Drake, Rihanna, and the collaboration generation
The rumours started circulating earlier this month. Drake and Rihanna were seen partying at a London nightclub till 6am. It was allegedly the fourth night in a row that the two of them had been sighted there. The club, TAPE London, has its own recording studio, and co-founder and partner, Zues Sherlock, shared photos of both Drake and Rihanna visiting the studio on two separate occasions during that four-day period. What’s more, Pharrell Williams was reportedly in attendance during at least one of those visits.
Tabloids were quick to pounce. What could this possibly mean? Were Drizzy and RiRi rekindling their widely discussed (and vaguely substantiated) relationship? Were they flirting with the idea of a fifth collaboration, this time with mega-hit-maker Williams thrown into the mix? Were these giants of mainstream pop really considering deluging the world in another sonic tsunami?
For many of us, these questions might seem intensely unimportant. But Drake and Rihanna aren’t just highly photogenic humans adept at performing easily digestible pop songs. In a world where we’re all relentlessly encouraged to market ourselves, they’re also instantly recognizable brands – like Apple or Google. And behind brands “Drake” and “Rihanna” are skilled teams of people collaborating to ensure that the expectations – from music fans, concert goers, record labels, and more – are met.
The business of collaboration
Of the four collaborations already undertaken between Drake and Rihanna, only one is credited with having less than 5 writers (Take Care, 2012). Generally, their songs together have taken seven or eight people to write – not to mention another team of collaborators to record, mix and master. Directors have then been brought in to conceptualize and shoot videos – a key marketing tool for brand dissemination. Later, as imminent album release dates neared, savvy corporations enlisted their marketing teams (like Samsung did for Rihanna) to sponsor upcoming albums linked to these singles, and support subsequent tours in exchange for the superstars’ endorsement. After which fashion designers, choreographers, dancers, lighting, and sound technicians all made sure that paying audiences got the biggest bang for their bucks, concert after concert, country after country.
Clearly, the success of Drake and Rihanna has, to a very large extent, been dependent on their willingness to collaborate not just with each other, but with a small army of creative individuals. And this positive attitude towards collaboration mirrors the mind-set of their generation, the Millennials – who are expected to comprise half the workforce by 2020. The notion of a “sharing” economy is second-nature to this demographic – and CEO’s who fail to create collaborative environments for their employees risk seeing their businesses fall into obsolescence.
How Millennials are changing the future of work
“This generation is all about collaboration; wants to impact the greater good; and is not too interested in how things were done in the past,” Geil Browning, in Inc., writes about the impact of today’s younger generation of workers. “In fact, the top-down approach that characterizes many companies may be one reason for the high turnover rates associated with Millennials–the square-peg-in-a-round-hole problem.”
Forward-thinking entrepreneurs are taking note and reacting. Ted Devine, for example – who, in 2012, became CEO of Insureon (named one of fastest-growing insurance companies in Inc.’s annual “Inc. 500” for 2014) – instituted a company-wide shift in how the business was run, beginning with the workspace itself. He created a completely open floor plan – no offices or cubicle dividers – at company headquarters. Quoted in Entrepreneur, Devine – acknowledging that at least half of his employees are under 28 – explained how this open floor plan symbolizes his new business and leadership attitude: “For me it says a couple things about leadership… No walls, no barriers, no hierarchy. Everybody can talk to everybody. Everybody can participate in a decision. We work together.”
The future of collaboration
Evan Rosen, author of The Culture of Collaboration, said:
“Collaboration inspires people to think clearly and independently, share their thoughts, constructively confront one another, and through synergy develop ideas, produce products and service and create greater value. Companies and organizations are facing challenges far too complex for us to go off in corners and get stuck in silos and go it alone in the workplace.”
Nobody needs to tell this to Drake or Rihanna. From instagramming the names of all the producers on his tracks, to actively seeking inspiration and aid from writers in composing his verses, Drake’s been celebrating and lucratively benefiting from collaboration for years; while Rihanna’s long list of musical cohorts (beyond Drake) – people like Jay Z, Nicki Minaj and Eminem, just to name a few – have helped to propel her into the upper echelons of the pop world.
So whether you’re the CEO of an established online insurance company or just trying to get a startup off the ground, prepare to utilize your interpersonal skills, and get ready for the age of collaboration.
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