- Mon, 2010-08-16 12:03
Is the UK Urban scene creating a new blueprint for the shape of the music industry?
Last month godfather of grime Wiley caused quite a kerfuffle by giving away just over 200 of his tracks for free, including the entirety of what was supposed to be his forthcoming Island-released album, The Elusive. Though characteristic of Wiley to react to a disagreement with manager and label in such a drastic fashion, the act was symptomatic of more than just a musical maverick having his own way. Wiley’s do-it-my-way attitude is typical of the UK urban scene in general, and the grime scene in particular, and it is this attribute that makes it a particularly interesting musical movement to observe in the wake of an ailing industry.
The diminishing profit made from record sales has provoked a greater reluctance on the part of labels to speculate on new talent; risk-taking is no longer an option. The impetus is thus with an aspiring artist to create a market for themselves without having to rely upon the machine of the major musical corporation. Subsequently, self-promotion has become an integral part of the process for those making a shot at a musical career.
One need look no further than Twitter, where Wiley announced his huge music giveaway, to see the level of self-promotion that goes on amongst the grime community, and other areas of the UK urban underground. Emcee Klashnekoff told I Like Music in a recent interview “I’m on Twitter. All day long chatting shit on Twitter.” It’s an extremely well-used tool, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Take Giggs, whose recent album Let Em Ave It has been garnering praise from all critical corners; as well as being an emcee, Giggs and his SN1 crew own and run the clothing brand SN1 Wear and the record label SN1 Entertainment. Through SN1 Wear Giggs has created an alternative avenue through which an audience can discover his music. People interested in fashion, who may not have been on the lookout for music, will be exposed to Giggs, and people visiting the brand’s outlet in Peckham Market will come across mixtapes and albums that they might not actively have sought out. Equally, by involving himself with the business side of the music industry through SN1 Entertainment, Giggs is putting himself in an extremely strong position when it comes to dealing with labels or self-releasing his work.
More simple still is the concept of a crew, integral to the grime world. Roll Deep is the perfect example: the success of key members such as Dizzee Rascal, Tinchey Stryder and, of course, Wiley, allows those less well-known members a platform for exposure that they would have no way of accessing were they to be working alone. The high profile of one person translates into a high profile for several others, demonstrated by the current performance of Roll Deep’s new single Green Light.
Approaches such as these may not be particularly new – the US hip hop scene has always been strongly self-promoting and self-reliant – but the combination of grime’s growing popularity with the challenges faced by the music industry lend them extra significance. With a new batch of chart-topping pop-stars coming from a scene typified by its hands-on attitude at a time when major labels are necessarily more restrained in terms of their expenditure, could we be entering an era in which the multinational corporation no longer enjoys mainstream domination?
Perhaps, watch this space to find out…