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Amber Horsburgh is an artist coach, a music marketer, and the founder of Deep Cuts—a go-to resource for early-stage musicians. And in today’s episode, we talk about Tyler, The Creator and break down his “Call Me If You Get Lost” campaign. We weigh in on his rollout strategy to use alter egos, the brands he has partnered with, and his business model. Amber also shares her thoughts on Tyler’s strengths, what he could improve on, and how present circumstances have posed a challenge for artists.
If you are a fan of Tyler, The Creator or just curious about how music campaigns work, this episode is for you!
[03:28] My thoughts on Tyler and his “Call Me If You Get Lost” album
[05:52] How he has changed over time
[08:32] 3 ways to stand out as an artist
[10:55] About the Tyler Baudelaire persona
[14:22] On Tyler’s brand collaborations and his “slow and steady” climb thanks to his fans
[19:35] My expectations for Tyler’s campaign
[21:02] How the “Call Me If You Get Lost” campaign is visually appealing but lacking in creative activation
[29:00] The importance of merch from a fan perspective
[31:15] How the pandemic has affected the music industry
[34:45] On Tyler’s acceptance of his position in hip-hop
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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co
Guest: Amber Horsburgh, @amberhorsburgh, Amber Horsburgh
Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.
Dan: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. Today’s podcast is actually a conversation from a campaign breakdown that I did with Amber Horsburgh, who is the founder of Deep Cuts, which is a go-to resource for artists that need help with music marketing, rollouts, and more. Amber is an expert when it comes to this stuff. She was an SVP of Strategy at Downtown Records and has worked with some of the biggest brands, both inside and outside of the music industry. And both of us decided to do a breakdown on Tyler, the Creator’s most recent album release for Call Me If You Get Lost.
Amber had some great insights on what he’s done from a rollout perspective, why it resonated with so many people, what are some opportunities that he could have taken it even further, and then I was able to share some of my own insights and thoughts on Tyler’s business model and how he’s grown as an artist the past decade plus and how a lot of his accolades such as selling out Madison Square Garden or having a mixtape collaboration with DJ Drama are culminations of what Tyler has been working towards for his entire career and what it means to him today.
This is a great conversation. The video for this conversation is on Amber’s YouTube channel which I highly recommend you subscribe to if you haven’t already. She has great deep dives on a bunch of your favorite artists and more. Here’s our breakdown on Tyler, the Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost.
Today’s partner is public.com, an investing app that’s part investing, part social network so you can discuss new trends with other investors in the community and get smarter while you build your portfolio. Get started on Public today with a free $10 slice of stock using my code Trapital when you sign up for an account, and then make sure you follow me on the app, @RuncieDan. This is a paid endorsement for Open to the Public, member of FINRA and SIPC. Investing involves risk of loss. Regulatory and firm fees apply. Offer valid in the US for residents 18 and up, subject to account approval. New accounts only.
Amber: Okay, we are gonna talk about Tyler, the Creator, Call Me If You Get Lost campaign breakdown. I am obsessed with his campaign. As soon as the billboards started showing up around, you know, the different cities and everybody started talking about it on the internet, I was like, okay, I’m gonna have to do a campaign breakdown of this. I couldn’t think of a better person to do that with than Dan Runcie of Trapital, who has created the Harvard Business Review of hip-hop and so what we’re gonna do today is basically break down Call Me If You Get Lost.
I’m gonna ask for his hot takes, I’m gonna try and get from him where does this fit in like the overall landscape? What does this record mean? What does this campaign mean? But we’re gonna really come at this from a marketing perspective of like, what was rolled out? What was the sequencing? How did he do it? Why did he do it? And see if we can kind of get into the nitty-gritty. Dan, thank you so much for doing this with me.
Dan: Thanks for having me and thanks for that kind intro. Harvard Business of hip-hop. I like that.
Amber: Yeah. I mean, you have. It’s amazing, and if anybody hasn’t subscribed to Trapital, get it in your inboxes. Do it.
Dan: Thank you, thank you. Yep, go to trapital.co, that’s where you can sign up.
Amber: Perfect. First, before we get into kind of the actual campaign, I’d love to know from you, Dan, where does — this is Tyler’s sixth studio album. Where does this fit within, you know, the wider tapestry of Tyler, the Creator’s output?
