As the music industry becomes more and more competitive, artists search for new ways to promote themselves and their music. With the technological boom of the 21st century developing ones career has become much easier. Originally relying on record sales and live performances alone, artists can now advance their career through the Internet, social media sites, television commercials, video games, movies and several others. The options are endless.
Well we know that television (TV) is the largest medium through which any product or message is transmitted to the general public, and that the Super Bowl is consistently the most viewed event on TV. What artists have advanced their career through television and how? To start with one that most people probably haven’t heard of (if they live under a rock) is…Drake. Drake, or Aubrey Graham, is a Jewish-Canadian (American?), half-black, half-white, Hip-Hop/R&B (pop?) rapper (singer?) that burst onto the scene in 2009 with a mixtape/EP titled So Far Gone around the time he signed with Young Money Entertainment led by the infamous Lil’ Wayne. By now most people know that Drake got his start on the Canadian TV show, Degrassi. In Degrassi, Drake played Jimmy, a high-school basketball star who ends up in a wheelchair after a school shooting and used music as a way to cope and reinvent himself. Drake did about 4 years on the show until his character “graduated,” and he graduated on to bigger and better things.
Drake then began to put everything into a budding, but promising, music career with multiple mixtapes, featuring other up and comers like Trey Songz and Lupe Fiasco. After getting some of his music to blend with the other sounds floating around in the world, it came across Lil’ Wayne’s desk, who immediately flew Drake out to Houston to tour with him and even record a couple of songs (even though he was still unsigned at the time). When he dropped his third mixtape/EP in 2009, as mentioned above, is when he became the only artist to ever record two Billboard Top 100 hits in the top 10 in the same week, and that was just the beginning. He released his first official album with Young Money in June 2010 that debuted at No.1 for a brief period; nonetheless, he was on the map and was going to stay there.
Drake’s second studio album, Take Care, dropped in November 2011 and the accolades began to shower upon him. He was featured on every other track and was associating with big time stars such as Jay-Z, Rihanna, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross and more. He won multiple awards and even turned down a movie role to focus on music. Since then, he has released two other albums, Nothing Was The Same and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, as well as a high-profile mixtape on Apple Music with Future titled, What a Time to Be Alive, that debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, making him the first rapper to score two No. 1’s in a year since Jay-Z in 2004. He has now become a Global Ambassador for his home-team NBA Toronto Raptors and played a pivotal role in helping bring the 2016 NBA All-Star Game to Toronto’s Air Canada Center, which he will host.
Another more current example of TV serving as a medium to skyrocket or simply start careers is the #1 Hit TV Show, Empire on FOX, starring Terrance Howard and Taraji P. Henson. The show centers around a former drug dealer turned hip-hop/business mogul and CEO of EMPIRE Entertainment who discovers he as ALS in the wake of his bitter ex-wife being released from prison. The stellar cast is combined with original music and never-ending drama as Lucious Lyon (Terrance Howard) pits his sons against each other for a chance to be his successor. From racial tensions, drug dealing, murder and violence-related media criticism to mental disorders, conflicted homosexual exposure, betrayal and divorce, Empire contains just about anything anyone could ask for in entertainment.
The Lyon sons, Andre, Jamaal and Hakeem, who are competing for the Empire are played by Trai Byers, Jussie Smollet and Bryshere Y. Gray (Yazz), respectively. The Empire Soundtrack, available on Apple Music/iTunes as well as Spotify, features a variety of genres with songs featured in the TV show that resonate with viewers in addition to listeners. The soundtrack made it on to Billboard’s Top 100 Hits along with performances at the Billboard Music Awards, The Ellen Degeneres Show and even its own nationwide tour. Critics have praised Smollet, calling him a “break-out star,” and Yazz has had commercial success as well. Empire was renewed for an 18-episode season 2 that premiered September 23, 2015 and looks to be a growing, monstrous hit with guest appearances by Cuba Gooding Jr, Raven-Symone, Estelle, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Juicy J, Chris Rock, Ludacris and more. It appears as if the show is here to stay, and isn’t going away anytime soon.