The middle-class executive syndrome stifles authentic black British soul artists. (Pt. 2)…

From the reaction to part one of this two-parter, we seem to have stirred up quite a few emotions. Today’s post, continues in the same vain. Putting the ‘Middle-Class Executive’ under the microscope in reference to their prevailing attitudes towards black British music performed by British black artists.

What we have seen over the years when it comes to the exploitation of black British music performed by British black artists is that ‘Many mainstream labels, radio stations and promoters still possess plantation mentality’. That may raise many an eyebrow, so let’s not take it on at face value.

Instead, let’s dig deeper into the analogy.

The plantations are owned by the entities—in this case they are record companies, radio stations, promoters etc.etc—These entities determine what is grown (the music) and when (the frequency). And they employ overseers—in this analogy, the middle class executives—to manage the output that they deem will reap the most profits.  

These overseers determine who are their most valuable producers (artists) and who are of lesser importance in the hierarchy (other artists).  In other words, they determine your value in the market as they perceive it.

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They decide who is allowed into the big house (the mainstream) and who is kept in the field (marginalised). If you ain’t in the house or in the field you have absolutely no value. (music or artists they don’t have a feel for).

In this scenario, if you happened to have made it into the big house, you’ll get more privileges, but you’ll be at the beck and call of your master’s voice. If you are in the field you’ll get to put food on the table but not much more. And only as long as your output is in line with the masters vision.

Many artists have been elevated to the big house, only to be cast back to the field or out of the plantation completely, when you are no longer of any use, in the master’s eye. Many of this grouping end up owing the master for their keep, long after they have left the plantation. (Advances, unfocused marketing spend and other expenses).

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Does this sound familiar? It should, as it has been the experience of many British black artists past and present. And no doubt, an unhealthy number that are yet to have their dreams momentarily realised and then shattered.

Forgive us for our tongue in cheek humour, but is it just a coincidence that back at the turn of the last century (1899), that The Gramophone Company for many decades enjoyed recording industry global dominance, largely attributed to its famous trademark  ‘His Master’s Voice’. We guess somethings are just entrenched.

So, what conclusions can be drawn from all of this? And what are the positive actions that can be taken?

Understanding the culture of the executives who make decisions, the context in which those decisions are made and why they are making them? All contributes to shaping the strategies you need to adopt to achieve your goals.

The typical industry executives that have been referred to in this article, operate in environments of their own making. They know what they know and that’s it, with few exceptions. In the vast majority of cases, the only thing that changes them are outside factors, such as technology that bypasses their function and connects artists direct with audiences. If you can show them audience, then you have something to bargain with. An audience who are willing to follow you, buy your recordings, attend your performances and basically want as much of you as they can get. In the entertainment business, it’s the ultimate currency.

So, our middle-class execs do have a valid function, however, many of the decisions that they naturally assumed in the previous paradigm can now be taken by you the artist and your team. You see, the closer you get to your audience, the more control you will have and the more of you—artists—who do that, the stronger and more authentic the environment becomes. In a strong environment where quality output is creating opportunities, engaging audiences and generating income, these executives will fall in line. They too can bring substantial value to what you do. But, now it’s on your terms.    

 

Article Written By
The British Soul Renaissance
December, 2016

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