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The ten minutes after you click confirm to post a new profile picture on Facebook or a new Insta on the ‘gram is an emotional rollercoaster. How many people are liking it? Who’s commenting? How do you make sure it reached the biggest audience? If you don’t get enough likes you have to delete it, because otherwise it’s bad for your brand. In ten minutes, either each like is a shot of confidence or the lack of likes is causing you to sweat buckets.

Obviously it’s not such a dramatic affair, but that sense of longing for recognition exists on some level for most of us. Just go on your popular friend’s profile and chances are someone made a comment about how many likes the picture got. I found myself in a similar situation recently when I posted a new profile picture. At first I didn’t notice it, but I was returning to check my picture every 15 minutes to see how many new likes I got. By the time I realized the hold Facebook had on me I chose to stop getting notifications. The absurdity of how much our lives are controlled by social media is not a novel idea, but people tend to ignore how transient many of our friendships nowadays are.

One of the best selling points of university is the friends that you meet during your stay. You meet people through your residence, faculty, and extracurricular activities. This is undoubtedly true, and I have met a number of wonderful people who I would otherwise not have met. As you become more involved, you’re more likely to net a profile picture with more than 100 likes. But how well do you know the 179 people who liked your picture? Can you recall three personal details about them?

Your social sphere in university is a bubble, and when it inevitably pops you have to be prepared to come to terms with the sham that most of it was. There’s probably a good chunk of your “friends” on Facebook who you wouldn’t say more than “hi” to. If you weren’t resigned to that reality, the bubble bursting has a large toll on your mental health. You may realize that you haven’t formed lifelong friendships – you were just sucked in by the likes and increasing friend count on your social media profiles.

I’ve painted a sad picture here, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There’s nothing wrong with knowing half the people on campus. In fact, there’s a lot of positives that come along with a large network, and the skin deep friendships you make don’t discredit your experiences. You just have to understand that this is a reality. Rejoice in the 20 retweets you got, but don’t be deluded by them.

So as this school year comes to a close and you leave your friends for the summer, think about all the people you met this past year. How well do you know them? More importantly, if you want to know them better, reach out. Take the first step to grow the relationship from acquaintance to homie. If there are people you want to keep in your life you have to fight for it.

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Far from its once derogatory nature, identifying as a “geek” or a “nerd” has quickly grown into a cultural norm in society. Whether it’s superheroes dominating major motion pictures, leaders in technology becoming idolized celebrities, or conventions like Comic Con attracting over 150,000 people to one event, the growth of nerd culture is undeniable.

However, the “nerd community” is still far from perfect. Yes, nerd culture is becoming less stigmatized, and yes, people are embracing various forms of media that would once be labeled “lame” or “uncool,” but the community still remains largely dominated by the male half of the population.

Specifically, women in various “nerdy” fields have struggled to break into what has and continues to be, a male dominated scene. What’s worse, rather than fighting to fix this issue, some in the community seem more comfortable fighting against the inclusion of women in this scene, rather than embracing their interest with open arms.

These challenges are present across various groups, online and in person. For example, a recent controversial video by Twitch streamer Sky Williams, which criticized the behavior of female streamers on Twitch, erupted into a large discussion of women’s place in the world of gaming.

Filled with aggressive tweets and frustrated fans, this controversy is just one of many examples that reflects a culture still fighting the discrimination that women experience in male-dominated, “nerdy” fields.

Unsurprisingly, McMaster is subject to these same forces. While nerd culture has grown, many of the same challenges women face on a global scale are still experienced on campus. Thankfully, some organizations are hoping to change that.

Barbara Karpinski and Katrina Pullia are two of the founding members of the McMaster G.E.E.K. Squad, a club that’s worked to not only provide a hub for nerd culture at McMaster, but also helped break down the barriers that are holding back the community as a whole, including sexism.

After starting a small Facebook group between some like-minded friends, the club quickly took off. In a span of only two years, the club has grown from 10 members to over 600. This growth is something Pullia and Karpinski believe is due partially to the increasing presence of nerd culture in society.

“It’s definitely becoming less stigmatized,” said Karpinski. “It’s no longer something you have to hide or be afraid to show people. Instead it’s something you can use to connect with people and make friends.”