Dan: I look at this as a polished mixtape in Tyler’s repertoire and I don’t mean mixtape in an unpolished type of way or something that it was just thrown together, but how he really conceived this. If we think about it, this was a project that he did in collaboration with DJ Drama. DJ Drama has been well known in hip-hop, especially during the late 2000s and in the early 2010s for so many of the iconic mixtapes that he had done for a lot of Southern artists at the time, like he was so big especially like with Wayne and Jeezy when they were rising and dominating that Tyler, in a lot of ways, had always commented, especially in Twitter before he became the Tyler he is today, about, “I want a Gangsta Grillz mixtape someday. I wanna get this,” and he eventually was able to do that with this album.
And, if you notice, especially since Tyler had dropped Flower Boy, that would be his fourth studio album in 2017, a lot of people felt like there was a turning point where clearly these albums each have this type of thematic focus that’s clear and you can see throughout. Flower Boy was highly regarded, Igor was highly regarded, Call Me If You Get Lost is as well, but the fact that he’s working closely with Drama and he had to find a way to still have the Tyler persona but still make it feel like this hard, hip-hop, DJ Drama-type production is what I think makes it pretty unique.
So, he’s able to do something special by still being his, you know, unique and leading into that outcast mentality that he has, but he’s doing something that is very mainstream, if you will, in terms of this rite of passage from hip-hop artists that have real bars or have been at the top of their game at some point, and it’s able to sit within Tyler’s tapestry or is able to sit within Tyler’s catalogue in that type of way.
Amber: I’ve noticed a lot of the press narrative is this is like this is all Tyler grown up so I think I jotted down some of the headlines, but it was like, I’ve got so much like chicken scratch here, but, yeah, it was like, you know, he’s turning 30, Pitchfork was like, “Tyler, the Creator exploring all facets of his talent as a producer, writer, vocalist.” We see that on the album artwork like the passport that he’s written very explicitly that all the songs are written, produced, arranged, composed by him. The New Yorker was, “Tyler creates his victory lap.” New York Times was, “This is when pop music trolls grow up.” How true is this being Tyler, the Creator all grown up?
Dan: There’s some truth to it but it also can feel like a tired narrative at times —
Dan: — and I do think that Tyler himself has acknowledged that, yes, artists change over time. I remember there was this classic blog post that a Tyler fan had written, it was back in 2015 so this was before Flower Boy or any of that and the fan was like, “I miss the Tyler from 2011 and 2009 and the Odd Future days that was saying a lot of stuff that would get him in hot water now,” he was just really talking about a lot of his frustrations and his depression that he had suffered at the time and Tyler had wrote a pretty lengthy response of like, “Hey, listen, I’ve been there but this is who I am now and artists do evolve over time.”
So I do think Tyler would even acknowledge himself that even since writing that, he’s continued to evolve. The thing is, though, I do think that there’s this overwhelming narrative that because Tyler isn’t saying the type of things that would get him cancelled today or he isn’t doing the type of shock and shocky type things that he may have done back in the early days of the Odd Future and everything else, that people are like, “Oh, this is now music that I can vibe to,” in a way that your mainstream hip-hop fan wouldn’t have listened to “Yonkers” or “Goblin” or some of those other types of tracks.
So I do think that there is some truth to it but I do also think that we can appreciate the growth of, yes, this is an artist and he now, with the platform and rise that he has, is making music that is winning the Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album but I do think that some of that may be a bit more natural and standard than this narrative that we’re applying specifically to Tyler because, at the core, I do think there’s still a lot of him there.
Amber: Yeah, I think that’s a good point that you mentioned. It’s like it’s such an easy narrative to pull. It’s like, “Oh, this —” We’ve watched this dude from being a teenager and he’s thirty now. Thirty’s old, like it’s grown up without —
Amber: — maybe necessarily being grown up.
