TL;DRSomeone died at Apple HQ but all we’re talking about is the Summer Sixteen tour; Sometimes launching strategic partnerships with a niche group have big payoffs; Yes, that’s a Cash Money reference in the title

Better yet a Navy.

…Or it could be like the Secret Service. Did you know an Apple employee committed suicide at the Apple HQ last week? Almost no one is talking about it. Anyway.

You know what we are talking about? Apple Music sponsoring the Summer Sixteen tour. An app sponsoring a rap arena tour. What a time! Unfortunately, all parties are being tight lipped about this sponsorship so we don’t exactly know what it entails or what it means. But we knew this was coming, right? There’s no way Apple dominates the market share on paid digital downloads, creates a streaming service, launches an international radio station, and starts inking exclusive deals with some of the top-selling global artists to not get into the concert business. But how exactly is Apple able to pull this off? Strategic partnerships.

The successful launch of Apple Music (including the launch of Beats1 Radio) is due to many, many strategic partners—the most influential of which has been Drake. In February 2015, Drake quietly released a “mixtape” on iTunes (that we all had to pay for) titled If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. The “mixtape” went platinum and peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 within two weeks time. That summer Apple launched Apple Music at WWDC and instead of an overview from a product lead or the lead engineer, we got our first introductions from Drake. Sure, he played up the streaming aspect and features like Connect but he was mainly selling Beats1 and announcing OVO Sound Radio. In the months following the announcement, OVO Sound Radio would be the most talked about hour on Beats1 despite having many other (also high-profile) celebrity hosts on the station. Drake also uses the platform to premiere new singles, like “Hotline Bling” which often become available for sale in the iTunes Store as soon as the song is finished playing.

“Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything.”

— BEN HOROWITZ, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

To be fair, this isn’t the first time Apple has partnered with musicians. U2 sold the hell out of those iPods back in the day. But, this is the first time we’ve seen Apple partner with a hip-hop artist (because in my world Black Eyed Peas does not count). As a genre, hip-hop is still largely considered to be “niche”—meaning marketers know the audience is huge but even in 2016 they are still not quite convinced of the audience’s buying power. I imagine there were some meetings at Apple in which some executive demanded “data” on why Drake was a smarter choice over Adele, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran or 5 Seconds of Summer.

But Apple chose Drake. Even in the midst of the whole Weak Mill debacle, Apple still chose Drake.

In the Fall of 2015, Drake partnered up with Future and released another “mixtape” (which we, again, had to pay for) titled What A Time To Be Alive, exclusively on Apple Music. This time we kinda sorta knew a project was coming at least a few days in advance. Kinda. That “mixtape” also went platinum and peaked at #1.

Apple proved two things through their partnership with Drake: the value of Apple Music (the product/service) to future partners and how content exclusivity (in this case content = music) with the right partner greatly boosts revenue for said future partners. In other words, Apple’s partnership strategy is the “not for self, but for country” approach to business.

Ha! Bet you didn’t think I could tie that Cash Money reference together like that. Are you establishing strategic partnerships for your business? Are you limiting potential partners because they aren’t an exact match? To quote Wu-Tang Financial, diversify your bonds. You might be missing out on a really awesome partner who can catapult your initiatives and your sales.

MIXTAPES

Anna Wise, one half of Sonnymoon and background vocalist for Kendrick Lamar, released The Feminine: Act I. It’s a super short EP (16 mins!) and I wish it was longer.

Have you heard of BABY BABY? As a marketer, I have to say their SEO sucks… or is brilliant, can’t tell. But they just released a new video for their song “Hang In There” on Reddit which is kinda cool.

I know I kinda sorta just praised Drake but, dude, Views from the 6ix is kinda boring. I mean, yeah, there is a really amazing #DEEPBRANDYALBUMCUT on there as a sample (and really amazing 90’s R&B album cut samples, in general) but other than that, I’ll pass.

Sidenote: does anyone know exactly why B.G. thought Cash Money was more like the Navy?

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