“Yeah, it used to be ‘you still do that? You still play video games? That’s so lame, you’re a loser,’ but it’s not like that anymore,” said Pullia. “It’s seen a big twist away from something ‘lame people do’ towards something that everyone can do to have fun.”

Still, Karpinski and Pullia admitted that the club has not been immune to sexism. In particular, some female members in the club have often found themselves at times, subject to intense skepticism regarding whether they are a “real” fan.

“We’ve definitely have had some issues for sure. I think the main issue is, if a guy doesn’t know a move from a game, or a character from a show, no one calls them out on it,” said Pullia. “However, if a girl doesn’t know, you hear: ‘do you even do this? Are you here just for the boys? Do you even game?’ We get that a lot, the ‘are you a real gamer?’”

“Right now our ratio [of members] is predominately boys. At some events we’ve had like eight or even ten boys to every girl,” said Pullia. “Because of that, we’re trying to work on bringing more women into the club, since it can definitely be intimidating for a girl to walk in a room with 30-40 boys, and have all the eyes turn … When a girl walks into a group like that, and they all stare at her and it goes silent, yeah, don’t do that. Girls tell us at times that [boys] just don’t know how to interact with them. Guys often come off as second guessing girls’ knowledge.”

However, Pullia doesn’t believe these kinds of judgements come from a bad place. “I really don’t think it’s anything malicious at this point; it’s more just ignorance unfortunately.”

For many women, however, these judgements can make these communities seem unwelcoming. When asked if she had any advice to give to women struggling with the challenges of being accepted in these various “nerdy” fields, Pullia said, “I like to remind people that their feelings are valid; you are who you say you are. If you’re a great gamer, you are a great gamer. There isn’t a quantitative scale that can tell you what you are, or what you enjoy. If you love anime, you love anime; nobody can take that away from you. Everyone here is here for a reason, so it should be an equal space. It can be frustrating when a lot of our [male] members say they want more girls to come to our events, but they don’t realize that it’s that kind of behavior that’s scaring them off. We’re trying to remind people that gender is irrelevant in the world of gaming.”

In spite of these challenges, Karpinski and Pullia believe the most important part of the G.E.E.K. Squad club is its ability to create a safe, judgment-free space. All of the challenges the club is facing right now are something that the founding members believe they can overcome in time.

“I think G.E.E.K. Squad is definitely something good that’s happening on campus and we’re proud to be a part of that,” said Pullia. “People dismiss it as ‘the video game club on campus,’ but it’s so much more than that. It gives people a safe place to share their interests, and to just hang out and have fun. It drops the stigma, and a lot of people don’t realize how much that means to our members.”

While the growth of nerd culture is still trying to iron out some of its kinks, it’s clear that groups like the McMaster G.E.E.K. Squad are trying to change that, one step at a time.

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Maybe it’s the time of year, or a buildup of stress, but I have to get something off my chest. Lately, I’ve been noticing a big, huge clock hanging over my head again, all day, as I rush from one thing to the next.

I have to tell you that I’m trying my best. Even though some days feel like an obstacle course as I try to hit all my marks, I’ve gotten the hang of this time-management thing and coordinated my days to remember when everything closes, when the buses leave, and dozens of other things that exist within your linear time frame. But life is starting to feel like everything is scheduled from morning to night. There is no spontaneity, and no time to even go to the washroom without throwing everything off. There is no joy going about the day when you feel like time is literally whipping us to get from one place to the next in a maze of never-ending meetings and obligations.

I know not all of this is your fault. After all, you aren’t spatially extended and your hourglass simply keeps track of our world. It’s your job to remind us that we can’t do everything we’d like. Stacks of books and endless YouTube videos are there for us to choose from, not to consume in its entirety. Then again, that works both ways. Sorry, but I haven’t learned how to juggle multiple things while balancing a rubber ball. It may look manageable but handling a full-time course load and job search leaves almost anyone spent.

It also doesn’t help that daylight “saving” time is hitting us now. And I don’t really see what I’m saving when I lose an hour of sleep. Especially when we get up during cold mornings, which are now once again dark. Yes, it’s nice to have 25 hours in a day that one time in the fall, but it hardly seems worth it when you ask for it back in a few short months.

