I love hip hop.
Although I've only recently discovered the genre, the wealth of talent and surprisingly, business savvy, has drawn me in. What struck me most was how many of the artists regularly performed as part of a collective, even the solo acts. Groups like the Wu-Tang Clan allowed its members to create an unorthodox structure by releasing albums as both a group and as solo artists.
One of the best recent examples of a group embracing the harmony between art and business is the Minnesota collective Doomtree. Formed in the early 2000s by high school friends Cecil Otter, P.O.S., and producer MK Larada, Doomtree began as a loose collective and eventually developed into a group of musicians forming an indie record label.
All of the members of the group work under the Doomtree name and on under the name of their solo projects. Each member of the group contributes something different; Dessa is a spoken word poet, Paper Tiger does graphic design, Lazerbeak produces the artists. It's half a label and half a performing collective.
I love all of the artists on Doomtree. And their do it yourself style of running their group is fascinating and, I like, the direction many indie labels should be headed. (For a more in-depth discussion of the group, check their website. I'm not going to re-type interviews and such.)
Let's take a look at some of the ways that the Doomtree collective benefits every one of its members.
-Label is run only by artists involved. No contract or conflict of interest issues.
-The group periodically releases their False Hopes compilations featuring all their artists in between major releases to keep up momentum and build fan interest for all the artists.
-Shared overhead expenses among artists reduces costs for everyone (website development, merch, recording, etc). Paper Tiger does the graphic design for everyone in the collective.
-Cross promotion. The Doomtree crew promotes Doomtree. More voices promoting the same group = more and better promotion for everyone. Everyone benefits from the growth of the one brand instead of everyone pushing their own name.
-Varied talents of each member allow the collective to build fan relations in unconvential, and effective ways. Dessa started a book club. Lazerbeak does weekly Tuesdays with Lazerbeak blog posts to consistantly connect with fans.
-The selective nature of who Doomtree allows on their roster serves as both quality control and branding. What this means to fans is, if you see a Doomtree show, it'll be good. This cannot be stressed enough. With so many crappy bands in existence, going to a show is a gamble. With a consistent Doomtree brand, a music fan can reasonably trust that even if they don't know all the bands playing a show, it'll be worth it to go out to the show. They obviously understand this by holding a yearly Doomtree Blowout show in December.
However, there are some key points that must be in order for this collective to work.
-The group has to be selective about who can enter for personality reasons. For a collective to work, the roster has to be carefully chosen to ensure there are no free riders or negative influences who would tarnish the entire group's reputation. Say for example the artist that runs merch decides to quit and takes all the passwords and merch with him. This could easily devastate the group.
-The group also has to be selective about quality. If one of the artists isn't carrying their weight or is performing below the standards of the group, the entire collective suffers.
-As with all organizations, the danger of group-think is always present. The group must maintain an atmosphere of being constructively critical of itself to ensure quality decisions.
I seriously hope these guys make infinity billion dollars. For a much more in-depth interview of how the group started, check this interview from way way back.
Now think about this:
How can you use the Doomtree model to help both your community and yourself?