Dan: Yeah, it reminds me like people said the same thing with Mac Miller with the last album that he had put out like right before he had passed as well, like when Circles had came out, a lot of people were like, “Oh, you know, there’s so much growth,” and people were saying that there’s so much growth is just because he wasn’t making songs about Donald Trump or whatever songs he was making back like in the “Fifth Ave.” type days or any of those other songs, but I feel like this is a narrative, right? Like people will say this about whatever Youtuber or whoever else is doing their thing and will rise up, like if there’s a version of NBA YoungBoy in a few years that isn’t in the legal challenges that he is and ends up being someone that is more in the mainstream, they’re gonna say the same thing then too.
Amber: I wanna switch gears to this Tyler Baudelaire alter ego. That, to me, is the most interesting thing about this campaign that’s the most different so I think I always talk with artists which is like about how to stand out and I always said there’s three ways to stand out if you’re an artist, if you’re thinking about artist branding, which Tyler, the Creator is obviously like master at, but you can either be you but just amplified so be you times 100, you can either attach yourself to a wider cultural discourse like a cause or a theme or a mood or something wider that’s going on in culture, and then there’s also the character, creating a character, and that’s what Tyler, the Creator has done which is these alter egos and every single campaign has this new alter ego we’re introduced to, Tyler Baudelaire who’s this kind of jet setting, braggadocios, very like of the high life, his this well-traveled gentlemen with this sophisticated taste for high art, all that kind of stuff.
That comes through definitely in the lyrics but it’s also interesting because it juxtaposes the production of the actual tracks. If you listen to it without seeing any of the visuals, I don’t know that you would necessarily go to that character saying those lyrics and all that kind of stuff.
The interesting thing about it to me is like this, to me, feels like more of a pop rollout where you see this a lot with pop artists where it’s like — and especially female pop artists were one campaign like a Lady Gaga or a Taylor Swift are gonna be, they’re playing a very specific character, all the visuals match so it’s like Taylor Swift, she’s — right now, she’s a folk artist, like indie folk artist so it’s the very soft, the soft light in the photography, it’s the undone hair, it’s the guitar, it’s like out in the woods, then before that we see her as this, like, you know, in “Lover,” it’s like very bright, bubbly, poppy, and then before, she’s this like rebel, and then before that, it’s like pop star, you know?
It’s very — these reinventions and think that’s what these campaigns are, which feels very different to how music is released, especially in the ecosystem that we’re in, in this very like singles-focused market, more, more, more, shove more music all the time down people’s throats. What did you think of the alter ego, Tyler Baudelaire? Like when it was rolled out, what did your gut say?
Dan: Yeah, I liked the alter ego. I like it because Tyler, even though I — he isn’t even like a young rapper anymore, he’s over, he’s 30 plus now, but it’s a throwback to someone that was clearly inspired by artists who made impactful records, specifically albums that lasted and you can remember the moments, right?
I do think that you’re right, that pop artists do tend to do these things more often but I do think there’s certain hip-hop artists who’ve done these types of things too, like I think about Kanye and some of the campaigns that he’s had around certain albums that have always felt true to that and I do think we’re seeing that with Tyler. I mean, if anything, that Igor campaign really stood out, right?
When he was having and selling those like “Vote for Igor” type signs, I think it’s really cool to see him do that and you’re right that we don’t see that as much anymore just because, now, people are much more likely to try to put out music as much as they can and if you’re putting out music every four or five months, especially as some of the younger artists are, that’s all pretty much based on the same persona and that persona is you, it’s not even necessarily having the time to put something out, and I do think that speaks to something that’s core and germane to Tyler himself. He has always been this person that has been like, “I do wanna make money, yes. I do wanna be successful, but I am not going to let the art jeopardize those things,” like, “I am not going to alter it that much.” He’ll still do some of the things that I think are still common today, like, for example, the tracks and the length of the tracks for the songs in Call Me If You Get Lost were all pretty short, which I think is common in adapting to the streaming landscape, but he’s not the “Let me pump 30 tracks in this CD,” or, “Let me just give you something as frequently as I can,” the way that others are.
So, I find it is a breath of fresh air. I think that I’ll be interested to see if this persona of Tyler Baudelaire can continue because I do think that the pandemic maybe shortened the life of this, in a way where Igor, for instance, I felt like even after that album dropped, it felt like that stuck with us because we’re able to see him perform later on at award shows and all these things —
Dan: — so many of these things lined up pretty closely, which is great, but what happens after the BET Awards? What happens after Lollapalooza? Both of those are great timely performances but does this Tyler Baudelaire persona continue throughout the fall? Does it continue in the early winter of next year or the next tour that he ends up doing? That’s what I’m really interested to see.
