After more than two years with International Creative Management (ICM), Young Money/Cash Money/Universal recording artist Aubrey "Drake" Graham, 25, moved the bulk of his representation across town to William Morris Endeavor. The move, which wasn't publicly announced but wasn't secret either, happened a few months ago according to those close to the deal. Moving forward, WME will represent the former child actor ("Degrassi: The Next Generation") turned superstar rapper across a broad spectrum of fields including music, films and television, international booking, branding and business, as well as philanthropy. ICM's Robert Gibbs will continue to serve as Drake's domestic touring agent and Drake will also continue to be represented by Hip Hop Since 1978 as well as Cortez Bryant's Bryant Management.
Billboard recently spoke with WME board member, partner, agent and former co-CEO Dave Wirtschafter about his team's new client. And see the new issue of Billboard for Benjamin Meadows-Ingraham's extensive Q&A with Drake about his new album, "Take Care"; leaks; his relationship with Lil Wayne; his career choices and much more.
Billboard.biz: How do William Morris and Drake work together today, and how will you work moving forward?
Dave Wirtschafter: We've just started working with him so what we have begun with is the idea that he is a guy who has a very particular point of view in terms of how he wants to get his art out into the world, whatever that art form is. He obviously had a big presence on television, has a big presence in the music business and will want to have a big presence in the movie business. [He is also interested in] the partnership business more than endorsement business [working] with companies whose DNA is kind of like his. For us, he's an ideal client type because he's extremely thoughtful, as is everybody on his team. He has a very specific point of view in terms of how he wants to approach the world and he will take the time to do it correctly and he's not swayed by things like big checks or things that need to happen very quickly that are not ultimately for the long term benefit of his career. He is a strategist, and we hope that we are strategists for him.
He's also great in a room. He's really, really smart [and] he's very direct. He's a really interesting, fun and challenging -- in the best way -- guy to be around and to work with. He views the world horizontally, as we do, and so for us it's the best type of client imaginable because we can think through opportunities as opposed to race through opportunities and we can always strategize, take a beat, view things in the short term and the long term. He allows us to do the best work that we can do, and we think that we'll do really good work together.
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BBBiz: You mentioned the idea of brand partnerships instead of endorsements. What does that look like?
DW: We're just starting to think about those things. He looks at everything that is associated with him as something that will either positively influence how people think of him beyond his art or potentially negatively influence how people think about him beyond his art, so everything that we're trying to do is designed to be reflective of who he is as a person, what he stands for [and] how he wants to be presented to the world and what he cares about. So for us, it's thinking: are there companies -- big ones or little ones -- or are there businesses that are established or start-ups, that seem to blend well with what he's trying to do and say? And his thing is, it's not flashy and it's not designed to be quick -- it's really thoughtful. He has specific points of view about categories he wishes to work in, companies he wishes to work with, all that sort of stuff, and part of this is due to the fact that as a young guy, he thought through this a lot and he has proper team members on his existing team. We're additives to a table that's pretty well set before we got there.
So it's just kind of looking at these things and saying, okay, as opposed to the standard deal that everybody does or chasing the short dollars or jumping into things really quickly, for a guy who just turned 25 and is going to be doing this and a lot of other stuff for a long time, what fits best with him and who is he going to be partnered with for the next five years or 10 years as opposed to six months or a year? So everything is really kind of strategically thought through, which we love because that's what we try to do for him and our other clients.
BBBiz: Can you talk about some specific goals or what that five or 10-year plan looks like?
DW: I think that it operates on four things. Certainly he wants to work as fully in the music business as he possibly can and as faithfully in the music business as he can, and that's Drake as an artist [and] Drake in association with other artists. [And] it is not only music that he would put out as a standalone, but potentially music that he could create for films, and music that he could disperse in other places, so music is a big one.
He has acted [in the past] -- he will do that. Before we worked with him, we had noticed a lot of press where in his own way he wanted to emulate what had happened in terms of a career as Will Smith. He's a different person than Will Smith, but I think the theory is the duality of having a music and movie career.
In these partnership businesses, I think they will be few and far between, but hopefully they will be really well chosen and really thoughtful.
And I think lastly, he is a guy who is genuinely philanthropic, and he's a guy who wants to pay real attention to people who can be benefitted by his aide and that's going to be a big part of what he does going forward as well. So I think those four things probably represent the primary pillars of what his business is going to be. There will be offshoots because, again, he's so, so smart and so interesting to talk to. They're going to be offshoots to these things that we don't even know about because we haven't put him in the rooms that we're thinking about going forward because he's busy because he has an album coming out next week. But when we have a minute and we have time, our plan is to put him in rooms and set him up with people who have the ability to say yes to certain things in all these categories and just see how it plays because he is not only a fantastic artist, but he can handle himself in any room including any business at the CEO level.
BBBiz: For him to be 25 and already be so well established, that must give you a lot to look at and work with. How do you build him into a career artist?
DW: I think he will release product on his timetable which is really when it's right. He's already taken that position properly before we got involved with him. I think he's really, really proud of this album, he's been quoted as such. It's made with 100 percent of the energy that he wants to make it, and he will do everything on that basis, which is, as we said before, to make it as perfect as he can possibly make it. And for us, when you have the combination of somebody of super talent, which he has, and somebody who is willing to devote absolute energy to make everything as close to perfect as he can, which he will. And also somebody who is willing to sit in a room and take advice and listen to opinions and contemplate everything and process everything fully, and also somebody who is really good with people.
So there's zero baggage, there's no difficulty having him going into a room, there's nothing that represents preconceived notion of who he is. You have the formula for a guy to do great things over a long period of time. And his ambitions are big, but we believe that his talent is such that the things he wishes to do are attainable, and those are big things in all these areas and probably some others that we haven't mentioned. He's absolutely the real deal and he has nowhere to go but further up and up. And I think that he will do something that will be pretty definitive, and people will look at that stuff and say "Wow that guy did spectacular things over a very long career." He's a young guy and I think that he has a young and an old soul, and a young and an old mind. He's incredibly smart and incredibly versed on what's going on in the world, and he's also 25. And that's kind of the most impressive lethal combination, to blend those two things.