’t familiar, these gentlemen were also former #1 picks in the NBA draft.
But somehow Champagne Papi has. For many of us, we’ve had a front-row seat to the ascension. We saw the tweets about making the first million.
And then we heard the bars about making hundreds of millions.
And soon, there is a high probability that we’ll hear about the first billion.
But how does he do it?
Let me break it down for you.
The Bag Presents the Drake Business Review
Drake shared his mentality with us at his first tour stop of the It’s All A Blur Tour with 21 Savage.
It’s simple, he will outwork you.
“I look around at all these faces, I know it’s summertime, I gotta give you shit!” the 36-year-old told his packed audience. He continued, “I don’t know about these guys that go away three, four, five years and wanna chill out and all that shit. That’s not me.” ~ Drake
A look at his timeline of releases proves this to be true.
Since breaking out in 2009, Drizzy has made sure that his fans aren’t left wanting, even if that means working at a rapid pace and making older material available for the first time on DSPs.
7 solo studio albums with his eighth (For All The Dogs) allegedly due tomorrow
Thank Me Later
Nothing Was The Same
Certified Lover Boy
1 Collaborative Album
Her Loss with 21 Savage
So Far Gone
The Best in the World Pack
Scary Hours 2
5 Commercial Mixtapes / Playlists
So Far Gone
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
What A Time to Be Alive with Future
Dark Lane Demo Tapes
1 Compilation Album
That’s around 256 songs over the past 15 years. Approximately 17 new songs a year without factoring in his plethora of features and contributions to Young Money compilations.
For some artists, it takes years to create a project. Maybe it’s because they can’t find the inspiration, or they can’t find the right sound, or they don’t know what they want to say, or they just don’t love making music. Whatever their reason is, it doesn’t matter.
The guy at the top of the charts keeps finding inspiration, keeps finding things to say, and thus keeps outworking everyone else.
Drake’s lyrics on his debut studio album sum it up:
I'm just here makin' all the music that they party to” ~ Drake “Light Up”
And when Drake isn’t in the studio, he’s on the road performing his hits.
At the conclusion of the It’s All A Blur Tour, Drake will have performed around 469 shows since his first headlining tour in 2010. His tours have generated $400M+ going into this current tour. No wonder Live Nation honcho, Michael Rapino is keeping Drizzy paid.
I swear this guy Michael Rapino's boosting my ego” ~ Drake “Pound Cake”
That means leading up to the COVID-19 touring shutdown, Heartbreak Drake gave us more than a full year’s worth of shows during the 2010s.
Please remember, in order to tour at this scale, there needs to be demand.
How do you drive demand? By having new hits and a strong catalog to perform.
What happens to rappers when you have a hit? Promoters call with a bag to come perform in their club.
What happens when you take the bag? You cannibalize the ability to sell hard tickets and tour.
Drake + team have been smart enough to play the long game which leads to results like this:
It’s All A Blur will end up being Drake’s highest-grossing tour to date.
Even if Mr. Graham is only taking home around a third of the gross receipts after all costs + fees, (which is in the ballpark of what superstar acts with high production shows net) he’ll still have made a ton of money.
And did it with a purpose” ~ Drake “Weston Road Flows”
A lot of people are scared to get in the game, to do things with purpose. For a select few, they strive to hit the pinnacle just once, to win a championship, to be the best for a moment in time.
For the rarest breed, they hit the pinnacle and then get up the next day and start working to do it again and again.
The Michael’s, the Kobe’s, the Lebron’s.
And of course, Aubrey Graham.
What does it look like to sit at the top?
77 out of the 256 songs that Drake has commercially released on his projects are RIAA-Certified Platinum.
That means that 30% of the songs that Drake has put out have gone platinum.
That’s an insane batting average that does not include features on other artist’s songs.
One should also keep in mind, that many of Drake’s RIAA certifications aren’t up to date so these numbers don’t include a vast number of the songs from his last few projects.
Mr. Graham’s relentless work ethic combined with his hit-making ability has led to one helluva run.
According to data from Luminate, Drake has moved 64.8M albums over the course of his career and this doesn’t include consumption from collaborative projects.
So Far Gone came out in 2009 which would mean that Drake has moved on average more than 4.3M albums per year for the past 15 years just from his individual work.