Amber: Let’s figure out these collaborations. So, the pre-pre-launch, he starts collaborating with other artists, he starts warming up, getting back into the spotlight, then you see this big McDonald’s campaign where he scores the ad, it’s the one on YouTube, goes for like two, I think two and a half minutes and it’s very much like “McDonald’s ad by Tyler, the Creator,” it’s not just like, “I wrote the music in this thing,” and that, in itself, the positioning of that would have been heavily negotiated and intended, then you’ve got this Converse collaboration, yeah, and then you’ve got obviously all of the artists that are featured on the record. I guess from a business perspective, how does the collaborations play in his overall business model?
Dan: I think for him, he’s been pretty selective with the brands and the companies that he has worked with and I think he’s been able to segment it to some extent too, right? And some of this may tie into the partnerships where, for an album like this, given the fact that, yeah, the music, he’s collaborating with one of the most well-known mixtape DJs from a certain era, he’s now also releasing music at the same time with one of the most well-known brands as well, and he’s able to do that in a way but still have the music that sounds like his, like I remember hearing the Coke commercial and it was just like, “Okay, yeah, this is something that like only Tyler would make, it sounds like his production,” which I think is a pretty powerful place to be able to get to so I think it lines up with that. There was something else too that I saw him say about, even his own clothing brands and how he segments that where, for Golf le Fleur, which is much more higher end and upscale, at least in terms of things that he’ll do, I think he’s more willing to do collaborations with that type of brand as opposed to Golf Wang, which I still think he keeps his, like, “Yeah, this is kind of like my everyday type of thing.”
So, the same way that he’s able to segment his clothing, I think in a lot of ways he can segment his music in that type of way where, yeah, there’s certain things that may make sense for the brand collaboration but there’s other stuff that I’m only gonna save for my type of thing.
Amber: In terms of the business model, slow and steady, talk to me about the business, his business model.
Dan: Yeah, I think that Tyler’s climb, especially to the point that he’s at now, has been a slow and steady growth pattern. There are plenty of artists, if we think about Tyler’s breakout moment, if you go back, it was 10 years ago when “Yonkers” came out, in terms of the time that a lot of people saw that YouTube video, they were like, “Who is this person?” Of course, there was the Tumblr stuff with Odd Future before that, but from like a, boom, like headline perspective, there was that and then people started to notice at that point.
There were plenty of artists that got big, that have, you know, came and went, that skyrocketed well before he did and it came back down, plenty that have, you know, rose and continue to rise beyond that but Tyler, it’s not a coincidence, I think, for him that he’s really been able to hit this stride and he’s never really went down in terms of popularity, it’s really just been a steady, steady climb and I think that steady climb is reflected in the liveliness and the strength of his fan base.
You have all these people that, for so long, felt like this was their thing, right? Like Tyler was their person. Everyone else can be fans of Drake or Nicki or whoever else was the big pop stars of the time, even someone like a Meek Mill, if you will, but, no, Tyler was theirs and he was able to rise with that to the point where, once he did become mainstream, a lot of them I think have stayed and the fact that Drake had performed at his Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival and they booed Drake is a testament to that, because I just don’t think that would happen to many other people, right? And —
Amber: That was so crazy to me. I mean, maybe I don’t get it but it’s just like, that’s the biggest artist in the world, maybe, like arguably, to get booed off stage is like — I mean, one, how could you predict that? And then, two, it’s like it’s very rude from a fan perspective, I think. How could that even have happened? I was like, that’s just — that’s [inaudible]
Dan: Yeah, it was symptomatic of a few — it was symptomatic of Tyler’s fan base. I think it was also a symptom of the era that we’re in now, for better or worse, right? I think this is, (a), you take the fact that this is a group of people that have felt like they have been outcasts along with Tyler and felt empowered to do so, so if we think about that same persona of Tyler being someone who could easily say, “Yeah, fuck the Grammys, F this, like I don’t wanna do this mainstream type of thing,” his fans are also the people that are saying, “F this, I don’t wanna do this mainstream thing,” and Drake is the epitome of all of that —
Dan: — when you really think about it so —
Amber: But then so are brand collaborations with McDonald’s, like you can’t get more mainstream than McDonald’s.
