WPGM Commentary: Sealing The Deal – Labels, Publishers And DIY Services


The last year has been great for the UK urban music scene, seeing many talented upcoming artists breaking and charting. However, despite the recent mainstream embrace of urban music and talent, there’s yet to be sufficient change regarding the inclusivity of the genre within the educational system, and it being recognised as an art form. Therefore, presenting an issue for future talent and the growth of the UK urban music scene.

Furthermore, alongside facing the lack of backing from the education system, young emerging artists also face a range of issues when taking the first steps to pursue a music career.

One issue some artists tend to face at the beginning of their career is the lack of basic understanding of marketing i.e. knowing how to increase their engagement or awareness on social media. This can limit their ability to promote themselves properly, resulting in them going unnoticed and struggling to build their audience.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know”, as an artist knowing the right people and accessing the right industry professions can be a crucial element in becoming established within the industry, being presented with new opportunities and reaching new levels of creativity through collaborations.

However, despite the understanding on the importance of networking, many still find it difficult to not only know how to network with industry professionals but also know where to go to access the big shots in the industry.

Another common obstacle is financial constraints. Initially, the money invested into studio time, shooting videos or publishing and distribution services would be dependent on the artist. However, many don’t see the return in investment until much later, which can result in financial struggles. Lack of funding opportunities for artists can also further limit artists ability to fully invest in developing their sound, brand and accessing services that help push their music to the market.

Overall, from just highlighting some obstacles that cause barriers for emerging artists to unlock their true potential, there’s a clear indication of further intervention being needed such as extra funding, networking events or educational workshops to support future talent. This is an intervention that Urban Development over our 17-year history as a business have been keen to do.

We are a music development organisation, with a vision of being the premiere agency in supporting and spotting new UK urban music talent. With over 10 years’ experience working within the industry, we as an organisation have played an integral role in the growth of urban music within the UK.

Our vision means that we are constantly on the lookout for great emerging talent. We have different projects that we run, offering young aspiring artists not only support but opportunities to develop their musical skills and knowledge.

Urban Artist School is our music school that offers 18-23-year-old emerging artists and young professionals the ability to achieve a level 4 extended diploma. Through this flagship, we recruit young people with a passion for music and provide a 30-week long course that focuses on the individual artist, aiming to develop their skills and create sustainable careers by providing support to develop their repertoire, recorded catalogue and brand.

We’re also constantly recruiting for our in-house vocal collective Urban Flames, a group who has grown over the years, from 5 original members to now being a group of 14-18 year olds, consisting of 22 singers and a live band.

The birth of Urban Flames was from our ambition to create a pathway, which mirrors those created for other music genres such as Jazz. Through our support, guidance and development we have been able to transform these young artists into a group that can inspire and entertain an audience at the Royal Albert Hall.

Our Accelerator program is another great illustration of our dedication and commitment to our vision. The program, funded by PRS for Music Foundation, supports 6 emerging artists annually.

The development bridges the gap between the artists and their full potential and vision, enabling artists to overcome barriers that tend to be placed before them. Focusing on the artist’s individual needs and goals, we create a 6-month action plan to ensure their needs and goals are met.

Providing artists with guidance, access to industry contacts and financial support to assistant with recording, marketing and distribution costs to help get their careers off the ground. Consequently, equipping emerging artists with tools to advance in their career, placing them in a position to grow their fan base, get their music heard and also get a recording contract.

There’s so much talent coming out of the UK right now, more needs to be done to support these young artists and the growth of the UK urban scene. Urban Development is hosting a series of monthly music industry seminars until June 2018, in association with CMU:DIY, Universal Music UK and Music Week, find out more information here.

Words by Judite J Rafael for Urban Development

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