What’s more, Luminate reports that Young Angel has accumulated 68.5B streams. Although Luminate's data doesn't provide a comprehensive global view, given that Drake's streaming figures are significantly higher (leading to increased album sales), it does offer insight into how Drake's streaming performance compares to his contemporaries.
It was reported back in February that Drake had passed 75B streams on Spotify alone for his various credits (which would also call into question Luminate’s reporting).
Here is some back-of-the-napkin math to put 75B streams on Spotify into perspective from a revenue standpoint.
75B x .003 per stream (low cost per stream model) = $225,000,000
75B x .004 per stream (moderate cost per stream model) = $300,000,000
75B x .005 per stream (high cost per stream model) = $375,000,000
So on the low end, Drake has driven $225M in revenue from just one platform, albeit, the largest music streaming platform.
Here is some additional context on the 75B Spotify streams.
Drake came into the game in 2009. His music has stood up against new technologies and formats.
Ringtones were still a real revenue stream when “Best I Ever Had” came out.
People were still buying CDs.
Buying digital albums on iTunes was the popular way to consume music.
Spotify didn’t launch in the United States until July 2011. They didn’t hit 100M premium subscribers worldwide until Q1 of 2019.
So really the majority of these streams were done over a much shorter time period.
But that’s one of the things that makes Drake intelligent. He releases music so regularly that he remains prominent in fans' minds, leading them to not only listen to his latest tracks but also revisit his previous ones on a consistent basis.
Case in point.
According to data from Nielsen, Drake accumulated just under 16.5B Global streams during 2022.
75% of those Global streams came from his catalog, not his new albums.
This is why streaming is the gift that keeps on giving and why Sir Lucian Grainge is backing up the Brink’s truck and filling Drizzy’s coffers with $400 - $500M to stick with UMG.
Songs that are no longer being marketed and thus no longer have costs associated with them, are still driving revenue for the various parties involved.
That’s probably part of the reason why Drake was proclaiming that artists should receive bonuses for streaming milestones just like athletes get performance bonuses.
And since he’s generated on average, 51.6M streams per day during 2023 (according to Nielsen), he’s got a lot of leverage in that conversation.
One of the hot topics in music for the past few years is artists selling their publishing and/or masters.
We’ve seen headline after headline. Justin Bieber, Future, Dr. Dre and many others all sold.
But I think Drake did something different.
A little digging shows that Aubrey transferred the copyrights of his catalog to Twenty Three Capital.
Jason Traub’s company is traditionally known for financing the transfers of European soccer players.
While I don’t know this to be a fact, I think that Graham pulled off another smart business move.
If you’re 36 years old and your catalog continues to be where the lion's share of your consumption comes from, don’t sell it unless you need to.
My guess is that he received a large sum of money that is paid off by the residuals from his catalog with some interest, but that he still retains ownership in his body of work.
That's why every song sound like Drake featurin' Drake” ~ Drake “5AM in Toronto”
Occasionally critics will try to take shots at Drake for collaborating with whomever the perceived person of the moment is.
There is a strong argument though, that every artist who has collaborated on a song with Drake has benefited just as much as, if not more than Drake himself.
Furthermore, he’s given people looks way before their careers have peaked and this is nothing new.
From co-signing artists, to bringing them on tour, to having them perform at OVO Fest, to doing features, Drake has always been one to shine a light on other artists.
And to my earlier point, oftentimes it’s benefited those artists immensely.
Let’s have a look.
All of these artists above are gifted and have had great success.
However, according to the RIAA, their biggest song features Drake.
This ranges from newer artists to hitmakers who’ve been around for 15+ years.
Not to mention, the plethora of other hits that Aubrey Graham was featured on that didn’t happen to be that artist’s biggest song, but one of their biggest songs like:
“For Free” - 3x Platinum
“Popstar” - 3x Platinum
“Greece” - 2x Platinum
“Staying Alive” - Platinum
“Yes Indeed” - 7x Platinum
“Pop That” - 2x Platinum
“Work” - 9x Platinum
“What’s My Name?” - 6x Platinum
“Love Me” - 7x Platinum
“Right Above It” - 5x Platinum
“She Will” - 4x Platinum
“Both” - 4x Platinum
“No Lie” - 3x Platinum
And of course, artists signed to, or who were once signed to, the OVO label:
Blocboy JB - “Look Alive” 5x Platinum
Roy Woods - “Drama” 2x Platinum
ILoveMakonnen - “Tuesday” Platinum
“Without 40, Oli, there'd be no me
'Magine if I never met the broskies” ~ Drake “God’s Plan”
It would be inappropriate to talk about the success of Drake and not mention the people who’ve been instrumental to his accomplishments musically and business-wise.
