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Rushes Sequences - Master Shortie interview - London (Video)

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Dan Biddle Dan Biddle | 15:47 UK time, Friday, 27 November 2009

Master Shortie is a Mobo nominated British rapper. He's 20 - the same age as the web - and has fully embraced the digital revolution. He constantly promotes his music online, connects with his fans on Twitter, Facebook, Bebo and MySpace, and releases his music virally as well as through mainstream outlets.

Here he talks to Aleks Krotoski about social networking and music piracy, explaining why it's wrong to crack down on fans for downloading music and suggesting other ways for musicians to make money in the digital age, such as touring and merchandise.

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(Please note that this transcript is the 'raw data' text we receive from a transcription company. It is a tool commonly used in production to facilitate editing and review the content. We publish it for users in that same spirit, rather than it standing as a 'perfect' representation of the content.)

Master That um, how I've started out, I did quite a lot of shows like that, I did one at the Roundhouse in Camberwell, just issued an invitation off facebook to a lot of friends that were into my stuff, and then on MySpace as well, and then just kind of spreads out. And then the first one you know, there's X amount of people there, they go off and tell their friends, and it's just you know, it's slow and it's long, but or I could have just gone, loads of money marketing, posters everywhere, I'm performing here at this time, you know I've got that amount of people to go straight away, but it's um, it's more real I suppose if you do it yourself because you know that they're coming to see you cos they want to see you, not because it's been forced in their face.

Aleks     Well there's something else like you, you mentioned before that you use the web to work with producers, you use the web to work with music makers, and do you think that's, that's a part of the personal aspect of the web, I mean are they, are they fans or are they people who are seeking to produce music on record labels

Master On both man like I'm loving that the internet is full of you know the fact that it's music lovers in general and just because you work in music it doesn't mean you stop love, loving music. I'm also a music lover and I'm a fan and I go on as a fan online, as well as an artist and with me doing that, I've helped people to do the same thing with other artists, so it's like a big community online with up and coming R...... rappers, singers, musicians, producers and you know if you, you can literally just bond with a lot of these people online. i.e. with the kind of style of music that they're doing. And then you know with my producer um, labyrinth, I met him um, via a friend, but we really made a connection online and kept in contact online, and from then on you know it's history. We made an amazing album, really created a sound together.
Aleks     there's some people who would, who would like criticise this whole idea that they would say that they'd want you know, go down the traditional route, that this is just a flash in the pan type of thing, that this is you know that, that fans are gonna get tired of this, it's just something that's new, that's not resilient. How do you respond to those kinds of criticisms when it comes to what you're doing, which is essentially marketing and promotion and all that kind of stuff?

Master I don't know maybe they are, it's, to be honest I can't, I can't say anything to those people because um, they're living in the past realistically because um, the, the internet adds, pays a big part in not just music but in more aspects of the media. And that's obvious to see and if you see the statistics prove that you know singles sales you know they dominated by, by iTunes, and not you know physical releases. People have gone to top ten without actually having CD's out, so I, I would love to see them come up with a, a um, a kind of a thing to say to them about, facts are facts, and they just need to you know, move with us.

Aleks          It was amazing actually we were holding your CD before and I couldn't figure out, I'd forgotten how to open a CD case, like that, that nearly freaked me out, this idea of like a jewel case, that somebody...

Master But at the same time I compromised, it's nice to have a CD, it's nice to have it physical in your hand you know of a sleeve and lyrics. Cos in my album I make sure to put the lyrics in there, so again um, if you do go out of your way to spend the extra money in the CD, and the actual time and effort um, I want to make an effort back. So put all the lyrics in there and some wicked pictures, and also with the CD you get bonus tracks which you may not be able to get online, and loads of stuff like that, and also I went down and signed a lot of CDs at a lot of the record stores. And um, I think that there should be a way of you know making something more physical, more you know tangible for a person to be able to hold. But um, until then I think people just don't have the time and life is moving so quickly that, that actually to come out of a busy schedule to go to a record store, spend money on a CD, go, then have to find a CD player to um, play it on, it is, it does work out a bit longer, whereas iTunes is for online, it's download, listen straightaway, whereas HMV, bus home, bedroom, electricity on, put it in, press play, then you listening. And then so you randomly want to listen to it again, you can't it, it's hard man, but I do like CDs because it's, it's nice to have that physical product, at the same time I understand that it is a bit time consuming.