With all this talk of mental stress, I have begun to feel that it’s not me, it’s actually you. Even as we do most things “on time” the people whom we inevitably disappoint only see failures, not attempts to bend space-time as we race against your clock. I know there’s nothing you can do, and you’d say it’s out of your hands, but just be glad we can’t switch places. As we calculate the years in our youth and maximum number of seconds in any given lifetime, please show us some respect. You’re a hard taskmaster, and when you’re finally done with us all that’s left is to meet the one in the big black cloak with the big scythe.

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Even though it’s only eight episodes in, ABC’s latest comedy Fresh Off the Boat is already making waves. Boasting a 90 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the show has quickly joined the ranks of promising new comedies like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, becoming a must-see title for 2015 television. However, what makes Fresh Off the Boat unique isn’t the laughs or the gags, it’s the cast themselves.

From the beginning, Fresh Off the Boat was marketed as an important departure from the standard white protagonists seen in practically every sitcom in the history of television, towards a focus on the lives of Asian Americans. This claim only gained more attention when Fresh Off the Boat received criticism from the very man the show was based on. In a lengthy personal essay on the site Vulture, author Eddie Huang criticized show creator Nahnatchka Khan and executive producer Melvin Mar for taking away the critical edges of his creative vision, in favour of something more family and network friendly.

Thankfully, with each episode it becomes clear that the show’s positive ratings aren’t a coincidence; Fresh Off the Boat is undeniably a success. In fact, even though Eddie Huang had issues with the show with regards to its creative vision, he has since praised its ability to break down some of the stereotypes surrounding what defines an Asian family in America. To Huang, Fresh Off the Boat give Asian Americans the ability to define themselves, rather than restricting that definition to the few characters in mainstream media.

All this certainly left me very curious. While I don’t belong to an ethnic minority, my own social circle is typical of anyone who grew up in the GTA; most of my friends aren’t white. So when I watch television shows packed with only white characters, I honestly don’t feel as connected given how different my own upbringing was. If such a small difference can produce a noticeable disconnect, even when the rest of the material is from my own culture, actual minorities are clearly experiencing an even greater disconnect between their own experiences, and what they see on television.

Still, some people may disagree with the idea of diverse representation being necessary or impactful, and that’s what makes Fresh Off the Boat so effective. Right from the very first episode, the lead characters within the show are already experiencing situations directly unique to their race or culture. This makes Fresh Off the Boat not just an engaging comedy, but as an existing example of how diversity can change one’s perspective. If you’re one of the skeptics, watch a few episodes of the show and you’ll quickly see just how different others’ experiences can be.

For example, when the main character Eddie starts his first few days of Grade 6, he gets criticized in the cafeteria for eating Chinese food that the other school children describe as “worms.” These kinds of situations, though subtle, accurately reflect some of the challenges presented to those that belong to a cultural minority, and for many people watching at home, they’re something they haven’t ever considered. It’s likely the more you watch Fresh Off the Boat, the more you’ll gain perspective on how other cultures go through life.

So while it’s certainly not immune to criticism, Fresh Off the Boat is a show that’s both culturally significant, and hilarious. If you’re looking for something to get you laughing and thinking, this show is a must watch.

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The McMaster Student Union General Assembly voted in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion on March 23.

Students filled Burridge Gym at 4 p.m. in anticipation for a monumentally important decision. After a short president's report from MSU President Teddy Saull and an Engineering Without Borders briefing, the stage was set.

The motion for the MSU to join the international BDS movement was then brought forth. The BDS motion asks the MSU to divest from companies that profit from "Israeli war crimes, occupation and oppression of Palestinians." A few students spoke passionately in support of and against BDS sanctions. However, the motion was quickly put to a vote, leaving some to wonder whether this allowed for substantive debate.

The motion passed with 622 in support, 28 against and 77 abstentions. Quorum was pegged at three percent, or 632 students and with 727 votes accounted for, the motion was binding.