Noah “40” Shebib is his day one, right-hand man, in the music creation process.
An analysis of the production credits of Drake’s music reveals that he’s produced or added production on over 50% of the songs that Drake has commercially released.
While it’s difficult to visually show all of 40’s contributions, a few highlights are shown above.
He’s extremely dedicated to his craft, and this mini-documentary from Native Instruments provides an inside look at his studio.
“When it comes to Drake, my objective is to make the artist the number one priority at any cost. My goal is to make them happy. As much as I want to have integrity in the work that I’m doing, I want to make sure they’re getting what they want, because they’re the ones that have go on stage and perform it. They’re the ones that have to carry that record for the rest of their lives and their careers.” ~ Noah Shebib
40’s empathy for Drake and other artists is a very notable characteristic. In addition, Noah is quick to praise Aubrey and his contribution to the production process.
Shebib is credited with crafting that Lo-Fi underwater sound that meshes so well with Graham’s vocals and melodies. It’s led to 2 Grammy wins and 14 nominations for Noah.
40 just doesn’t produce though. He’s a highly skilled engineer amongst other talents.
“Scorpion bricks, way before Aubrey's double disc
.40 on my lap, clap, sound like 40 did the mix” ~ Jay-Z “What It Feels Like”
By 40’s own approximation, he’s touched 100% of the music that Drake has put out.
Let’s take a look at some of the other producers who have contributed to Champagne Papi’s success.
A lot of these producers’ biggest hits are with Drake, and working with Drake has led to other opportunities for them. Instead of running to whoever has the hot hand, Aubrey historically works with whoever has the sound that he’s looking for.
If 40 is Drake’s partner in music, who are his partners in business and branding?
One of the things most appreciated about this run is how much Drake and the team manifested it.
A listener can hear the early songs and see just how far they’ve come.
To have the vision, and then willfully bring it to life each day.
It’s a relentless pursuit of greatness that requires a team. And Drake has a best-in-class team.
On the business side, he has his co-manager Adel Nur aka Future the Prince.
Future used to be Drake’s DJ (and is still known to throw and DJ parties at private island estates) but has been Drake’s manager for the last decade.
In addition, to managing Drake, Future has been building out DreamCrew.
According to DreamCrew’s LinkedIn, the company is:
A co-venture between Aubrey Drake Graham and Adel Future Nur.
DreamCrew currently functions as both a management company and entertainment group; Producing Film, Television and special Projects as well as overseeing Drake's professional career and business portfolio.
On the brand side, Drake has his other co-manager, Oliver El-Khatib.
Oliver (along with 40), has been with Drake since day one, and his eclectic taste in music and clothing has had a strong influence on Drake’s music and the direction of the OVO brand.
El-Khatib is well known for introducing up-and-coming artists’ music to Drake and giving them opportunities to work with the team.
Both Future and Oliver play the cut and let their work speak for itself.
And the work speaks volumes.
To say that Drake is building a vast empire is an understatement.
His business interests span products, companies, brand partnerships, film + television, fashion, spirits, real estate, investments, a label, his own recorded music, and touring amongst other ventures.
One of the more interesting partnerships that Drake has forged is with Australian crypto billionaire, Ed Craven and his company Stake.
In their profile on Stake, The Financial Times reported that Drake gets paid $100M annually through his partnership with the cryptocurrency casino.
Drake announced his partnership with Stake on March 1, 2022, and some analysts track the partnership's origins back to late 2021.
The boy might be up $200M from this one already.
Speaking of being way up, let’s talk about Air Drake.
Stemming back to 2019, CargoJet gifted Aubrey a Boeing 767 (worth approximately $185M) in exchange for promoting the carrier as Graham travels the world.
Drake enlisted legendary designer, Virgil Abloh to make the plane look beautiful and V did his thing.
When you’re 30,000 feet up, you have plenty of time to sip on some Virginia Black and preview cuts of your last film + tv productions.
In 2016, Drake partnered with Brent Hocking, (the founder of DeLeón Tequila) and Proximo Spirits to create Virginia Black.
