The last few days have seen a justifiable tirade of Twitter anger about NME’s recent review of Giggs, which led to them issuing an apology. Much has also been said about the fact that the journalist in question was a white male who didn’t possess a natural affinity for the nuances of Grime culture, and so didn’t have the ear to review this album correctly. Some music writers and editors have rightly opened up a debate about the merits of having more qualified journalists on staff from the culture who can lead the conversations about the culture.
Anyone who calls out for the need for more diverse music journalism is making a valid case but I still believe there is a stronger case than ever to create, encourage and establish black owned businesses and platforms particularly when it comes to the music and media business. If this year has shown us anything it’s that the DIY approach has given rise to new disruptors who possess next level determination and resilience to cut past the gatekeepers. Even when we talk about Giggs doesn’t that explain exactly why he says “I’d rather build my own thing” – after all that’s why he’s the ‘Landlord’ isn’t he?
Now given the fast nature of the internet and not to mention the falling standards in music journalism today, who really rates music writing truly. As Semtex referred to the oppression of greatness, “There was a time when DJs could make or break an artist, when an album review in the press could determine whether stores stocked an album.” Today all that seems to matter is if someone can nail a one liner or get out a gif, in pursuit of a trending topic or multiple likes and retweets. Wrap up the day and the job is done with clicks. One thing we’ve been vehemently opposed to is any form of lazy writing which literally paraphrases a press release with tweaked words in the race to be the first to get the clicks. So I find it hard to trust multi-million dollar media platforms who’ve peddled click bait. I find it harder to trust multi-billion dollar media organisations who reject union recognition leading to many disgruntled quality journalists parting ways.
If the rise of adblocking has proved one thing it’s that we’ve clocked that we’re only really bait for clicks and our attention is the new battleground for these new media ‘content’ platforms. After all where on earth are these billion dollar valuations for these media companies generated from – quality or quantity? So while we’re constantly tricked by leading headlines to open something that pertains to be ‘news’ for ‘views’, we’re also increasingly losing value for quality music writing. Music journalism has all but lost its credentials and sense of purpose and is desperately in need of a shakeup.
Diversity in the music industry is something that has to be pursued constantly and consistently and it goes without saying that media companies should be employing more BAME writers. But in this age of entrepreneurialism, job insecurity and zero contract hours, pursuing a black owned business does matter particularly when it comes to music and media. Music history itself doesn’t need to look far to prove it’s worth, Motown founded by Black Entrepreneur Berry Gordy, was the largest Black-owned business in America till it’s sale in the 80’s to MCA Records.
The case for supporting black owned businesses has become more prevalent than ever in light of the #blacklivesmatter movement, because it requires taking ownership and control over the media narrative. In our new post-brexit age if there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear it’s that there is an extreme media bias that serves the overarching agenda of only a few. Of course it matters that we should build and run things ourselves, it matters as Malcolm X said because “once you and I go into business, we own and operate, at least the businesses in our community, what we will be doing is developing a situation wherein we will actually be able to create employment for the people in the community”.
We can empower our voices through our own networks and our own platforms and there hasn’t been a stronger case for it than now. With social media behemoths like Facebook and Google tweaking their algorithms to only feed you news that they think you want to read, how often do you think you’ll actually ‘see’ what you need to see?
How much longer do we need to keep looking to the US for the real cloth talk because they’ve unlocked the keys and are proving that you can build something from nothing. We admire DJ Khaled, Jay-Z, Chance The Rapper and numerous other Cash Kings as we stare at those Forbes rankings wondering could that ever be us – but if we haven’t got the drive to hustle harder to run things ourselves – we’ll forever be standing in the sidelines bemoaning the editorial mistakes of others.
Chance the Rapper’s cover feature in Billboard gave many insights but also notably gave a few of his numbers. What jumped out to me was the 32 team members employed by his operation and that’s something that merits worth in building up a self-made business model that’s recalibrating the way things can be run. The stories that inspire aren’t often told about the ones who cash a pay check, they’re about the ones who issue that pay check.
What we shouldn’t forget is that many young artists, writers, creatives, photographers, DJ’s all just need that first break, the first push, the first co-sign, the first write-up that gets them through the door. Often it’s rare to see that break come from a mainstream big media corporation or platform until you’ve proved your merit. Mentorship in the form of investing in talent often isn’t a priority in a big machine organisation but that’s not to say there aren’t people in these companies investing time and energy to bring new talent though. But we still need more of our own businesses, and often it’s this new talent that starts right here on platforms like LinkUp TV, SBTV, GRM Daily, or leads the silent revolution at radio through Rinse FM, Represent, Radar Radio, NTS and many more.
As Semtex stated earlier this year regarding the 30 under 30 list, we can always have more “self made individuals who will disrupt and break the rules, create new standards and deter mediocrity.” There is no way around it other than to work harder, even if building self-made businesses requires an enduring grind and relentless graft, trust us we know how that feels. But it’s worth it when you’re building something you can own together and use to bring through more talent. Not everyone wants in, not everyone has to take that chance, but for those that do, the pay off is greater than the clicks, it’s gold!