Dan: Yeah, no, that’s true. That’s true. And he’s been able to find a way to still do those things but not have it be this like big, broad thing that he’s able to still get like they’d hate on and maybe that’s part of the difference, right? It’s — I think a lot of people do see Camp Flog Gnaw as the Tyler event, if you will, right? And that whoever you have as a surprise guest is the capstone of that so it’ll almost be like, okay, you have — you’re going to this conference and they’re telling you who their big keynote speaker is and it’s someone who you did like not expect, you’re just like, “What?” and I do think that, yeah, for Tyler, the big brands, Converse, I do think has, you know, a little bit of that like off-kilter style. McDonald’s is a little different but I wonder if it depends on the type of thing, right? Tyler’s able to make his type of song for a McDonald’s commercial, which I think could be very different than him doing a McDonald’s meal like Saweetie or J Balvin or BTS or Travis Scott or one of them, right?
Amber: Yeah, for sure.
Amber: What do you think the rest of this campaign is gonna look like?
Dan: I would like to see some more performances that come from some of the bigger events that are coming for the rest of the year. I think he’s already got two of the good ones within a month of the album dropping, between BET Awards and Lollapalooza. He already has the — at least videos out for many of the singles so I think that part of it’s there. I think it would be good to see some type of tour because there are just so many spectacular visuals that I think could be really cool.
Something that I think he may have alluded to but we didn’t quite see is he’s such a creative artist that he could extend this to have some more type of multimedia experience, right? Like what does the 39-minute length music video or type of visual album experience look like? We’ve seen so many other artists do things like that and Tyler really hasn’t done it on that big production type of level and especially given the news this week of Travis Scott and A24 doing a collaboration soon for his next album, I could definitely see Tyler doing something like that given the worlds and the personas that he’s able to create in this type of thing, and I think his fan base’s alignment and interest in that type of experience in general.
Questions for you, I’m curious, is there anything from this campaign that you wish was different? Anything that you think he could have improved upon based on what you’ve seen?
Amber: Yeah, I think I’ll start with the strength that I think that he does really well that I don’t think a lot of artists can, is creating these worlds that people are really obsessed with. So it’s like — and it seems to be really heavy on the visuals, not as much on the content, and I think that’s where I’ll get to in terms of like the improvements, but he creates these images of what he looks like, how he’s styled, you know, the brands he wears, the clothes he wears. The music videos are all — they all exist within the same world whereas in a lot of campaigns, you can have different characters, different scenes, different aesthetics for every different single, whereas everything in this, from like the teasers, from the passport on the album cover, the billboards, the music videos, everything that he was posting on Instagram, it’s all from the same world and then that world feels very different to Igor and Flower Boy and like everything else so it’s this reinvention.
I think that that’s really compelling and especially because it’s so — like it stands out so much. So, anyone from this moment on from throughout the rest of the year, if they try and do this like throwback to this like lux, almost this lux, Swiss, jet setting kind of — it’s gonna be like, “Oh, you’re copying Tyler, the Creator,” whereas like —
Amber: — so he can really own these images. The one thing that I think — and I think that that in itself is really compelling, very difficult to do. What I did find was that it was so visual-led but not so much content-led so it’s like you’ve got the character, you’ve got the images, the images were so compelling that a lot of the people, when he started dropping these teasers, actually thought a feature film was coming. Yeah, so I think that the visual world is really interesting.
I think that what is missing from it for me is the content. So, it’s like there’s six official music videos and then his Twitter feed is like very, very active and he’s got all these — he’s done these lyric posters, he’s been like very serious around making sure that everybody knows the lyrics are right. He even like tweeted Genius and Apple about getting the lyrics right and redoing them and stuff like that, but there doesn’t seem to be any of this like fast-paced, always on, we’re in an environment where that consistency is rewarded and I think a lot of, especially for emerging artists, I don’t think that you can take this Tyler, the Creator approach where it’s like we have these hero visuals, these are really strong, these are very expensive looking pieces, and then nothing else to kind of support it and so I think it would be interesting to see like what is the always-on strategy for Tyler Baudelaire?
