Before pursuing a career as a rapper under the name Drake, Aubrey Graham was known to Canadian audiences as “Wheelchair” Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation. From 2001-2008 Drake appeared in 138 episodes over the course of seven seasons and made a guest appearance in season eight. During his tenure on the show, Degrassi was a huge success. In season one it became the most watched domestic drama in Canada. By season two it became the most popular Canadian show for the three youngest age groups (viewers aged 2–12, 13–17 and 18–34). By season three it was again the most-watched all-Canadian drama series, and the most watched Canadian drama among adults 18–49. The episode where Drake’s character took a bullet in the back and became confined to a wheelchair after a school shooting brought in a then-season high of 930,000 viewers. Although numbers dipped considerably once Drake’s character graduated and was no longer on the show, Degrassi amassed over 50 awardsduring its run.
YOUNG MONEY MAKER
A highly coveted free agent, Drake signed a lucrative dealwith rap star Lil Wayne’s Young Money, which landed him a reported $2 million advance, publishing rights to all of his songs and ceding only around 25% of his music sales revenues to the label as a “distribution fee.” Strong album sales have made the deal profitable for all parties involved. After dropping his So Far Gone mixtape for free in 2009, Drake released a retail version of that same mixtape later that year that still managed to sell over 600,000 units thanks to a loyal fan base. His major label debut, Thank Me Later, sold over 1.4 million copies according to Nielsen SoundScan reports from July. Based on his track record, we can expect his follow-up, Take Care, which was released today, to perform just as strongly.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
An artist making money in the studio is one thing, but the real bread and butter comes on the road where Drake has made a pretty penny as well. According to The Smoking Gun, the Canadian performer earned $155,000 per show in 2010. That’s a strong number considering the amount of cities he hit last year. After participating in the “Young Money Presents: America’s Most Wanted Music Festival” in 2009, 2010 saw Drake hit 25 domestic destinations for the “The Away From Home Tour” in April and May and then hit the road again for the “Light Dreams & Nightmares” that swept through 24 cities from August to November. His performance at Radio City Music Hall in 2010 alone raked in $761,113.
Public appearances are a great way for any artist to expand his or her reach and test the waters of your celebrity’s reach. Drake recently appeared on an October 15th episode of Saturday Night Live as a musical guest and helped the show nab a 2.6 rating amongst adults 18-49 and be the top-rated program on broadcast networks for the night. Slowly returning to his acting roots, Drake will also voice the character of Ethan in the fourth installment of the successful animated film series Ice Age, which is set to release in 2012.
According to Forbes, Drake’s $11 million in earnings for 2011 thus far has come in large part from his endorsements. His advertising pacts with Kodak, Sprite and an agreement to have his mug plastered on to the sides of Virgin America airplanes have certainly helped to pad his pockets. Has Drake’s image helped these products? His Sprite commercials could have had a hand in parent company Coca Cola seeing a net revenue spike of 40% in the first quarter of 2011. Not to mention that Sprite is the No. 7 ranked soda in America based on its popularity with the younger demographic. Despite a sharp overall decline in Kodak sales by 80% through the first two quarters of 2011, Drake lending his likeness to the campaign may have helped slow the bleeding a bit as sales were down only 5% in the third quarter.
Fans of Drake will appreciate the new coffee table book, Hip Hop, A Cultural Odyssey. To purchase your copy of Hip Hop, A Cultural Odysseyclick here and every 10 books sold will result in a copy being donated to a HBCU library.