For #IT2023, our media partner TRENCH, an independent music, style, and culture platform, dedicated to the past, present and future of Black music, delivered a powerful knowledge exchange. Jacqueline Springer, Curator Africa & Diaspora: Performance, V&A London led the conversation with UD Ambassador, RAY BLK, offering up carefully crafted questions about RAY’s journey as an artist and multi-hyphenate.
Starting right from the beginning, RAY said that from when she was six years old, music became “cathartic”, that she found an escape in music due to feeling the distance between her and her siblings. RAY then went on to mention how she wanted to change her family’s reality by becoming rich from music, with Jacqueline then dropping a big knowledge bomb.
This is so important to consider – a lot of people are seeing their talent as a way out of their circumstance. For some it is not just expression – it’s putting food on the table.
They then discussed statistics, concluding that despite the amount of revenue that the music industry brings to the economy, artists are not actually seeing enough of it and have to source income from elsewhere. They also touched on the importance of branding and how important it is to make sure that whatever you do, take brand sponsorships for example, are authentic to you.
“You have to make sure that you represent yourself, not represent whatever people tell you [that] you should represent in the way you should do it, because you are the one that’s gonna carry it forever.”
JACQUELINE: Can you tell us about your journey towards the legalities of protecting your creativity and your creative identity?
RAY BLK: I think my best experience of that was starting as an independent artist. I started out independently – I was going through a distributor called AWAL. They give you a chunk of money and they say, “This is your budget to do what you will.” You make the music, you release the music, you get people to help you release the music like a radio plugger or a TV plugger, and that money can run out very, very quickly.
Important things to note from RAY BLK:
- Learn how to manage your money properly
- Have your priorities really clear.
- PRS has schemes you can apply for to get you budget to be able to help when you are just starting out
- The Arts Council also has funding schemes
- Consider how else you can try and get funding to help you create your music
- Learn to prioritise
- Make sure that you’re making smart decisions with whatever money it is that you have.
“It’s okay if you don’t have the money for that amazing music video idea that you have – maybe just use that money that you do have to make sure that you’ve copyrighted your name so that your manager doesn’t say, actually I’ll copyright it and now I own it.”
RAY BLK’S thoughts on the future of Black British Music
“My thoughts on the future of Black British music are that it’s here to stay. I think a lot of people thought that our music was just a trend that was gonna be here today and gone tomorrow, but we are absolutely here to stay. I think that the more artists continue to collaborate together, the more we will grow. We need to continue owning our spaces. I’m seeing that we are starting to own our spaces, and I think the more of that, the better.”
The most important lesson RAY BLK has learned on her journey as an artist:
Listen to what other artists have to say about their experience, which might be a surprising thing, but along my journey, I did have artists who had been in the game longer than me give me advice about certain things whether it was signing a record deal or certain moves to make. I thought I knew better because I was new and popping – you don’t want to hear what the oldies have to say, but age comes with wisdom, it comes with learning, and they’ve been through it. And so I would say learning from my peers has been really important. Seeing what they’ve done or what they’ve not done, what mistakes they’ve made, those who are bold enough to speak about it and share their wisdom, I think has been really helpful and I would say just always do the research for yourself.
Ray BLK stars in Champion, a new drama coming to the BBC/ Netflix this summer, written by Candice Carty-Williams. ‘A love letter to Black British music set in south London, #Champion is the celebration of a sound that has long been the beating heart of our culture.’
Words: Kat Friar
Photography: Saadiq T