Additionally, a motion to increase inclusivity at Bridges Cafe - specifically to adhere to religiously observant practices - was discussed. The motion passed, with ease. This motion was originally voted on at the beginning of the GA but was brought to a revote to make it binding on the MSU once quorum had been reached after the BDS vote.

An additional motion, one that wasn't originally on the agenda, was brought forth. The motion originally proposed the election of Vice Presidents by the student body starting in 2016, but was then amended to propose that the MSU hold a referendum in 2016 that would decide whether the student body wants to elect MSU VPs at-large. Despite its sudden and surprising proposal, the motion also passed. But the decision was non-binding, as quorum failed to be reached. The issue will be discussed at the next SRA meeting. For more, read here.

 

 

The grind of midterms and assignments is almost done, exams are on the horizon, and summer looks so close. It is easy to get lost in all the possibilities that can come with it. Temptations of activities like music festivals, road trips, or even just relaxing and enjoying time off the regular school year are easy to day-dream about as work piles up.

It is easy to forget about the limitations. How much time will it take to do or travel to each activity? Could I be using it more effectively? What does my budget look like? Will I be able to do everything I want to do? What can I do if something else comes up? Summer is over before you know it and real life begins again; it should be spent as worry-free as possible. Even if you are graduating, getting a summer job, or are attending summer school, it is important to make the most out of what free time you get while the weather is shining bright.

Time management is the easiest first step. When are you busy? When are you free? What big events might you want to attend? While the later months may be difficult to do in terms of certain planned activities, you should still have a good idea of any persisting obligations and a good sense of the first few months. See what you want to do as a baseline, use the empty days to potentially plan other events, and notice how clear and concise your summer becomes with just a touch of planning.

Budget management is a little more difficult. As exciting the weather is, it will not mean much if your day-to-day expenses or less frequent purchases like clothes do not allow you to capitalize on the season. Those with jobs in other months or other financial considerations should at least have a rough idea about their spending habits. Knowing specifically what you spend on things in addition to planning what you will spend during summer will still be a great help. This also allows you to explore alternatives if you find you will not have enough to splurge on certain events. A priority list in advance is much better than being forced into one when you find out you spent too much.

Of course, budgeting your summer is a constant feedback loop that requires constant readjustments. A friend invites you up to their cottage for next weekend, events get cancelled, the boss calls you in for overtime, and the countless number of other examples that will have an effect on your planning. Having a contingency plan to adjust is important. Empty days to reschedule prior commitments, extra money in your budget that you can skim off savings to account for unexpected cases, or simply saying no to certain events are a few examples of what you can strategize and budget for.

While this is basic advice, it is still important to try and apply. Simply planning your life for the summer season will allow you to make the most of it, and maybe the good habits of budgeting and organizing will persist for the rest of the year too.

This concept sounds foreign, even as I type this: I’m not frightened of graduating. I’m excited.

For all of senior year, I’ve grappled to make sense of leaving university. The feeling of suddenly leaving behind the carefully constructed constructs that have carried us for nearly two decades is disturbing, because, frankly, we’re being disturbed. Our whole lives are being disturbed. We’re getting yanked out of the kiddies pool and being belly-flopped into the scary deep end of adulthood to desperately doggy paddle in the currents.

It used to frighten me, the enormity of it all. The world is big. The scale is overwhelming. Look in the smallest nook and you’ll get lost in its infinite depth. To think that we’re supposed to trek out into the great big unknown and to find something to call our own seems impossible.

But now it no longer scares me because there’s purpose. To leave university means growing eyes, ears, arms, legs, feet and hands to explore the world and to find something, to make something, to master something, to identify something and to create something. It’s a blank page, a white canvas, an empty stage — it’s time to write, paint and dance.

The impetus is on us to make with it what we will.

Graduating is opportunity. It’s the irresistible exuberance of the question, “what’s next?” It’s our time to shine. It’s a chance at creating fate, for us to write the narrative as we live it. It’s not a time to feel lost without direction. It’s time for getting lost so that we can find our own direction.

That’s exciting.

The world is big and the enormity is overwhelming. But if you look inside one of its infinite nooks, you will find millions of people working and pushing, voraciously getting their hands dirty and mercilessly pounding the earth for something. The momentum builds and builds to a glorious apex: the spectacle of society.

