Back in 2016, UD hooked up with GRM’s Posty to chat all things music business ahead of our Industry Takeover event. One of the key figures leading the team behind the RATED Awards and the leading music website, GRM Daily, we revisit that all-important knowledge five years on…
At its inception, GRM was more YouTube-based but it was like an English twist on World Star Hip Hop. Was that what inspired it?
Yeah! I was waiting for somebody to do an English version of the site and no one did it – so we did the website. When we did that, the day it was completed, I thought “Yeah, I’m in the game”, then I realised all I was putting on the site was old DVD stuff like Risky Roadz and Practice Hours… That stuff’s been on YouTube for years and years. No one’s going to come to my site to watch what they’ve already seen before. Say, for example, we’re launching on the Monday. On the Monday I put up bare old, sick stuff that I didn’t think anyone would watch. Some of it was sick. Some of it people hadn’t seen. By the end of the week, I’d run out of juice. So then we just bought a camera and started filming people just trying to create some content. We didn’t actually know what we were doing. We didn’t even know it was called “creating content”, we just did it because we wanted people to go on the site. We called it Grime Daily because we wanted it to be something new from grime every day. That’s how we got into it. So our main prerogative was the website. We hoped that in filming and creating content that other people would also follow in those footsteps so we’d have a lot of sources to get content from and fuel our website.
Now it has written news, you have your own weekly updates, a little like Complex but in a very British way.
It’s funny you say that. I recall a time when I called you (Hyperfrank) into my Shoreditch office and I asked you to be our editor. When I was in that office, that’s when I started GRM News. So if you go on YouTube and you check GRM news, you can see the same format with Ralph Hardy then, five years ago. I understand the comparison between us and Complex… It is kind of similar and we have branched out to do various things… Trying to fill the shoes of all the different aspects that contribute to what GRM Daily is. At first, I was more focused on creating content… Well, no…. At first, I was more concerned with populating the website; that was number 1. Then I was focused on creating content. Then I learned that people want to read. I personally don’t, but they do. So we had to fill out that and then we were just trying to be current and lead the way.
How important is it for us to not only document the culture but also to be in charge of it. I know GRM is not just a website now – you’re doing a lot of brand affiliation, creating content for them, a lot of collaborations and awards. How important is it that we do it and not just another company that comes in and has no clue about the culture?
It’s important that we do build our own businesses around the culture. It’s a passion of mine. I love English music – I like music in general but obviously because I’m from England I like English music – I was always that guy trying to make all my friends listen to English music rather than American music. It just so happens that my passions turned into something that can pay my bills. That’s good. So it’s important that the people who really do care about the music scene or UK music and have been there or are coming in to create businesses and stuff like that. It all helps the greater good… So it’s better that we’re in it rather than someone else because we are part of the culture. We understand it. That’s why stuff like the awards show are so necessary because we understand it. I always say to people when they ask me what’s the difference between my awards show and another awards show, and it’s down to if you were on your face and you needed a grand, would you appreciate a stranger giving you a £1000 or a member of your family giving you £1000? I’m family. I’m here throughout the year. I don’t just pop up out of nowhere and say “Yo, you’re the best newcomer.” I never really appreciate when we get nominated for awards – I do appreciate it but over there we can see Amazon. If they give us an award for the best online platform, it’s nice and all that and the general public might think it’s nice but who is Amazon to me? So it’s important we own our own businesses and stuff like that.
What’s your thought process on a day-to-day basis? What do you focus on? If you’ve had a bad week, how do you remain focused?
I just remember that I’m privileged enough to run my own business and that’s always better than not. Count your blessings. It’s not easy to be successful, that’s why not everyone’s successful. It’s easier said than done. There’s a lot of hurdles and difficult things that occur day-in-day-out. That’s just life. You just deal with it as it comes along.
When did GRM start, by the way? What year?
It was 2009. When I was 16, I was buying DVDs and then I wasn’t buying anything because no one was giving me anything. There wasn’t anything there. You’ve got to think of a 16-year-old now… If they were 16 when GRM Daily and all the other platforms started, they’ve just been spoilt! So for the last few years, if they’re 23 now, they can’t remember what they were doing before they were 16. They probably didn’t even like music. They probably think it’s just been there since they were born.
