So Much Power: Business Lessons Learned From Ye’s Remarkable Donda Rollout
Credit: Kanye West

Thursday night in Chicago, Kanye West culminated a reported multimillion-dollar earning run toward an album that hasn’t even been released yet. 

The remarkable feat is the first of its kind for artists of his ilk: Launching an album listening tour of sorts performing songs that no one has heard before, yet managing to attract excited ticket holders in large venues to the point of bursting at the seams. Last night for instance, in his hometown, the Donda Experience nearly packed out Soldier Field, which seats more than 61,000 people.

What’s even more intriguing is that there hasn’t even been an official album release date yet. Nonetheless, the power that the enigmatic entertainer commands is well-deserved. With a music and fashion career that spans over a decade, he has built a die-hard fan base that will follow him wherever he goes. Even his detractors can’t help but watch. And if they attended the latest installment of the Donda Experience, they got an eyeful. 

Co-conceptualized by Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia, Ye pulled out all the stops: An almost exact replica of the childhood home he shared with his beloved mother, surprise appearances from Da Baby, Marilyn Manson, Senseeah and Kim Kardashian, and even a closing act that left him on fire. Literally.  

It’s no surprise that he’s already reportedly raked in millions throughout the duration of the rollout. After years of meticulously cementing his place among icons, he’s definitely made some immensely impressive money moves that we should be taking notes on. Here’s a rundown of some of the financial lessons to be learned from Ye’s latest pop culture coup. 

He Recognized the Power of  Timing.

His forthcoming 10th album DONDA—named after his late mother Donda West—was first teased over a year ago in March, then slated for a summer release. Six months later, in mid-2021, there was still no sign of the record. Although he himself hasn’t commented directly on the reasoning behind the pushed back timeline, it wouldn’t be surprising if he scheduled the release to coincide with the world’s reopening, making it easier to produce larger-scale promotional experiences without a shelter-in-place mandate looming over everyone’s heads. 

It should also be noted that building anticipation for more than a year has given him time to capture everyone’s attention, thus improving his chances for a well-received project. 

Key takeaway: Spend time creating the best product or service you can, and releasing when the time feels right for you. 

He Prioritized Brand Authenticity

Since his entry into the public eye nearly two decades ago, Kanye’s unique style and personality captivated everyone. From his signature carefully crafted music production to his unique fashion imprint, there’s no one quite like him. Now, he’s “productized” his commitment to singularity to the point of billions of dollars through his Yeezy brand and other business ventures. 

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His most recent show of authenticity, in tandem with his album rollout, will likely increase his fortune even more. 

Long referring to himself as “Ye” in his music and social media, it was recently reported that he’s making it official with a legal name change. This move is predicted to be a brilliant business decision.

 “Authenticity is what drives relevance today, and the biggest risk for a fashion brand is to not be relevant,” says Angelique Rewers, CEO of consulting firm BoldHaus told Forbes. “What’s so beautiful about this… is [that] this is even more authentically Kanye because this is what his inner circle has called him for a long time—it’s an authentic evolution of his brand.” 

Key takeaway: Prioritize exploring brand authenticity for your business and be sure to center that throughout your company’s growth journey. 

He Persisted Through Financial Challenges.

Just about five years ago, Kanye made headlines when he pleaded with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg via Twitter to funnel $1 billion into his “ideas,” because he was personally $53 million in debt. 

This sent a shockwave of confusion through many of us due to the entrepreneur’s reported global success with his Yeezy brand and music work. Turns out he didn’t need a dime from Zuckerberg because he pivoted and made some key business decisions that catapulted his profits in less than a year. 

Now he’s continuing his innovative business tactics with paid ticketed album listening parties that offer a concert experience people seem to have no problem shelling out major cash for. 

Key takeaway: It’s important to remain nimble, especially in times of financial challenge. Be careful of closing yourself off from opportunities that fall outside of your comfort zone but which could also potentially help you achieve your financial goals. 

Bringing It All Together

Over the years, Kanye has given us his heart and soul through music, and his keen eye via his fashion. But judging by his recent work, he’s also been offering us some key advice that we should heed when it comes to our own business lives.