That’s the promise of graduation: an opportunity. And that’s not frightening. It’s exciting.

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Big Sean has always been a joke. From the infectious but ridiculously stupid “Dance (A$$),” to the hilarious ass shake/assquake/ass-state/ass-tray bit on “Mercy,” we’ve never stopped laughing at Big Sean. Recently, his messy break up with Glee star Naya Rivera, and current relationship with emerging diva Ariana Grande have further overshadowed his music. In 2014, the problem was that no one believed Sean had the chops to be a true rapper.

Boy, were we wrong. Big Sean comes in guns-a-blazing on his third and best studio effort, Dark Sky Paradise. In the first six tracks, Sean shows you just how effortlessly he can move between flows and how rapid his delivery can be while still maintaining his trademark humour. In addition to the ubiquitous “I Don’t F**k With You,” which is the theme song any university student should live by, Sean includes an extended version of “Paradise.” Over a Mike-Will-Made-It beat that occasionally stops completely to allow for a cappella spitting, Big Sean has two verses that will make anyone turn their head.

Kanye West executive produced the album, and his influence is strongest in the beats that are partially inspired by My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He lends a hand in “All Your Fault,” where the two rappers trade lines so effortlessly it could comfortably sit in Watch the Throne. Kanye also drops another great Kanye-ism, “I imagine that’s what Chris told Karreuche. Girls be acting like diamonds be in their coochie.” Drake, E-40, and Lil Wayne also make appearances, but Sean is never lyrically overshadowed.

The only quibble that could be made comes in the latter half of the album, where Big Sean gets personal, dark, and intense. He raps about sacrifices made for fame, failed relationships, and his journey so far competently. “One Man Can Change the World,” in particular, is a standout track about the death of Sean’s grandmother. The issue is that the transition from bangers to introspective cuts is nonexistent. Big Sean is also not a good singer, but he gives it multiple shots throughout his more reflective tracks. It doesn’t help that vocalists like Chris Brown, Jhené Aiko, Ariana Grande, and fellow G.O.O.D. music label mate John Legend constantly upstage him.

In Dark Sky Paradise, Big Sean makes a bid to join Kanye, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar at the mainstream rap table. While he’s not there yet, at least now they all know that Big Sean is no joke.

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After proving its potential in the world of television dramas with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix has shifted its attentions towards making viewers laugh. So when 30 Rock’s Tina Fey and Robert Carlock approached the streaming network with their latest brainchild Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix jumped at the chance to prove that they’re the place for smart and creative television. After 13 episodes and a series of increasingly bizarre moments, I’m happy to say that, for the most part, they were right.

From the opening theme song alone, anyone who watches Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt knows they are about to watch something unconventional. Sung through the auto-tuned voice of a shocked neighbour in the style of a viral video hits like the “Bed Intruder Song,” viewers are told the strange story of how lead character Kimmy Schmidt (played by The Office’s Ellie Kemper) was trapped in an underground bunker for 15 years by a religious cult leader who allegedly protected them from the apocalypse. After sharing her story as one of the four “Indiana mole women” on television, Kimmy decides to move to New York City with the hopes of finding somthing better.

Kimmy Schmidt’s story of a fish out of water trying to make it in New York isn’t exactly new. Coupled with this is the existence of equally familiar character types, including her eccentric roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess), an aspiring actor frustrated with his lack of stardom, and Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) the stereotypical Manhattan Stepford wife who hires Kimmy as a nanny. Because of this, much of the success of the show is dependent on whether Kemper, Tina Fey, and the rest of the team can effectively separate Kimmy Schmidt from the wealth of other sitcoms set in New York.

Every episode is unpredictable as possible by design, and this works out rather well. The smart writing that fans have come to love from 30 Rock is instantly recognizable, often firing off what feels like hundreds of one-liners and meta-jokes within a single episode. When paired with the effortlessly unique side plots throughout each episode, and a powerful cast of comedic veterans, viewers quickly realize that Kimmy Schmidt is a far cry from unoriginal.

