With the growth of the Internet, the music industry (as with most industries) has been disrupted and changed dramatically, with the likes of torrent sites enabling bootlegging and the advent of Apple, Spotify et all creating a layer between them and the industry, musician's simply do not have the ability to make the money from music sales as did the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson

To survive music artists have had to be more agile, evolve and find innovative ways to monetise their talents, to stay relevant and create new revenue streams.

I'm eclectic but have been a big fan of Hip Hop since I was a child, in those days Hip Hop was in many ways a controversial and taboo genre because of its subject matter and generally gritty content meaning that many in the mainstream didn't give it the outlet (or recognition as an art form) that it deserved. However in my opinion by being ostracised from the mainstream, that only further added fuel to its popularity and coolness. 

The days of having to record your favourite songs from the Radio

The days of having to record your favourite songs from the Radio

I remember as a child in the mid nineties sneaking downstairs late at night to watch YO! MTV Raps, I remember listening to Tim Westwood (cringe) on BBC Radio 1 and frantically pushing paper into the top of Cassette tapes to be able to record the latest songs, I remember standing in HMV and Virgin Megastore to listen to double discs albums that cost >£20 and naturally wanted to ensure that If I purchased I would be getting value for money. 

The difference was back then with limited influencers and media platforms, Record companies could make or break an artist as it was their "machine" that built the awareness needed to be commercially successful. 

These days things are much different and Rappers now are pretty much entrepreneurs, needing record companies (and their 360 management deals) less and less.

So as Rappers are becoming much more entrepreneurial here are 3 things startup entrepreneurs can learn from successful Rappers...

Collaborating is "Win, Win"


  • Ability to collaborate and build partnerships

If you look at the recent years of hip-hop, a big change has been an increase in collaboration between rappers and musicians of other genres, they do this to cross-pollinate their respective fan bases, and it is "win, win" for both of the artists, because not only do they increase their exposure but they will also likely increase revenue opportunities, through bookings for festivals, merchandise and endorsement deals etc.
If you are building a startup It is essential to be constantly looking for opportunities to collaborate and create innovative and strategic partnerships with other companies. However, genuine partnerships should not be treated as client/supplier because eventually, that becomes parasitic and breaks. Partnerships should be symbiotic, it's about clearly communicating and strategising ways to help each other. In doing so you will create a strong relationship, which is one of integrity and trust, so guess what, when your competitors want to copy or even intercept your partnership, it may not be very easy to do so. As we know replication of product is relatively easy, but replication of relationships is a much bigger task. 

  • The will to win

What is one of the common denominators between Jay Z, Nas, Dr Dre etc? Well, all of them came from very humble beginnings and built huge success, be it creating record companies, leading headphone companies or becoming venture capitalist they have excelled.

I believe this has a lot to do with their backgrounds, when people are faced with living a life which is sink or swim, you learn how to not only survive but maximise every opportunity you get to thrive, which I feel creates a good foundation of skills and qualities which are transferable to entrepreneurship. 

This is not to say that you have to grow up in difficult circumstances to be able to build a startup because a startup *is* a difficult circumstance, most will fail within the first year and only a tiny percentage that survives go on to become anything more than lifestyle businesses or side projects.
To survive, you absolutely need the will to win and if you want to thrive badly enough, you will discover and maximise every opportunity which is available to you and create much more for yourself. 

Rick Ross
  • Personality and Charisma

 I can think of several examples of rappers who portray the image of “mobsters” and their subject matter is worthy of a Narcos-esque series on Netflix, however, the discrepancies in the reality of their escapades are common knowledge, but that hasn’t stopped them becoming hugely successful. Why? Because people like them.

We all know there is huge power and value in storytelling/authenticity, however, unless you have personality, charisma and the ability to communicate this in a way which resonates with people - nobody will care and if likewise if you do have charisma in many cases they may even overlook your authenticity - for no other reason than they like you.
In startups, I believe all too often leaders overlook the value of personality and charisma, not just in their leadership team but also in terms of brand and identity. If you are a disruptive FinTech startup, nobody is going to view your concept as anything new and exciting if you act and brand yourself like the corporate organisations that you are trying to disrupt. However, you can’t then go to the other extreme and portray an image that is too edgy and means you will lack the credibility and more importantly trust needed to win potential users.
This is much the same with leaders If a leader has personality, charisma and the ability to communicate to a high level in my opinion they will be a stronger leader than those who lack these qualities. 

So its a case of ensuring you utilise the strengths of your leadership and wider team to the responsibilities they are best at.

All entrepreneurs need to constantly learn and grow and if taking a leaf out of Rappers play book may just teach them a few lessons.