As social media has grown it has given many talented people who may have not been discovered by mainstream media an opportunity to showcase themselves. This has stretched to the music industry where you have seen many artists launching their own album without the traditional record label or distribution deal. Today getting a song out there is about having the right music and being relevant, largely on social media. Two entrepreneurs who have realized this and have launched their own independent record label backed by Sony Music called WeAreBlk are Anthony “Antz” Robb and Abdi Abdille.
Antz got into the world of social media whilst at school. There was a buzz in his classrooms about who could get the most followers on a profile. He didn’t have a phone at the time so he borrowed his friend’s phone and decided to participate with the objective of getting to 10k followers setting up a channel called “I’m Just Bait.” His initial idea was a “shoutout for shoutout” page, essentially a social media page where you share other people’s content and they share yours in return. Whilst this initial idea was doing well one day he decided to post some of the funny videos that he enjoyed watching online. These comedic posts started to gain significant traction he very quickly reached his 10k target.
He continued to post comedic videos then ventured into posting music videos and the growth of the channel continued. Things changed when started receiving offers from brands for paid partnerships. A particularly lucrative partnership with Uber led him to realize that he could turn running his channel into a full time job. Working at Sainsbury’s at the time he quit his job shortly after and decided to commit to building “I’m Just Bait” full time. The channel continued to grow and in a few short years he had amassed a multi million follower count and one of the most culturally relevant Instagram profiles in the U.K.
At a similar time Abdi also started a social media channel called “AbdiTV” on Twitter. His channel was predominantly focused on music posting 30 second clips of music he liked. Over time the channel became the go to channel if you wanted to find out about new U.K. rap artists. Similar to Antz he started getting requests from brands and noticed that many people in the record label industry were following his channel hoping to spot one of the up and coming artists he would post.
In 2017, through a chance encounter working with the same company the two met and immediately clicked. They had been posting very similar musicians on their respective channels and noticed that they were in large part responsible for the marketing behind a lot of artists who would then go on to sign deals with major record labels. After a few conversations they decided to start using their respective platforms to launch artists themselves and their record label WeAreBLK was formed.
The first step they took was to set up a Spotify playlist called “Baitlist” where they would play and highlight their favorite artists. This allowed them to keep a close ear to what was hot in the market. The next step was to go about launching their first few artists. The first song was called “Fornite” by an artist Boogz. Through their own distribution they were able to get the song to do over 3 million streams. The next step which proved to be a turning point was working with an artist called Swarmz on a song called “Lyca” which charted purely from their social media push, and ended up getting licensed to Virgin EMI. Whilst licensing their charting tracks to majors, the pair were also doing marketing campaigns for music artists directly and with Sony Music. Shortly after this, they signed a joint venture partnership deal with Sony, maintaining their independent and entrepreneurial ethos but also gaining the backing and knowledge of a major record label when called upon..
The Future For WeAreBlk
Since signing the deal with Sony Music the duo have been focused on launching talent that may not otherwise be spotted. The most recent of these artists is someone called Niko B who they found on Instagram. He’s from Buckinghamshire and not London, has comedic tones to his music and is very different from the type of artists many would have expected them to sign. However, they spotted the talent and signed him up. With little support from the music community given his unique sound the guys were able to launch Niko B’s first song “Who’s That What’s That” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Distribution through their social media channels allowed them to push the song out by and it has since gone on to amass over 30m streams on Spotify.
The pair are excited about the artists they will be launching over the coming years. Covid has meant they have had to set the business up in circumstances that have not been easy but they have made it work and expect to really accelerate going forward. Their journey really highlights the influence social media can have and the potential to disrupt industries in a way that can be beneficial for artists and record label owners.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit ideas for features or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @TommyPF91