As we settle into 2017, many of us will see the year as a fresh start, a chance to purge the bad habits and practise the good ones. It’s often also the time we will try to put that ridiculous idea we’ve been mulling over for months into play and finally carve out the dreams we’ve spent hours fantasising over. New year, new goals and all that.
If a career in the music industry is one you’ve had your eye on but haven’t known just how to get your foot in the door, then you are not alone. The pathway to the music industry can often seem like it’s about who you know rather than what you know, and landing your big break may seem like the impossible dream.
One such person who saw the ways in which the music industry could be opened up is entrepreneur Jusnah Gadi, who set up her company Young Music Boss with the hope of creating better diversity within the music industry while providing the tools that young musicians and music professionals may need to face it.With a background studying law, and a thorough of the music industry, last year she set up Young Music Boss as a way to connect industry insiders with blossoming talents and advise those on the way up about the legalities. Since, she has quite literally been making waves, even being championed by Elle Magazine for her entrepreneurial abilities.
Having first meeting Gadi at a panel discussion on networking and creating alliances between women in music (where else?), and seeing how passionate she was about creating this shared space, we were compelled to find out more about her growing business. As well as advising young artists and managers on the legal side of things, Gadi has also launched the Meritocracy Dinner Series in association with UK Music as a way for young music professionals to network, share ideas with the aim to shape the future narrative of music. We sat down with the entrepreneur to discuss breaking down power structures, the future of music and which tools are available for anyone needing help with signing a record deal to copyrighting their tracks.
Notion: Can you give us some details about Young Music Boss and the services you provide?
Jusnah Gadi: We run a consultancy service which is mainly on the business affairs side of music. We advise people on trademark, copyright, which is mainly for up and comers, emerging artists, people who want to protect their brand and understand the value of trademarking their brand. We also look after the different commercial contracts that arise in music; publishing, record contracts, management contracts, video contracts and production. We do one-to-one consultancy, and we also work on a project basis, and then we have draft template contracts as well, such as industry standards. We can form bespoke contracts based on whatever requirements they have. We also have a referral system – we continue to build a lot of relationships with lots of different labels, management companies, firms, where anything is beyond our scope with advising, we can refer them to the relevant professionals who will take over.
Why did you initially start this company?
Well, I was initially driven by the fact that there is such a lack of diversity in the field, and also the visibility of the incredible creatives and entrepreneurs that are doing massive things to kind of energise the industry, particularly the whole Music Week ’30 Under 30’ saga – it was not diverse at all. I was like ‘Hold on, I’ve got so many friends that are doing incredible things, and they should be brought to the forefront’ so that’s why we’ve got the Young Music Boss Awards and the Meritocracy Dinner Series.
Regarding the legal aspect, my training is legal, and I specialise in intellectual property which is another passion of mine, so I thought to incorporate that. My main motivation was to, I guess, create more access to the industry through the events that we run, and also to help diversify the industry. Alliance building as well, I’m a massive networker, I believe in the power of building networks, I also want Young Music Boss to be a tool for that.
What kind of professional could benefit from the type of services you offer at YMB?
It’s quite a broad range of careers because you have got so many different roles in music now. There’s a lot of non-traditional ones through the rise of entrepreneurship and people starting their own companies – they can benefit from the different services that we provide, up and coming artists that don’t necessarily have the lawyer budgets but to be able to aid them in allowing them to become empowered and understanding the legal and business affairs side of things, and having full control of that from day one.
If I was a young artist starting out and I wanted to learn more about copyright, what would I expect to be paying for your services?
We have a standard rate/flat rate, which starts at £45 and that’s a one-to-one consultancy, so say that you came to me and you’ve just started your company, you want to know how trademark works, we would guide you through that but treat it like a consultancy, so that you pay for that one fee. We also have an hourly rate, based on a project basis, depending on how long it will take to finalise the project, [for example] if it’s a particular document or deal that you are working on.
When it’s bespoke, naturally, those rates change, depending on the size of the document and the intricacies of what you are trying to include in that.
Do you have any case studies of people that you have helped you can tell us about? Who have you helped and how have you helped them?
I’ve worked with a manager who was taking on a new artist. He had to seek independent advice because his artist was about to sign to a management company, so we helped negotiate the contract, advise him and tailor the contract to whatever the artist wanted. Also, there’s a video production company we work with on a project to project basis who produce videos for different artists. Other than that, artists here and there who ask us for advice, ‘is this right, does it look alright?’.
Do you see yourselves as the bridge for artists who are transitioning from being independents to signing to majors?
Definitely. A lot of the artists we tend to work with are those artists that are about to get signed, and are trying to understand the legal side of things and, like I said, don’t necessarily have that lawyer budget they need to seek that advice. Those are exactly the kind of relationships that we want to establish.
You said you don’t believe the music industry is diverse, what kind of access are people missing that could help them get their foot in the door?
If you look at the power structures of the major labels, the major management companies, I feel like especially for people coming up in different kinds of social settings, these big labels, for example, they do offer internships and stuff like that, but a lot of them are unpaid internships. People coming from different social backgrounds don’t necessarily have the ability to work for free and enter those kinds of environments. The people that hold those kinds of executive positions in music, it’s kind of like a club system and people of particular backgrounds, particularly ethnic backgrounds or women, there’s some kind of barrier [to them]. There’s a barrier that restricts them from entering the business in that way or moving into the executive side of music.
Once people have this education, this access to education, do you think that will help topple that hierarchy?
Definitely, because I feel like if there’s a lot of different grad schemes that will provide people with internships, paid internships for young people who don’t necessarily have access to the right kind of individuals, the right kind of network, inevitably that will help increase diversity in the industry.
You said to me earlier that you ensure your interns get paid, can you tell me why that is important to you?
A lot of people who can do unpaid internships tend to come from certain economic backgrounds, they are living at home with their parents who can support them, and they can afford to take on these unpaid internships. That obviously excludes the people who don’t necessarily have that background where they have to be supported and [instead] they have to work for money.
How did you find your own route through law? Did you have an easy time?
Definitely not, I think that’s why I decided to do my thing. I feel like as a black woman there are a lot of barriers in place, in the legal field and the music industry specifically. I’ve had so many doors almost open and then shut in my face. It’s a closed club where if you don’t come from a certain background, or if you don’t know certain individuals in the industry, it’s very hard for you to tap into it.
Apart from record labels changing their structure, what do you think establishments such as magazines, could do to facilitate a more diverse music landscape?
I think in a similar way, through outreach programs, through going into different communities, engaging with schools, that’s very useful I think when you are at school, especially from an African background that creative careers are not really careers. If you’re not a doctor, a lawyer, you’re not really pursuing a real career. I feel like through different outreach programmes and schemes, if they are presented with the prospect of really being able to build a career in the creative industries or becoming a music journalist or working for a magazine like Notion, I feel like that would be very useful.
I’m really inspired by this age of technology because I feel it’s created room for entrepreneurship and people can build their own platforms and start figuring out ways to turn their passions into businesses and create their own access to the industry. I think that is powerful.