What’s your favourite video that you’ve been a part of since it started?
The favourite video I’ve been involved with… there’s been so many, man. I can’t really pick.
Even if there’s a funny story or maybe it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t done x, y or z.
That’s happened loads of times. Something funny that happened was about a video that’s just dropped. We were in LA recently and I was shooting a video for Blade Brown. Basically, he wanted to shoot in a corner store in LA. He had a fan on Snapchat that was telling him he had a shop in Compton and we should come through at 11 pm. I was dealing with a lot of people in LA – I’ve been to LA like three times – and the general consensus is: you don’t go to Compton. Especially at 11 o’clock at night. Especially in a TNT truck. Think about it – we’re going to Compton in a TMT truck while there’s a big war zone going on to shoot Blade’s video in a corner shop. We’re sitting in the car. There’s about five-man or four-man. They’re all looking at each other and saying “I know it’s a bad idea but f*ck it”, Blade’s like “Let’s go, bruv!” I had to be the bad guy and say we’re not going. They started getting all amped up. None of them wanted to give up the fight. I wasn’t trying to die! I didn’t want them to die either! It’s just mad. In a TMT truck! Not even a little taxi, it’s so conspicuous! This is Compton, a world-renowned hood. You know Peckham, you know Brixton, you know these places but if you go to Africa you might not hear Peckham or Brixton but you know Compton. That’s not by accident. So I had to talk them out of it and find another shop to do it in.
What’s your biggest personal achievement so far?
My biggest achievement is probably being a part of the Rated Awards last year. Since the start of GRM Daily, I’ve been a bit spoilt in terms of that. It was instantly a success. Straight away. It’s hard to maintain your position but that comes day-in-day-out. Day-in day-out, you’re maintaining your position. When you’ve been doing that for seven years you need to challenge yourself and do other things or it gets repetitive. Basically, if anything went wrong that would’ve been the end of GRM Daily. I feel like the artists would’ve blamed me because straight away it would look like a stupid idea. If anything went wrong the artists would be against me, but also it would seem like no one’s taking it that seriously. You might’ve thought it was in some dungeon somewhere where everyone’s turning up in tracksuits. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it might get locked off at 10.45, you know? Just to pull that off…
Everything went well last year and created a good reputation, now Rated Awards 2016 was bigger and better.
100%. Just being a part of that, seeing it through; it was like we woke up one day and decided we wanted to do a website. I’d never done a website before. Then we wake up one day and want to do an awards show. We’d never done an awards show but we did it and it was an actual awards show.
You’ve got no one advising. You’ve got to think of everything.
Even down to how people come out, what music they come out to, that’s all down to us. What they drink, everything’s under control.
How do you create authentic brand relationships and why is it important to do that?
We’re influenced by America, that’s a no-brainer. The show’s called The Get Down. We called it the Ghetts Down – a no brainer. All these things we do with brands and associations, always tend to be a part of the culture anyway. Even with KA, while I’m doing my Netflix and chill, I would be drinking a KA. I might put a little rum in there. How many times have you drank KA, doing your thing? [laughs]
You’re selective with who you work with and also you won’t just do it by throwing something on the back of GRM Daily.
You see that company over there *points to a bin*? They’ve got nothing to do with us. I wouldn’t advertise with them. It doesn’t make sense.
You’re basically just not trying to take the mick out of your viewers. You respect them.
We respect our viewers because we’re viewers ourselves. That’s why we’re good at our jobs. When I started GRM I was on the website more than any consumer. Just checking. I’d refresh the page 25 or 30 times in four hours because I like to see what videos are next to what video, and asking myself would I watch that video? Meticulous. I’m not as meticulous now because I’m old but I was meticulous with it. That’s why we’ll never disrespect our viewers because we’re viewers ourselves.
Words: Hyperfrank, 2016. To learn more about GRM, you can watch the award-winning documentary here, with Dizzee Rascal, D Block Europe, and Aitch weighing in to discuss how GRM Daily went from nowhere to become one of the biggest websites ever for British Black music.