Aleks            Well it's also a different craft like in terms of how you produce it, but that's a whole different conversation.

Master yea definitely

Aleks       Um, the CDs, like you're talking about signing it and you know you're talking about adding a little bit of presence, you're talking about adding that little bit of rarity, that people wouldn't get if they download on MP3s.

Master yea definitely

Aleks        so what other ways because there's so much plenty that's available I mean not only is it well, I'll go into that in a second, there's so much plenty when it comes to online content, when it comes to downloading movies or ......... whatever, that people aren't really making as much money are they really?

Master no definitely not

Aleks      So like is a CD, like actually having a physical thing, still where are we going to move back to that as a way of like getting cash flowing through the music industry?

Master I hope, I hope, I hope there is a way to you know go back into having something physical, people also want to buy alongside downloads, I don't think downloading should be abolished or that people should be punished for downloading music because I think that um, it's played a big part within the media, within music and I think um, a lot of the positive things that have um, come out of music in the last you know, ten, twenty years, would never have come about. And you wouldn't be able to watch award ceremonies on TV, wouldn't be able to find out information relating to ...... every five minutes, you wouldn't be able to really um, you know what I mean buy gigs at hotels for every single show of an artist that you like and stuff like that, so um, but I do think that there should be some kind of way of making it physical, maybe not a CD because like I said, like I said that's time consuming, that's only ...... or something, like um, like you may get a free USB key like I, I'm trying to come up with an idea now where with the CD like you, you get like a EPK pack with it or um, if you download my album like we you  get sent an email with an EPK pack and in that EPK or that kind of media um, package, you get free music you get um, a token which gives you free refusal, first refusals of gig tickets when they come out and the best seats. And you get um, like a free poster, but you can only get it if you buy a download, and little stuff like that, which kind of um, I suppose, persuades people to um, want to buy the actual CD.

Aleks      Well that's I mean that's...

Master Or the actual down, paid download

Aleks            Exactly and that's, that's something that's, that's a real challenge, that the music industry is totally fallen over on because they, they're being overwhelmed with piracy, essentially. You're talking about downloads, are you talking about legal downloads, are you talking about illegal downloads?

Master It's hard because at the same, and also if you give away something free with your um, with your CD for example, or you do a little extra to give back to your fans, you're not liable for chart positioning because you're giving away something free. So it's like then what you don't chart and you don't really get the respect from media, radio to help promote you, and then it's like, it's like you're fighting a losing battle.
But if you, it's, if you're sure of the way that you want to go and you keep going, you can actually really...

Aleks      Do you think we should crack down on piracy though?

Master Um, no I think, I think um, er, to be honest I think if some, if you're gonna buy the CD right now in, in terms of people that are buying music, if you're buying music, I think they're going to buy the music if they're going to download it, they're going to download it. It's like, it's not gonna persuade the people that want to benefit free or not, because I doubt they'd do it online ........ and it wasn't there, they'd go oh man now I've really got to get on a bus and go and get the CD because I really want that music now, it's like they'll just wait for it to come online right, cos that's, it's not their fault. It's the part of the generation that they've been brought up, you know they've been brought up where it's the norm to just go on lying and quickly download music, so it is not online they'll just wait rather than go get music, so cracking down isn't really going to help. Just, it's just going to um, damage relationships between artists and their fans.

Aleks      Well you're losing money though aren't you?

Master Yea but then you can make money in other areas by them having your music quick and easy and it's accessible means that they er, also it's easy for them to buy um, merchandise and ........ kits and stuff like that.

Aleks    Well music is all about reinventing yourself anyway

Master exactly 

Aleks   to stay fresh and all that, so this is, this is basically the internet has offered an opportunity for people to reinvent themselves don't they?

Master Yea definitely yea, you can see, you  can stay um, relevant as well with um, with being online and stuff like that. And if you're not necessarily putting out music, you can still put out music. And by that I mean you don't need to put music out in the charts and play on the radio, you can just put out a little you know little fun tracks for your fans, and that's automatically building the momentum and you know building fans.

