Why The Drake Album Leak Is No Big Deal

Posted November 10

Welcome to the O Music Awards guest writer series, a place where we hand the proverbial reins over to qualified writers/musicians/etc and let them share their thoughts about music, technology and more. Today’s guest blogger is rapper Max Burgundy, whose EP, #Waiting, is out now.

Have you heard the new Drake album? Yeah? But it doesn’t come out until November 15th. Where you hear that at? Oh, say word? Your man sent you the link on Twitter. You probably retweeted that too, son. Be honest. Weezy and Baby aren’t going to show up at your doorstep and ask you for ten bucks, so be easy. If it was meant to be purchased, then like Das Racist says, “You should probably buy it.” Or maybe don’t.

As a rapper I give all my music away for free. It’s a decision I made earlier this year when I dropped my first project, and a decision I won’t hesitate to make again when I release my next project in December. I understand that isn’t a choice every rapper can make.

Enter the era of the mixtape, the free music that rappers give away to continue to build buzz between official releases. At first the mixtape was a way for DJs to showcase up-and-coming rappers by playing their latest songs and personal freestyles. Now mixtapes are all the rage, regardless of genre, and are funded and promoted like an album (don’t let these artists tell you otherwise). Any rapper who drops a mixtape “signs” to a label, gets the hottest group of their peers to co-sign with him, and has his record played on the radio. From a mixtape? That’s not an accident. Leaks are not accidents. Leaks build hype.

That’s why Drake’s new record leaking is the best thing to happen to him. Every dealer in the hood will say the best stamp of approval he can get is when someone ODs on your product. A leak is the same thing. A leak means people want to hear his album. We live in an a world where terrible songs about a day of the week can be the only thing people talk about for a month, where a video about one big room full of bad bitches is grounds for magazine covers world wide. In the midst of all this we are still looking for people to fill bigger shoes. You know, the Mike stratosphere: Jordan, Tyson, Jackson. We need someone who, when their album gets leaked, still sells records and moves downloads.

Don’t get it twisted: As long as money is coming in, everyone is happy. The only unfortunate part of a leak is that to some people first-week sales are the only barometer of success. Obviously, leaks will affect that number, but soon people will gauge a successful first week by how many trending topics an artist had, how many YouTube views they counted and how many likes they received on Facebook.

The music industry gave us so many years of bad music that, when Sean Parker gave us a way to take back what was rightfully ours, we did. We voted with our modems and began over consuming more music than before. Everyone is saying the record industry is dead and it’s the Internet’s fault. Not true. A couple of companies owned by a few very rich white dudes are not as well off as they once were. Big deal. They should have listened to Jay, because they were all “hustling backwards.”

In today’s leak-prone world, you can try before you buy, but as far as I am concerned, the buy is not the CD anymore — it’s the movement. All we are doing is cutting out the middleman. If as an artist, all you can do is sell CDs, you won’t be successful in today’s market. Drake and many other rappers on his level will make money off their record sales, albeit not as much as Hammer did. But they will earn more respect and money on the road, through cultural influence and corporate sponsorship, where it counts. And the really good ones will sink into our consciousness and make an even larger impression than the epically big artists of yore.

The first artist to put out all of their music for free, put on a mind-blowing live show, and make you want to buy their headphones, computer preferences and emulate their clothing style will be the next Michael Jackson. And I ain’t even need to go to Wharton to tell you that. Now go eat some Oreos for breakfast and tell Nabisco that Max Burgundy told you to.

Image courtesy of Flickr, eastscene