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Grime and enterprise

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THE RISING popularity of Grime music and how it provides opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and promotes diversity has been explored in a paper showcased by the University of Leicester.

Highlighted as part of the Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies’ CAMEo Cuts series, the paper, titled ‘The Business of Grime’, has been written by Dr Joy White, visiting lecturer at the University of Roehampton.

The paper explores how the music industry is a significant economic sector with low diversity rates in terms of ethnicity and class. By contrast, however, Grime, and the wider urban music economy, can offer a variety of routes into the creative and cultural industries for diverse and disadvantaged groups.

CAMEo director, Professor Mark Banks, said: “Joy White is one of the first researchers to explore the cultural economy of Grime and assess its growing impact on the UK music industry. We’re delighted to publish her work in our ‘Cuts’ series and help draw attention to the ways in which the black music economy is evolving in terms of its cultural and economic significance, and in providing work and employment opportu- nities for young people.”

In her report, White, right, said: “Most people start out in the music business doing what they love and then find a way to get paid for it (Williams, 2006; Albert and Couture, 2013).

“While an agreed definition of entrepreneurship remains elusive, it has been suggested that individual traits attributed to en- trepreneurs might include; the need for independence; a desire for status and achievement; the ability to take risks and live with uncertainty, and being innovative and self-motivated. These traits are in abundant evidence amongst participants in Grime and the urban music economy.

“Grime enterprise can provide opportunities for work and employment particularly in the creative and cultural sector where entry points for young people from marginalised communities are scarce.”

The report continues: “Economic endeavour, in this context is often a collaborative and communitarian activity as well as an individual one. Self-employment or micro- business activity in Grime can offer an alternative to minimum (or no) wage work that offers creative and economic opportunity, and maintains integrity.

“My respondents had not had any formal business training, so how did they learn the rules of the game? Sometimes, emerging artists are mentored by an ‘old hand’ and this may be through crew membership, or by just having a go. For budding business owners, existing organisations in the sector provide a template for setting up.”

White adds: “The urban music economy allows young people to carve out a space in the business world, and to develop marketable skills in the creative and cultural sector. The business world that they operate in is still, however, largely informal and invisible, perhaps because it is obscured by stereotypical narratives that render young black men (predominantly) as troubled and troublesome.

“Perhaps it is because the wider business world has reproduced the concept of the entrepreneur in its own image and is therefore not able to recognise entrepreneurs in the urban music economy. If they do, it is seen as an exception – such as Jamal Edwards – rather than the norm.

“Young people in the urban music economy have applied their knowledge of their customer base in a pragmatic way, offering goods and services either for no cost or at a minimal charge, to build a reputation.

“These artists/entrepreneurs have a tacit and detailed knowledge of their audience and innovative use of technology has enabled them to turn their output into a commodity, without the need for an intermediary such as a record company.

“At the same time, audio and video production technology has become less expensive and therefore more accessible. This creates a juncture where a micro business could be created in the urban music industry, embodying what Ilan calls the ‘respectable trope of the educated entrepreneur’ that enables some to step outside the boundaries of marginalisation (Ilan, 2012).”

White concludes: “It is evident that these business activities and networks, while founded in the UK, now have a global reach that cannot and should not be ignored.”

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