How does he kind of extend through like TikTok or daily, showing up daily on social, and, to be honest, I say that and it sounds almost like reductive of like how can you take someone as important and iconic as Tyler, the Creator and reduce him to like always-on social media and I fully understand that coming out of my mouth, but it’s also the environment that we’re in where it’s like that’s the game that we’re playing so I think that, to me, is missing and then I think also that big tent pole creative activation so that like Travis Scott Fortnite, Marshmello Fortnite, that like really cutting edge, future forward, brand partnership, collaboration, creative temple that everyone’s like, “Whoa, that’s the thing,” ’cause, to me, it’s like the thing that everyone was talking about with the billboards and that’s very traditional media. It was great earned media because everyone was talking about a handful of billboards popping up around the world, but it wasn’t super future facing or anything like that.
So it’s like — and maybe that’s coming, like maybe that, you know, whatever he’s gonna do is coming, but just — there’s a very clear world that he’s created and he’s creating and I think that trying to incorporate some more kind of, yeah, that marquee creative event that, you know, like everyone’s like, “Oh my god, you were there when Tyler dropped blah,” or like, “Did you go to blah?” like whatever that thing is, I think that that is missing and that might still be to come.
Dan: Let’s take a quick break to hear a word from this week’s sponsor.
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Dan: That’s a good point. I do think that there’s a great opportunity for him to be able to tap into this just given all the capabilities and everything that’s possible now and given his place and his importance at his record label. I mean, there’s not too many more artists that are signed on a record label that have more priorities than him, especially now just given the artists that have dropped, who hasn’t, and the timeframe right now.
That said, I do know it’s very difficult to extend the life of an album, especially in the modern era. Things just change so quickly. For instance, I think about J. Cole and I feel like if he was to even put something else out that was Off-Season related, it would almost have to remind us about the Off-Season again because of how much it’s just changed from like a conversation perspective, where, in so many ways, it almost reminds me of what’s happening in movies or anything related to streaming where something captures the consciousness for a short amount of time and then people move on to something else and if you’re able to — and I think that definitely became tougher in the pandemic, but if you’re able to capture that, it’s great.
I think tours are obviously a good way to do that, like I think what The Weeknd was able to do to extend everything related to After Hours and “Blinding Lights,” that was pretty good and I think he was able to do that because every few months, there was something else, whether he made sure he was wearing that same red suit at every awards show, every appearance, there was that AI thing that he launched on Spotify, there was that TikTok virtual concert. There was something that was there each of these times and he really didn’t let, I would say, maybe six weeks go by without another reminder of like, “Oh, yeah, there’s The Weeknd pushing this.”
Dan: Tyler, I don’t know if he necessarily has the desire to play the games the same way that The Weeknd did because I think obviously part of the frustration is that The Weeknd checked all those boxes of things you need to do to try to win, you know, and get all the accolades and he doesn’t even get nominated for things, so that doesn’t exactly reinforce those things.
I also know that, from a reach perspective, The Weeknd is just a bigger star than Tyler just being, you know, objective and relative so some of that can be different but just given everything Tyler has done, could Camp Flog Gnaw, if he plans to have it later this year, have a Tyler Baudelaire theme? Like that could be really cool. So I think there’s opportunity there.
Dan: How important do you think like merch is? Because I know that’s something that he’s spoken about where he necessarily didn’t want to just slap t-shirts on and he commented on that, he only did a few things with Igor and maybe just a thing or two here but I do think that merch in general is something that just helps extend the life of these things, especially given some of the artists that we named. What do you think about his decision to not do it?
Amber: I get where this decision came from. I know, in a lot of interviews, he’s talking about the fact that he hates merch and that, you know, he’s got two fashion brands and doesn’t wanna slap his face on a t-shirt. Fully understand that from a creative perspective.
