-Joe Pitts (@headtowall)
Living in a city like Philadelphia that is experiencing its own underground music renaissance, something ever on my mind is how to facilitate better platforms to help artists achieve success. About 6 months I posted what turned out to be a pretty controversial editorial on the state of the hip hop and urban music industry in Philadelphia. I vented some of my frustrations with how the industry in this city is constructed, and after taking time to really think about it, I think there exists some issues with our generation of creatives that might be hindering the ability for the talented and dedicated individuals to achieve success: the level of business intelligence that is collectively shared. If the individuals and the scene want to grow so too must the business acumen of everyone involved. I can only speak for the scene I am most involved in, and the urban music scene in Philly has an abundance of talented artists, but what about talented businessmen? I think we can grow in this department.
The point I am trying to make is greater than the urban music scene in Philadelphia; for anyone trying to make it in the music business, you need to have an appreciation for smart business decisions. Personally, I think what holds a lot of Philadelphia back is our city's habit of considering factors outside of business when making what are essentially business decisions. Call it "feels" or emotion or personal beefs, but I think a lot of times people let their feelings get in the way of opportunities they could benefit from. I know some people choose not to support Cult Classic events because we might be perceived as a threat to others who do similar things as us, and that's really unfortunate. It's unfortunate only 250 people came to Makonnen and Key's Philadelphia show because this means one thing: guess who's not coming back to Philly next time there's a tour? Why would a platinum recording artist who sells out 1000 person venues come back to Philly if he can't even sell out a much smaller venue like Underground Arts?
You might be asking yourself, "what does a Makonnen show have to do with the urban music industry in Philly?" It has everything to do with the urban music industry in Philly. When the label sees that no one cares to support a popping artist here, do you think they are going to bother bringing similar artists back to the city next time? Doubtful. And less shows means less opportunities for Philadelphia artists, brands and promoters to get put in the mix with the big wigs we all need to be fostering relationships with to grow the scene.
I was struggling with why some really cool events are not as successful as they should be. Conversely, some really corny events in Philadelphia are huge successes. People in this city will pay $10 to see their friend DJ but won't pay $10 to support a touring artist coming to the city to engage with new collectives and fans. Why could this be? Often times I think people in Philly choose to only support their friends regardless of that friend's true talent over others who while they might not be friends are in fact more talented. More often than not I think factors other than talent dictate who's "popping" in Philly, and I find that unfortunate. There are so many people doing creative things in this city, which in a way over-saturates our creative market. But the talent still has to shine through. However, for that to happen some people might need to mature and start appreciating true talent, and I'm not just talking about talented artists but talented businessmen. Organizing events, promotion, curating lineups, marketing: these things all take skill.
Moreover, there are many organizers in this city who might benefit from a little more business education. I'm not going to name individuals and companies, but I know there are plenty out there who may appear to be successful on the surface, but might be having trouble behind the scenes. It's one thing to execute a great event; it's another thing to profit off it enough so that you can keep your ship afloat. Trust me, we've all been there.
For the fans and the profits to increase, I think an underground scene like the one growing in Philadelphia has to really amp up in the business intellect department. With that said, I present the best online video series on music and business that you aren't watching: Renman Live. My buddy Dayo showed me this series, and it's incredible. Steve "Renman" Rennie is a music business guy most known for managing the band Incubus. On his show he brings on incredibly talented music industry (and other industry) people to discuss business. Below you can view one of my favorites with record executive and A&R guru Nick Raphael most known for his involvement with Jay Z, Sam Smith and Five Seconds of Summer. This particular interview is great because he talks about things lots of us in Philly already do but he has the 25 year experience to back it up: club promoting and owning, DJing, A&R, record deals, and management. Enjoy: