Austin Daboh: My Manifesto – Music Business Worldwide

 Austin Daboh: My Manifesto – Music Business Worldwide


For most of us, the primary week of a brand new job is all about settling right into a hitherto unfamiliar workplace setting.

The bonuses, backbiting and company ladder-climbing can wait; we’re speaking about that blissfully mild few days when the one skilled expectations hanging over you’re (a) to get comfy at your desk, (b) to determine how the corporate lifts work and (c) to appraise your self of the canteen’s sausage, chips and beans.

Not so for Austin Daboh. Music Business UK catches up with the London-based exec on day six of his new tenure as Executive Vice President of Atlantic Records UK – a senior function wherein he studies, dually, into each Atlantic Records UK Presidents Ed Howard and Briony Turner, in addition to Warner Music UK Chairman and CEO, Tony Harlow.

Thanks to lockdown, to this point there’s been no mild workplace introduction (and, tragically, no sausage, chips and beans) for Daboh at Warner Music UK HQ. He went from WFH in his outdated job (Head of Editorial, Apple Music UK & Ireland) straight to WFH in his new job.

The indicators are there, although, that Daboh’s life, to not point out that of his document firm employer, has taken an thrilling new step ahead. It’s additionally truthful to say that Daboh’s first week in his new gig has a extra intense international backdrop than most. Daboh’s profession up to now is deeply intertwined with the rise of British black music, and he joins Atlantic/Warner throughout a interval of intense contemplation, nay reckoning, for the music enterprise by way of its remedy (and development) of individuals of color.

That’s a subject, as you would possibly anticipate, that looms massive in Daboh’s Manifesto right here; the 5 issues, greater than every other, he would decide to alter concerning the music enterprise as we stand as we speak. Daboh is set not solely to focus on these modifications, but in addition make a cloth private distinction utilizing the load of his new company place.

Said company place sees Daboh working in a completely fledged document firm function for the primary time. After stints elevating artists on the BBC, Spotify and Apple, now Daboh will get to put money into artists immediately – and be part of the extremely-aggressive tough’n’tumble of the document enterprise. “It’s been a dope start,” Daboh says of his first few days at Atlantic, which he’s been utilizing to “get up to speed on the inner-workings of a record label”.

He provides: “I’ve always sat in an agnostic position before, a partner to labels, offering my advice and support [to artists] from that neutral perspective. That’s something I want to carry on at Atlantic: I want to build us to a place where everybody wants to see us win, because we’re helping out the entirety of youth culture, rather than just our own roster.

“Think about when Roc Nation first came around, or Def Jam, or what Tinie [Tempah] and Dumi [Oburota] created at Disturbing London; everybody wanted them to win, even if you were signed to a different label, because they had established a place in the community that supported
everyone around them.”

That’s Daboh’s objective for his personal skilled output, then. As for the remainder of us? Allow Daboh, in his personal phrases, to elucidate what he’d put on the high of our collective agenda…

1) More black feminine executives

During my time within the business, there’s by no means been a black feminine label President within the UK, which is scandalous. Quite usually, while you have a look at the DNA of a success document or artist, it’s affected by black ladies, from songwriters and backing vocalists by means of to managers and assistants and so forth. Yet I can depend on one hand the quantity of black females presently working at govt stage within the UK enterprise.

That’s why level one on my Manifesto is guaranteeing that now we have an actual dedication to selling black females to go of division and President stage inside corporations. There’s been some actually good strikes made in the previous couple of years by corporations similar to Warner Chappell – huge up Amber Davis – and also you’ve bought folks like Fay Hoyte doing nice issues over at Universal (EMI Records), however we have to see far more than there’s in the mean time.

“There needs to be a level playing field across the structures of these companies that allows black women to succeed.”

There must be a stage enjoying area throughout the constructions of those corporations that enables black ladies to succeed. For instance, how will we be certain that a black girl’s ardour is interpreted appropriately, and never as ‘aggression’? How will we be certain that the identical safeguards we put in place to make sure folks from completely different cultures have their rights and beliefs revered, are additionally afforded to younger black ladies?

And sure, for a minority group who has confronted systemic injustices over many years, you do generally have to make use of some affirmative motion and say to your self, ‘Okay, well, both candidates tick nine out of 10 boxes but, on this occasion, we’re going to decide on this individual to assist us begin to redress that steadiness.’

Interestingly, I discover that from major college age by means of to perhaps faculty age, black males and black ladies appear to be at about the identical stage in the case of confidence, networking, being on the market within the music business. and so forth. But, for me, one thing occurs between the age of early twenties by means of to late twenties, the place these black ladies appear to drop off that company ladder. We want to analyze why that’s; why is there this drop off in black females
climbing up the business at a price that we simply don’t see with white females? Ultimately although, we will discuss lengthy-time period plans and I can sit right here and say ‘affirmative action’, however the final answer is to only do it. Just rent extra black ladies. That’s the reply.

One consider all of this comes all the way down to assumptions. If you’re a black music exec, male or feminine, who takes care of rappers, then it’s usually assumed which you could’t essentially take the step up into being a head of a division. You’re pigeonholed as a specialist, an skilled in black music tradition and that’s that – dance and pop are assumed to be above your remit. But the music business is affected by heads of departments that haven’t any information in anyway in black music tradition, who’re giving opinions on whether or not or not black artists are signed.

2) Financial and psychological well being assist for artists

Record labels needs to be offering cradle to grave providers to artists, and which means providing assist in the case of private finance and psychological well being. Quite usually when an artist indicators to a label, they’re launched to an accountant… and that’s it.

We needs to be providing full monetary mentoring, particularly to these from low revenue backgrounds. And, whereas adhering to information safety rules, we must also ensure that, for these artists who perhaps come from extra chaotic backgrounds, explicit psychological well being assist is made obtainable.

Young artists who signal to a serious label – whether or not it’s an indie artist from the north of England, or a rapper from down south – can go from being on the welfare state their total life, watching, mum and pa struggling, perhaps a single mum or dad family, to immediately have £100,000 put into their checking account, with no monetary coaching in anyway. It’s no surprise so many artists, after being given this wonderful amount of cash, discover themselves in monetary issue inside a yr or two.

What can we do about that as an business? How can we guarantee we’re not simply throwing an accountant their manner, but in addition giving them sensible recommendation as to the best way to save their cash, develop their cash and make investments their cash?

This applies from a psychological well being standpoint too. If you go from having a pound in your checking account to having £100,000 in your checking account, that places strain on an artist. That strain is normally three-fold: (1) The inside strain of the artist desirous to succeed; (2) The strain that comes from immediately being the breadwinner of your loved ones, with relations popping out of nowhere to get in contact; (3) The strain from the label you signal to and the music business itself – that up-and-down rollercoaster of feelings.

On high of all of that, you’ve bought the general public judging you, and over social media it’s all too simple to listen to the adverse stuff persons are saying. 20 years in the past, earlier than social media was a factor, if an artist didn’t learn the newspapers, you actually needed to exit of your approach to discover members of most of the people who didn’t such as you.

“Now, within three or four seconds of typing your name into Google or a search bar on social media, you can find thousands of people expressing an opinion about you and your music. As EVP at Atlantic, I want us to really ensure we are giving artists the tools they need to cope, financially and mentally.”

Now, inside three or 4 seconds of typing your title into Google or a search bar on social media, you could find 1000’s of individuals expressing an opinion about you and your music. As EVP at Atlantic, I would like us to essentially guarantee we’re giving artists the instruments they should cope, financially and mentally, with each the heightened revenue and heightened emotional states they could discover themselves in.

Part of that’s clearly about transparency. One of the issues we’re attempting to do as Atlantic is be certain that once we’re having conversations with artists on the level of signing, we’re making it clear that if we’re providing you with this quantity as an advance, that is the enterprise you’ll have to do, in actual phrases, to make that cash again for us as an organization. People can take unhealthy information; what they don’t like are surprises.

Quite usually an artist will get a pleasant chunky advance, then they spend it, then in a yr’s time they’re like, ‘Hold on a sec, why does my bank account only have this amount in it?!’ If you’re trustworthy with artists, it results in a lot much less resentment and a greater scenario for everybody.

3) A very international schooling for artists – and executives

When we discuss breaking UK acts globally, we frequently actually imply America. And whereas we love our cousins throughout the Pond, there’s additionally one other 5 billion or so folks to contemplate world wide when understanding the best way to amplify an artist.

I used to be shocked once I first joined Spotify to see simply how a lot British music was being consumed outdoors of the UK, not solely within the States, but in addition in Germany, France, the Nordics, Asia and South America. I bear in mind [ex-Spotify economics chief] Will Page saying that 4 out of each 5 streams for the typical UK artist occurs overseas [Page announced this via MBW in December 2018], and likewise that 80% of UK artists see the vast majority of their streams taking place outdoors of their dwelling market. That’s unbelievable.

There’s a purpose why, traditionally, the UK is so culturally related to the US, and language isn’t any small a part of that. But in case you have a look at what’s occurring in UK youth music in the mean time, particularly the rise of black music tradition, [we’re] truly much more aligned with Germany, Spain, Italy and Russia – nations which can be seeing black music tradition come to the mainstream for the primary time lately, simply as now we have within the UK. America is 25 years forward – they’d Run DMC and Public Enemy, and black folks successful Grammys at a constant stage, over 20 years in the past.

“When we’re talking about breaking an act, we should be looking at Europe, and understanding the nuances of countries within Europe.”

So, with that in thoughts, once we’re speaking about breaking an act, we needs to be Europe, and understanding the nuances of nations inside Europe. What is the MTV equal in Italy? What is the GRM Daily and Link Up TV of those completely different nations?

We want to seek out the equal of these, not simply in black music tradition but in addition in indie music tradition, popular culture, rock tradition and dance tradition. One of the issues we’re trying to do at Atlantic is say, ‘How can we have closer ties to our European brothers and sisters?’ alongside ensuring that we’re strengthening the bond throughout the Atlantic [ocean] too.