From a strategic perspective, I think it’s a gaping hole because people, from a fan and like a consumer psychology, they — like from a fan perspective, fans wanna commemorate moments and that’s the role that merch plays so it’s like it’s cool that, you know, you can have great looking merch and it’d be like fashionable and you wanna wear it and stuff but, at the end of the day, people wear merch as a signal to say that “I was at this event, I am a part of this person, I support this person, this artist, and my supporting that artist says something about me. It says that I am cultured and this is my aesthetic taste, this is the world that I exist in and these are the type of events that I go to,” and so, by not having merch, I think from — you miss out on that, that like evangelism, almost, and that ability for the fans to be able to like get on the hype train and then also to commemorate things and then you have, you know, a piece of clothing that is in somebody’s wardrobe that they might cherish for many, many years, or like, you know, pass down to their kids or becomes their favorite vintage shirt, all that kind of stuff.
I do think that from a fan perspective, the merch is important. And I mean, it can be a significant revenue driver, particularly if you’re an artist like Travis Scott or something, but he’s got these two fashion brands and it seems — he seems to be an artist that is far more creatively led than like playing the game.
Dan: Do you think this is Tyler’s peak though? Like how do you think about that? And that’s something I think about, like you don’t think so?
Amber: Nah, I don’t. I think more so from like the landscape, I think, unfortunately, with the pandemic, we’re like because just from like a consumer point of view, everyone’s still stuck at home and experiencing artists through their phones or like online, things are moving way quicker. I think you can see also the charts are way more volatile based on viral songs so it’s like things go really quickly in and out and I think, in the event — in absence of touring, you don’t have these like extended life cycles of records and so things come and go.
So, I wouldn’t say that anything that’s released in this pandemic era is gonna be the peak of any artist’s creative output because we’re so limited in terms of what you can actually do from a marketing perspective and I know he’s like announced tour dates and stuff, I think just yesterday, but I think that this like live streaming, this like sitting at home live streaming, you know, many parts of the world are still in lockdown and so they’re not gonna be able to like go to, yeah, either go to shows, not that touring is like the main point but it’s certainly a really critical element of like the actual in-person live experience and that like deepening the fan connection to a body of work and I think, without having that, you lose a lot of that, just the power of the memorability and the connection with audiences and so I don’t, yeah, I don’t think — it’s not necessarily Tyler, the Creator Call Me If You Get Lost specific about if this is his peak, but I think the environment and the circumstances that are put forward on us at the moment are so challenging in order to be able to really make that person sitting at home being like, “This is my favorite song forever,” like, “This is my favorite —” if they’re introduced to a new artist in this time, I think they need all the, you know, the experiences like seeing him at a club and going to shows and driving their friends’ places and playing it in the car and all that kind of stuff that you just don’t get because we’re just experiencing everything through a phone at the moment.
Dan: Right. Yeah, that’s a fair, I think, qualification for a lot of this, I think it’s hard to evaluate it from that perspective. What I will say about Tyler, though, just given the fact that like the slow and steady rise of things, it’s not like there was gonna be some sharp decline the same way that I think artists that very much relied on the system had had it —
Dan: — but because of who Tyler is and I think his own desires and limitations to not do certain things, he isn’t, by definition and those choices, he isn’t going to be as big of a star as like a Weeknd or a Travis Scott, like from that type of perspective, ’cause he just probably wouldn’t allow himself to do the type of things that they’ve done, not in a bad way to them but that’s just kinda how it is.
So I do think that the things that he’s done like these commercials and brand partnerships for your McDonald’s, your Cokes, or you’re selling on Madison Square Garden, or even as big as Igor was and how big the last Camp Flog Gnaw was, I do think that’s probably the biggest that we’ll see.
I don’t think that means we can’t see that again in the future, I think you definitely can, like he can continue this on for a few years but if that’s the current level and the next level up is like outdoor stadium status or, you know, selling 500,000 in a week or whatever it is, I just don’t think that we’ll see that because that just isn’t him.
Amber: Yeah. Do you wanna talk a little bit about this filling the dream, this DJ Drama mixtape, and then going into this rollout being a sign of acceptance?
Dan: Yeah, I mean, for him, this was an opportunity to do something that checked a box in terms of Tyler’s acceptance and role in hip-hop. I think, for so long, even though Tyler branded himself and assigned himself as the outcast because of how he grew up, because of how he is perceived, he was able to compartmentalize a lot of things and he even said this in recent interviews, for instance, like when BET had reached out, he at first kind of, you know, disregarded those types of opportunities but when they came calling, he’s like, “Okay, no, I grew up on this network. It will be great to be part of this.