Unfortunately, the same unique storylines that set the show apart from other competing comedies are also what can hold it back. Yes, I did find myself laughing throughout each of the show’s 13 episodes, but there were also several times where it felt like Kimmy Schmidt was more annoying than amusing. The random nature of the show only increases the chance of an episode being a hit or miss.

Despite all that, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is only in its first season, and shows more than enough promise to make up for its faults. Whether you’re a fan of 30 Rock or just looking for something to make you laugh, climb out of your nuclear bunker and turn on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

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The title of Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is poetic.

Though it was an unannounced mixtape (as stated in the handwritten credits), it qualified as an album in his contract with Cash Money Records due to its appearance on iTunes. He fulfilled his four album contract with them and released himself from their financial control. This allows Views From the 6, the official album that fans anticipated Drake would release this year, to now be completed under his own label with Cash Money unable to do anything about him leaving.

The speculation is that this could be personal. Label partner and long-time friend Lil Wayne continues to be engaged with Cash Money co-founder Bryan “Birdman” Williams in a public feud that includes a $51 million lawsuit. This is related to a lack of compensation for previous albums and the label’s refusal to release Tha Carter V. A sudden release was the best way to prevent resistance to Drake’s efforts to leave. The ransom art style of the album cover and credits could be a reference to Lil Wayne stating that he felt like a “prisoner” on the label. No one related to Cash Money Records studio is mentioned in the mixtape’s credits. Releasing it for free on Drake’s OVO label Soundcloud for a period of time is also telling of its intent.

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While this mixtape in particular is an engaging case study individually, the act of suddenly releasing an album with minimal anticipation has become increasingly more popular throughout the industry. Drake’s instance appears to be far more politically and personally focused than the norm. It is worth noting that the mixtape still debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart by selling 535,000 units in three days. This is in spite of it being a mixtape instead of an album, only being available digitally, being available for free for a period of time, without notice or direct marketing.

This trend of releasing entire albums or mixtapes without notice can be traced to when Death Grips released No Love Deep Web back in October of 2012. A website was set up to which their Twitter and Soundcloud linked to. It was also distributed through BitTorrent. Coincidentally parallel to Cash Money’s situation with Tha Carter V, the album was in protest of the unwillingness of their label, Epic Records, to release the No Love Deep Web for another year.

The group’s next sudden release, Government Plates on Nov. 13, 2013, did not have any clear reasoning behind its motive. Beyoncé released her eponymous album a month later with a nearly identical plan of no prior announcement or promotion and with videos for every track. Variations of this have been done since, and particularly within the last few months for various reasons. D’Angelo’s first album in 14 years was released with three days between the announcement of a release date and it coming out. Thom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and Ratking’s 700 Fill were also surprise releases through BitTorrent. Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü was released and performed in the middle of their continuous 24-hour online DJ set. Kanye West has already stated that his album for 2015, So Help Me God, will have a surprise release date.

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Artists are willing to embrace this mainly to prevent leaks. In Drake’s case, letting others know about the mixtape would have ruined any personal intention with its release, and most likely would have been met with resistance from Cash Money. In more conventional cases, this is a topic of piracy and money.

The typical announced album has to adjust after the fact either by ignoring them, releasing the album early, or through album streams. Björk’s 2015 album Vulnicura was an extreme example of this in that the album was officially released two months earlier than scheduled in response to an early leak. Early album streams, most popular on NPR’s “First Listen” series, allow artists to gain publicity while embracing the effects of potential leaks by allowing access to the music in advance of release. None of these options are optimal.

This also prevents marketing fatigue. Views From the 6 had been speculated about for a long time, but the addition of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’s surprise factor aided in its release. The difficulty of maintaining anticipation and marketing for an album over the course of months cannot be understated. It is even harder to embrace with the threat of leaks ruining it. Different sites, media sources, and fans will provide the publicity for an artist anyway for a surprise drop.

While If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is not an original way to release an album anymore, it provides evidence for and represents how effective surprise releasing an album is. Artists are unlikely to be as personally motivated as Drake’s situation with Cash Money Records. That does not mean a lack of personal beef will prevent this newer form of album release from continuing to gain traction and becoming more popular in all genres of music. This method makes sense both in artist-related preferences and in financial terms for the label. Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is only a small piece of a much larger industry change.

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