“If you free the artist you free the world.” – Swizz Beatz
Music is a democracy in which musicians are judged solely on their talent, not their background, skin colour, or education. In 2015 the UK music industry was worth a staggering £4.1b. These figures are probably a lot higher if you include the growing number of independent artists who generate income from online views, merchandise, and shows. This class of ‘artistpreneur’, many who left school with low or no grades have found ingenious ways to promote their talent online and escape inner city hardship, and in many cases a life of crime.
The popularity of Rap music has seen artists reach legendary status achieving outstanding feats in music and establishing international brands that would not have been possible if a university degree was required. Like the US many of the UK’S most successful urban artists come from the poorest communities reiterating the Hip Hop ethos of making something from nothing and asking a bigger question, can music address inner city poverty?
The success of an artist can uplift whole communities carving out roles for managers, videographers, stylists, graphic designers, and producers. It takes a village to support an artist and the artist’s success depends on the strength and focus of their team. Trust is a major factor when choosing the right team members so many artists opt for family members and close friends. They may not always have the most experience in theses areas, but their dedication to the artist drives them to learn and develop the necessary skills to do the job well.
Without these opportunities there are sometimes few options available to individuals from a certain background whether they have a degree or not. Studies have shown that poverty can have a direct affect on mental health with statistics being highest in the black community and black males being seventeen times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness. Understandably money alone cannot cure issues that require medical attention, but it can help to address issues early on, a cycle that many times leads to crime, debt, and mental illness.
The music landscape has completely transformed in the last decade going from vinyl to digital sales and back again, and more artists selling direct to consumers. The recent introduction of digital streams being allowed to contribute towards chart position, (one thousand streams acts as one digital sale), means that a demographic of music listeners who are less likely to purchase music can still support artists financially. Streams were at an all time high last year putting music in the charts that may not have achieved the same position from sales alone, leveling out the playing field for all music releases.
Supporting the success of an artist who otherwise has little or no means of escaping the poverty trap should be encouraged for the same reasons we root for any artist, because they make great music that becomes the soundtrack to our lives. Music is one of Britain’s biggest exports and with all of the recent co-signs from international musicians this is a great time to position UK music in front of a receptive global audience.
This isn’t a quick fix for inner city economic issues, but it’s one solution, an exciting solution, and one that taps into wider industries for artists and the communities they represent. These artists are paving a way for themselves and spreading the wealth along the way.
– Music is a level playing field
– Music uplifts communities
– Music taps into wider industries