Thanks for having me,” and I think a lot of that ties into some of this album too because just the concept of who DJ Drama is and being able to now do a tape with someone, because I think DJ Drama represented a lot of what was big and popular at the time when Tyler was seen as the strongest level of outcast back in the blog era when so many artists and there was such a strong movement of artists breaking out and people like Drake or Kid Cudi or Lupe and all these artists that I think rose from that that we came to know, Tyler couldn’t get placement on those blogs and there were plenty of public yelling matches between him and the owners and the people, the editors, the chiefs of those blogs so him being able to do that, it’s kind of like, “No, I’m here,” right? So he can say those things.
I remember there was a tweet that someone had put out about him right before he had won a Grammy — saying that he would never win a Grammy and then he ended up winning a Grammy, right? There was also — you hear in his lyrics, he’s talked about the fact that he’s sold out Madison Square Garden a few times now in different songs, that’s important to him because I think there’s certain venues and certain things like selling out Madison Square Garden, selling out the Staples Center that are like, boom, they’re images, people don’t forget those and it’s a status of, “Yeah, you’re here,” and, for him, those are all signs and it’s clear that even though he’s achieved so many of these things and now, you tie that in with some of the branding campaigns and opportunities that he’s had recently that have kind of fallen in line with this album as well, whether it was Coca-Cola or some of the others, there’s clearly like a, “Boom, this is a stamp of me being here, this is what I’m doing,” and I think that is a sign of, yeah, that acceptance, that importance, and even though he’s not someone that’s overtly trying to be accepted, I think that part of him still, you know, really likes when he is, even if it’s a company that had disregarded him for not or wouldn’t have given him an opportunity 8, 10 years ago,
Amber: That was actually something that surprised me a bit of how genuinely, it seems to be genuinely grateful of like all these looks and so in a lot of these interviews that he’s in at the moment or even on just social, like he gives all these, I don’t know, a lot of artists will look at like a TV performance or like a Grammy or something, they’ll be like, “It’s rigged, it means nothing,” or like — or just something really insensitive but he genuinely seems really like pleased and thankful and grateful, which is really, I don’t know, it’s really nice to see, I think —
Amber: — and took me by surprise, especially if you think about his alter ego, which is just like almost above everything. It’s actually really nice to go like, “I actually really wanted to be on BET and when they asked me and when I performed a song that was the hardest rap on my record and I killed it then I got these compliments from these other artists that were there,” I thought that was really nice.
Dan: Yeah, it speaks to the human element, right? And there is an aspect of him that I think is probably true with a lot of people, right? When the Grammys get something wrong, the narrative is, “Why do we trust this award show in the first place? Why do we put stock in it? They’ve messed it up so many times.” When someone that we like win a Grammy, it’s like, “Yes,” like, “Let’s go,” you celebrate, right? And —
Dan: — if we’re being rational, you can’t have it both ways, but we wanna be able to have it both ways, right? So I do see Tyler as someone that, you know, easily could have said to himself at points, “Yeah, screw them. I don’t care what they’re doing. I’m gonna continue doing my thing,” but, on the other hand, yeah, when those accolades come, “Oh, yeah, no, like thank you so much. I’m eternally grateful,” and —
Dan: — that’s just kind of how entertainment works.
Amber: Yeah, absolutely.
Dan: So I hope everyone enjoyed this. I mean, we were able to cover a bunch. We talked about the rollout itself and what he specifically did for different steps, then we also took a step back and talked about Tyler, specifically. What type of artist was he leading up to this point? What were some of those key moments in his career?
And I think, with that, so many of the things he’s doing are linked which made the conversation so key, whether we’re talking about what he could or could have not done from a merchandise or from a branding or collaboration and I think, most importantly, what this next six months or what this next year will look like because it’s gonna be different given the pandemic and it’s also gonna be different given the fact that he released this album in this era where things are even more continuous than they were in Igor and he’s a really creative artist so I think he could be a test case that a lot of people are going to be learning from, especially in the next year or so.
Amber: Awesome. Thanks, Dan. That was wicked.
Dan: Thank you.