Urban Legends: Hip-hop on top
Chair: Raye Cosbert, Metropolis Music (UK)
Panellists: Max Lee, Earth Agency (UK) | ShaoDow, DiY Gang Entertainment (UK) | Caroline Simionescu-Marin, WME (UK)
Chaired by Metropolis Music MD Raye Cosbert, ILMC’s first genre-specific urban music panel discussed entrepreneurship, professionalism and artist expectations in the growing international hip-hop scene.
Cosbert said urban music has, in recent years, “gained a level of professionalism comparable to other genres.” Professionalism is “something you have to bring to the table,” he explained. “If you think about jazz, rock & roll, punk… what made them all last [beyond the initial excitement] was the level of professionalism injected into the scene.”
“Everyone’s more professional because they realise they can make money now,” added WME’s Caroline Simionescu-Marin. “People see [British rapper] Dave buying a Lamborghini at 21. The younger artists see people creating great businesses.”
Max Lee from Earth Agency said part of the appeal of the genre for young people is that rappers are often seen as role models. “It’s aspirational,” he said. “The people who are listening to Dave are usually not that different to Dave.”
“It’s really a perfect storm of technology, meaning [the artists] are so accessible,” continued Simionescu-Marin. “With Instagram, Snapchat, live video, etc., you’re taking out any middle person – it’s like watching a TV show, these artists are always on. There’s a side of the rap/hip-hop space where it’s completely unfiltered.”
ShaoDow, the only artist on the panel, said the growth of music streaming has bolstered hip-hop artists’ careers, but warned: “You can’t rely on streaming to pay your bills. I was doing things like opening pop-up shops in shopping centres, signing for fans before shows, way before streaming was a thing… I did a deal with Nintendo where I play games with fans before the show. You’ve got to think outside the box.”
Lee said urban’s growth in the live space has been a “gradual change” and praised managers that have grown their artists with “real strategy and a logical plan. In live, you can the see the growth: look at the Glastonbury headliners and festival line-ups everywhere.”
“In ye olden days, hip-hop shows were pretty shambolic,” added Cosbert. “You’d get some artists come over from the US, do 20 minutes at Brixton [Academy in London] and think I should pay them the full amount.
“But it’s really changed, especially the level of the live performance. You get artists now talking about production for a 300-cap. show; they know they need to create an experience.”