Making that mission much more thrilling is that this cross pollination taking place with the African diaspora now, and the truth that you’re getting huge Nigerian communities in locations like Italy.

Plus, as we all know from information like Despacito, you probably have the proper document as we speak, language doesn’t imply something. Look at Afrobeats, have a look at Burna Boy; language isn’t a barrier to that international success. It’s all about melody, manufacturing and vibe – and, once more, that goes throughout all genres.

4) Apprenticeships for low-revenue younger folks

How will we be certain that gifted younger individuals who is perhaps struggling financially are afforded the identical alternatives as these folks fortunate sufficient to be born into conditions the place they will survive being paid pennies for the primary few years of their skilled journey?

This is personally crucial to me. When I first arrived within the music business, I got here from a low revenue background. I used to be broke, I used to be on a council property, however I used to be fortunate sufficient to fulfill a mentor who paid me £50 every week, which meant I may nearly afford my Travelcard and a sandwich for lunch. Not everyone seems to be fortunate sufficient to have these mentors or alternatives granted to them.

For some children on the market, the stakes are very excessive. Every time I went for a job interview, once I was attempting to interrupt into the music business, it was like, if I don’t get this, then I’m again on the ends; I’m again doing issues that teenage boys shouldn’t be doing to become profitable. I bear in mind coming into the business and seeing individuals who had been roughly the identical age as me, 19 or 20, and being like, ‘What? You’ve bought flatmates and your mother and father helped you?’ Or, ‘Your parents gave you a deposit for a house?’ That was simply thoughts-blowing to me.

“How do we ensure that talented young people who might be suffering financially are afforded the same opportunities as those people lucky enough to be born into situations where they can survive being paid pennies for the first few years of their professional journey?”

Some of the considering that I’m eager to deliver into the broader Warner Music Group is, ‘What can we do to support people from low income backgrounds, of all colours?’ This is as a lot a poor white boy or lady drawback as it’s a poor black boy or lady drawback. How will we be certain that, for the primary couple of years of their profession, they’ve bought the chance to experiment?

I grew up in a low-revenue household, however I used to be fortunate: we struggled, like plenty of folks, however there was all the time meals on the desk and garments on our again. I’ve bought associates who grew up destitute, within the depths of poverty. They didn’t have a laptop computer of their home, they didn’t have an electronic mail tackle, generally folks could also be coping with abuse within the family.

We should all be aware that there are points past a younger candidate’s management that imply that they don’t all the time current themselves as [other people might]. An enormous a part of that is that we’re an off-the-cuff business, so we will in all probability do a significantly better job of instructing and accepting folks which can be missing delicate abilities, after which supplementing that the place wanted.

5) More analysis outdoors the M25

Please, let’s look past our noses in the case of how persons are considering and feeling about music. There are so few significant initiatives within the business that have a look at what’s occurring previous Watford.

How will we be certain that we perceive how persons are considering and feeling in Middlesbrough and Bolton and Glasgow? Because, very often, the explanation why somebody like Gerry Cinnamon can get to Brixton stage with out the London business noticing is as a result of we weren’t doing analysis on what was occurring outdoors the M25.

It’s the identical purpose why Bugzy Malone was capable of drop single after single after which find yourself with a high 5 EP with out main label involvement – the labels weren’t what was taking place in Manchester.

“It’s my intention coming into Atlantic to ensure that we’re looking the length and breadth of the UK to find out what’s going on out there, whether it be the punk scene in Kent, or the revival of baseline in West Yorkshire.”

It’s my intention coming into Atlantic to make sure that we’re wanting the size and breadth of the UK to seek out out what’s occurring on the market, whether or not or not it’s the punk scene in Kent, or the revival of baseline in West Yorkshire. Where’s the following Gerry Cinnamon, the following Stormzy or the following Bugzy Malone coming from?

The ‘forgotten’ persons are usually essentially the most artistic. I’ll offer you an instance: in Dublin in the mean time, there’s a tremendous quantity of world class, road stage expertise that’s popping out of the black tradition scene. Yet for years, no one took black music tradition from Ireland critically. So these Irish artists sat there, forgotten about, watching and studying from their cousins throughout the slim sea to the UK. And out of that forgotten tradition you’ve now bought artists like Jafaris, who’s making unbelievable music.

Every single document label is predicated inside a 3 mile sq. radius in London. It’s both Kensington or Kings Cross. So if you’re a child from Bristol – regardless of how a lot cash your loved ones has, by the way in which – you must query how possible it’s so that you can get down and round these areas in London. As an business, now we have to make sure that we’re casting the online extensive, not simply on repertoire, however on our employees contained in the constructing as effectively. How a lot expertise is being missed out on if we don’t?

This article originally appeared in the latest (Q2/Q3 2020) issue of MBW’s premium quarterly publication, Music Business UK (pictured), which is out now.

MBUK is on the market by way of an annual subscription by means of right here.

All bodily subscribers will obtain a complimentary digital version with every difficulty.Music Business Worldwide


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