3 Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from Hip Hop Artists

hip hop artists

I think we can all agree that it is an incredible time to be a fan of music.  Massive libraries of songs are more accessible than ever thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Tidal.  On these streaming services we have access to almost every song that you can think of, and thousands of new songs are being released every week.  However, unlimited access coupled with unprecedented output of new music is a double-edged sword as it creates a tremendous amount of clutter artists need to cut through to promote their new releases.  Breaking through the noise is a common problem in any industry today, and the music industry is no different.  It is the artists who creatively market themselves and their persona who rise to the top.  So with that in mind, I would like to take a moment to examine how three major hip-hop artists have been able to creatively generate awareness for their new releases and give you 3 key takeaways from these strategies.

Drake | Traditional Advertising


While it is important to note Drake’s stardom is a powerful driver of his album sales, one under-appreciated piece of his roll out strategy is his use of billboards.  Most artists rely on social media and digital advertising to promote their music, but whenever Drake is close to releasing a new project, he will buy billboard space all over a city with quotes or song titles from his upcoming album.  He always chooses highly populated cities, like LA or Toronto, to maximize visibility. This leads to fans taking pictures of these billboards for social media and viral marketing. This strategy is inexpensive and exceptionally effective at raising awareness.  To break through digital clutter Drake uses a form of advertising his competitors tend to ignore, giving him visibility and momentum before his album drops.

Eminem | Integrated Digital and Traditional Advertising

revival album promotion

Eminem has an iconic brand.  He is synonymous with the backwards E and known for his intensely emotional lyrics and controversial antics.  His star power alone can sell albums, but his team at Interscope Records decided to tease his upcoming album with clever fake pharma ads.  Eminem used an integrated communications strategy that leveraged a multimedia approach to promote a new prescription “drug” that was actually Eminem’s new album “Revival.”  Visually, the television commercials, billboards, and website involved in this campaign all looked like earnest medicine advertisements, but the copy showed a more tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic attitude that Eminem is well known for.  Due to the hints and easter eggs in the advertisements, fans quickly realized that the weird medicine ads were for Eminem’s new album and the buzz surrounding the campaign exploded online on forums like Reddit and on social media.  Spending advertising dollars on a fake product was risky, but it was a risk that paid off for Eminem and Interscope.

Kanye West | Branded Merchandise

Kanye West has had significant notoriety for over a decade now and has a knack for controversy that helps keep him in the news cycle and drive sales.  But as his career has progressed he has developed an intriguing promotional strategy outside of creating controversy.  Kanye is a master of merchandise, and fans covet every piece of clothing and accessories he releases alongside his albums.  For several years Kanye has prioritized releasing merchandise with eclectic designs to accompany his albums.  Kanye even commissioned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to design his album and merch artwork for Kids See Ghosts.  Kanye typically releases long and short sleeve t-shirts, as well as hoodies and his fans  are known to shell out some serious cash to collect and wear this merch.  Not only are they loyal buyers of merchandise, but Kanye’s fans are very active and loyal to him on social platforms.  They post pictures of themselves in his merch, and these active and engaged fans in turn help him advertise.  Most revealing of Kanye’s feelings about the power of merchandise is that after success with his own merchandise, he created a line of branded shirts for the recent release of Teyana Taylor’s album in June of this year.  She doesn’t enjoy the kind of following Kanye has, so it is interesting that a critical part of his promotional strategy for her featured branded merchandise.

Each of these artists’ strategies teaches an important lesson about marketing.  Drake’s strategy shows the very real value often-ignored traditional media can offer even in the digital age.  Eminem’s strategy showcases the effectiveness of an integrated marketing campaign and highlights the importance of consistent messaging and creativity.  While Kanye is the master of branded merchandise and consistently creates demand for his brand and music using tangible branded products.  So whether you are dropping an album, or just promoting a local event, creativity is the key for a winning campaign.

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