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#IT2023 0207 Def Jam: In Conversation with Alex & Alec Boateng

From March 27th-April 2nd, UD curated an epic week of music industry and live music events – welcome to Industry Takeover 2023. Through talks, panels, masterclasses and workshops, the week aimed to share insider knowledge with artists, producers and people aspiring to work in the music industry, and allow them the opportunity to network with some of the music industry’s finest…

Image: Saadiq T

The second event of Monday saw Chi Chi Izundu (BBC) speak to twin brothers and Co-Presidents, Alex & Alec Boateng about their label, 0207 Def Jam. Kat Friar reports…

Image: Saadiq T

0207 DEF JAM: IN CONVERSATION WITH ALEX & ALEC BOATENG 

They both touched on their different journeys throughout the industry and the many pit stops they made before arriving at 0207 Def Jam. They offered many pearls of wisdom about what goes on behind the scenes in the industry. As label heads, their daily duties are ever-changing.

Image: Saadiq T

Chi Chi asks…

Do you guys feel like you’ve made waves in the music industry? Do you feel like where you are at with your label has changed the game?

ALEC: It represents a few things that we stand on, but I always say the space that we occupy is because a lot of other people are really good at what they do, and we are able to manoeuvre around that – and position it – and hopefully play a role in them being the best version of them-self, and that’s definitely like the path that I feel I’ve had in that sense… And I know that, again, there are a lot of people who have enabled that to happen for us, a lot of people behind the scenes, be it guys like Lincoln Elias, Jay Richardson, people who have had what is deemed as commercial success in music leaning on Black music and Black culture that allow people to know it can happen. 

Image: Saadiq T

Notable questions from the Q&A

If you were to give us any advice as A&Rs, managers, people behind the scenes, what advice would you give us in terms of being able to give something of value to the artist?

  • Get to know each other. You wanna be around the people that you like.
  • Find your space to have honest interactions with your artists and team.

As Presidents of a label, what do you look for when you are hiring new people?

  • Integrity 
  • Confidence
  • Being on time
  • Expertise in what you do

“If this is the legal team, you’ve gotta be the best at that. A&R – what have you signed? How have you developed it? How do you display that? If it’s digital, what’s the examples of your work? Real expertise. I think rather than [a] jack of all trades, people that really mastered this specific area and sometimes that’s our people in the accounts have done accountancy qualifications and the legal team have gone through the legal qualification.” 

What is the best way to step into signing a deal?

  • Understanding what you need for your now and work out your short term, medium term and then what the dream is long term. 
  • If it’s a resource thing, there are ways in which you can get resources if it’s a certain type of expertise. Then, even within the label system, there are different people that are good at different things.
  • Maybe you [can wait] until you knew yourself better [and have] more natural relationships with certain producers you’re after.
Image: Saadiq T

On the future of Black British Music…

ALEC: The future of Black music is bright, ’cause there’s so much amazing talent and there’s a real history to build on. Some great artists have laid the foundation of the ability to be great and be yourself and borrow from the richness of what is happening in Black music in the UK and be successful here and take everyone along as well. The future’s bright.

ALEX: I think the future of Black British music is super exciting. I think there’s an amazing history that continues to be built. I think there are a ton of amazing artists and histories and now executives to study radio stations, social networks, people behind the scenes. I think all these things are really strengthening it. So I think those things are making it even more exciting at the moment and for the future.

On the talk they did together and what UD did with their Industry Takeover…

ALEC: It was good. I feel like it’s one of the first ones we’ve actually done together and it was cool, ’cause I think with those situations you can only just be as honest as you can with regards to your journey and advice and I think honesty is important and it’s a good time to be able to interact with each other in the spaces that we occupy, via labels, artists, managers, and have this dialogue about journeys and people’s thoughts on things.

ALEX: I think what UD’s doing is super important. Connecting people with the industry experts, giving people the opportunity to learn [is] something that UD do and always have done and do really, really well. So I’m really proud to be involved.

Alec offers advice for artists looking to get signed:

“There are so many options and ways in which you can get your music out there, get heard, be good at what you do. Some do include being signed, some sometimes don’t. Investigate all options, have honest conversations with people [you] trust, get really good advice from professional people in the spaces [you] wanna occupy – good managers, good lawyers – and then investigate and quiz the people that you could potentially be working with as much as possible so that you can understand if you have shared ambition. And if you do have shared ambition, work backwards from that and fill in the details with deals that make sense, relationships around it that makes sense and as much advice as possible.” 

Alex gives some advice for anyone looking to start their own label: 

“Find amazing, distinctive artists, and think about how your label is gonna be different to everybody else’s.”

Image: Saadiq T

Words & additional photography: Kat Friar. Kat is a freelance journalist, DJ and photographer with a passion for music. She likes to cover all bases regarding music so whether it’s a new album, a rising artist or a gig, she’ll be writing about it.

Photography: Saadiq T

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