Hocking shared that in its first year, Virginia Black moved an impressive, 30,000 cases.
On the TV and film front, Graham has had success with Euphoria and Top Boy.
His collaborators in this space include Lebron James’ Springhill Entertainment and a24.
Since Drake’s collaboration with a24 on Euphoria, other artists like Travis Scott and The Weeknd have also worked with the independent production and distribution company.
In addition to the TV + film producer credits that Drake and Future the Prince have achieved together, Future has also produced FX’s acclaimed series, the Allen Hughes directed, Dear Mama.
With former HBO exec, Peter Nelson joining the Dreamcrew team, expect there to be plenty more TV + Film projects in the works.
Drake’s website is a great example of what the future of e-commerce should be. Powered by Shopify, the site is a virtual representation of Drizzy’s own residence and has items for sale from not only Drake but other select Shopify sellers.
The whole experience on www.drakerelated.com is completely interactive and well-designed.
Some of the items available are from Aubrey’s Better World Fragrance House.
“Drake’s relationship to scent is deeply personal. Over the years he has worked to develop distinctive scents to curate and improve space. Working with leading perfumer, Michael Carby and Givaudan - a leader in the flavor and fragrance industry, BWFH has brought his vision to life in the form of five unique scents, each based on a different memory. Better World Fragrance House aims to create a better world through scent.”
BWFH has a licensing deal with Parlux which is a leading global beauty company that designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes prestige fragrances.
We'd prolly be out in Silicon tryna get our billions on” ~ Drake “6PM in New York”
Drake has made a number of promising angel investments. In the sports world, he’s partnered with Lebron James and Paul Wachter to get a piece of AC Milan, invested in Rich Kleiman and Kevin Durant’s pickleball club, Brooklyn Aces, and joined a plethora of NBA players as well as Jeff Bezos in investing in Dan Porter and Zachary Weiner’s Overtime.
Arguably Graham’s most interesting investment is in Luna Luna, a first-ever traveling art amusement park. The story of Luna Luna and how this entity that was birthed in 1987 found its way to Adel and Aubrey is worth reading.
“Owl sweaters inside her luggage, you gotta love it” ~ Drake “5AM in Toronto”
Oliver told Business of Fashion in 2018:
“We started creating product out of necessity. There was a lot of traveling in different climates, so we needed practical, versatile garments that looked stylish while also being recognizable to security as well as at business meetings.”
With El-Khatib at the helm, the OVO brand has done a number of successful collaborations and partnerships. Most recently they’ve been announcing partnerships with major sports leagues like the MLS, NFL, and the NBA. This is in addition to collections with Disney, Playboy, A Bathing Ape, and Canada Goose amongst many other notable brands.
“Checks over Stripes…” ~ Drake “Sicko Mode”
And obviously, there is the Nike + Jordan partnership. Formed in 2013, the partnership has spawned a variety of releases including Drake’s own collection of OVO Air Jordan’s. The partnership deepened in 2020, with the announcement of Nocta, a sub-label with Nike.
“Yes, Lord, OVO Sound, man, I'm proud of my …
Knew that we would make it, never doubted my …” ~ Drake “No New Friends”
In 2012, Graham, Shebib, and El-Khatib established OVO Sound as a platform for emerging talents to showcase their music. Now a little more than a decade later, the current acts on the label have generated 10B+ streams and have moved 7M+ albums.
Warner Records who has a meager 2% market share in Hip-Hop + R&B and had distributed OVO for close to a decade, sold the masters back to them for a reported $40M last year.
If OVO Sound is now handling its own distribution, maybe it can revisit a vision that Drake had early in his career.
While going DTC with music might not be the strongest idea at the moment since most of the consumption happens on DSPs, it might be fitting for the growing portfolio of products that OVO is producing.
“Yeah I remember me and, me and D used to talk about this kind of stuff all the time
Like what it's gonna be like when you get closer to your dreams
I didn't know much then but, probably tell you a lil' somethin' now” ~ Drake “Closer to my Dreams”
Drake and his team have engaged in numerous other partnerships, ranging from Sprite and Apple to collaborations with the Toronto Raptors and beyond.
Every step of the way they represent the city of Toronto and for their country, Canada.
With all of the success that Drake, 40, Future the Prince, and Oliver have had, I’d be willing to bet that Drake is closer to his dreams.
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