Aleks     Well with all that content that's out there, I mean everybody and their uncle it used to be a lot harder, I mean the bar used to be set a heck of a lot higher because you'd have to get that record contract, if you, you couldn't, there wasn't this as much of an underground vibe, so how do you make yourself heard in this absolute din of everybody and their dog, who's putting out a track on MySpace of facebook or whatever?

Master First of all I believe it has a lot to do with luck um, you know cos um, yea luck plays a big part, and also being different and relating to people for example there's X amount of people that relate to me personally, worry about dress, what I'm talking about, and are into the same kind of music, music as me, and then kind of that's, that makes it a lot easier as well. But if um, loads of people are doing the same kind of music, it becomes saturated and then that's when it's hard. But um, I believe I'm unique enough and I, I'm myself and I'm different to everybody, for it to you know stand out amongst the rest.

Aleks      How often do you talk with your fans, cos you're talking a lot about you know, how, I mean, how often do you tweet, cos you're on twitter as well.

Master Everyday like I'm, I'll twitter in a second, before I came here, twittered for, I'm always twittering and always you know, trying to reply to some of them, obviously sometimes I can't cos sometimes they're just like hello, and it's just like, if I say hello back, and they say you know but um, you know asking important questions and stuff like that and concerns that they may have ..........I'll always, I always reply back to them cos it makes it that more personal you know and they remember you know what I mean um, it's like when musicians, it's like when back in the day when people used to take pictures of somebody, somebody who was nice and ........ that time, they can always remember that moment, and I believe they'll be a fan for longer and really support them, so that's what I'm trying to do.

Aleks     How you are promoting yourself, you're marketing yourself?

Master yes

Aleks       How has the internet made that possible in a way that you wouldn't have done before?

Master I think that is, that is what the internet is what made it possible. Um, um, I remember um, I'm able to reach loads of people at one specific time quickly, at the drop of a hat. whereas if not I'd have to do you know, promoting, word of mouth, phone calls and stuff like that, whereas I could just put out a message and send it to about you know four hundred to four thousand people in like, like that. So that's good, it's a lot easier, and also um, in terms of like videos and the visual stuff as well, like I can put online videos, I can put online not just music.

Aleks      And what about collaborating not just with producers, but maybe with other artists, do, have you, have you been stretched by the web in terms of being creative?

Master Yea definitely well um, that's, that's originally that's how I was getting into studios, it was hooking up with people that had a studio that was available and that would normally be collaborating with artists that actually ..... MySpace. Now that my profile is a bit, you know is a bit um, a bit larger um, I can also talk to other artists that are also in the same limelight as me and collaborate with them.

Aleks    So if it's okay for people to download your stuff for free, you're losing money?

Master Um, yea correct but at the same time um, I can gain money in other areas, i.e. merchandising, touring, it means that people that would never have been able to hear my music because they didn't have the money or the know, know abouts of where to buy my album, can still hear my music, and still get involved in my projects.

Aleks        now that's you individual entrepreneur, you know self made man, but those people, like record companies, who are losing the grip on this thing because of piracy you know, they're out there and they're suing people. They're trying to you know, they're trying to take down people like me or other people who would download music for free. What do you think about that heavy handed approach?

Master No I think it's definitely wrong, I think um, this is you know um, taking it a little, a little bit too far, cos at the end of the day the people that, if you're gonna download music, I think that you're gonna download music. If you're gonna pay for it, you're gonna pay for it. Um, for example if you go out to, you're online and you search a track that you like or any kind of illegal um, website, um, and it's not there, people aren't going to go running to the shops that very moment and really, really try and get their ten pounds together, so they can go and buy the album. They're pretty much just gonna wait um, for the track to go, to become available online, and still get it for free, and if you're gonna buy it, you're gonna buy it. But um, again I, it's, another thing is that it could, it's, could, maybe not even down to the people that download for free because, the generation that are listening to music now, part of the whole internet um, generation, and therefore they don't know any better, like it's just their norm, they don't, they haven't you know grown up, their mums and dads haven't brought them into HMV to go round and by CDs so, it, it's the norm, like everybody in their school class, everyone that they, they're with on a day to day basis will download music and they just think that's the way. But I'm finding that because it means that my music gets to more people and that will in the long run, they will hopefully end up buying my product but in you know, much more of a vast amount. And you know punishing people for doing it, for you know liking your music and you've damaged the relationship between the artist and your fans.


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