Senior editor Joel Borquaye (formerly a Music Week Rising Star) and artist & label partnerships manager/genre specialist Sage Olito spoke to Music Week backstage at the event, which was the biggest show in Music Week Awards history.
Spotify triumphed in the Music Consumer Innovation category for its Rap UK Day 1 Club project, which was based around users’ dedication to UK rap and hip-hop acts on the platform and featured a standalone site that tracked listening history, ranked fandom and offered shareable content.
The shortlist included the likes of Amazon Music UK, EMI x Bastille, Vevo, YouTube and more, and Olito (pictured above, left, with Borquaye and Vick Hope) said Spotify was proud to come out on top.
“We’ll be honest, we weren’t really expecting anything!” he said. “There were a lot of really exceptional nominees and I felt like they might have edged it. But we are very honoured, shout out Music Week for getting us over the line. It’s amazing to see our hard work pay off.”
Olito added that, when it comes to competition from other DSPs and tech platforms, Spotify prefers to observe from a safe distance.
“It’s good to look from afar and take note, but in order to be truly innovative, you have to look at your own lane and focus on what you’ve got going on, or else it’s easy to dibble and dabble [in what] other people do,” he said. “We look from afar and we are inspired by [others], but in order to get ideas like Day 1 Club off the ground, we have to think in-house, look in-house and focus on what we’ve got going on.”
And when it comes to UK rap, Spotify has had a lot “going on” for a while now: from the breakout success of the Who We Be brand, to their Music Week Awards win and the record-breaking success of Dave and Central Cee’s recent collaboration.
Here, we dig further into how the platform works with the genre…
Firstly, how did Day 1 Club come together in the first place?
Joel Borquaye: “We worked with over 200 artists, we had to shortlist what we thought would be our top 200 artists in the UK to amplify, and with that they needed to provide assets and we needed approval for each one, so it was quite a manual process.”
Sage Olito: “It was quite a manual process, so a lot of conversations, a lot of requests and a lot of chasing, which obviously in the end was all worth it.”
How did the project reward Spotify users?
JB: “Last year, UK rap, more than any other year I believe, went global, so it was really nice to focus in on the talent and the audience in the UK. Whereas the genre may be new to the rest of the world and it might be growing in other places like Australia or New York with the drill connection, we’ve actually been championing and representing [these artists] with our audience for years. Since day one, I guess. It was really nice to celebrate that and highlight those fans that have been fans of their favourite artists for a very long time.”
What’s next for UK rap?
JB: “What I’m most excited about is the sound. The best thing about UK hip-hop and rap is that it encompasses many sub-genres, so it’s constantly changing. That’s the best thing about being from the UK. This year, I’m really excited about the authentic hip-hop sound that’s coming out. You’ve got artists like Strandz, Nines, Potter Payper, Knucks, Digga D has even changed up his sound… It’s so inspiring to hear new sounds and that’s what I’m really excited to champion.”
SO: “Like I said on stage, this is just the tip of the iceberg. To see where rap has come, from 20 years ago to today and to see the recognition from mainstream media and a lot of artists charting says a lot about the direction it’s moving in. I think it’s going to keep going from strength to strength.”
The best thing about UK hip-hop and rap is that it encompasses many sub-genres, so it’s constantly changing
If you’re a young artist or manager, what can you be doing to get support from Spotify?
JB: “Spotify For Artists! We recently did a masterclass that spoke more specifically to playlisting and editorial support.”
SO: “One thing we always say is to make sure you’re doing the basics right. Make sure your profile is intact, your bio is intact and that when you deliver your music, you deliver it nice and early because we get about 100,000 songs every day. So in order to stand out from the crowd, you want to make sure you get ahead of it and don’t deliver three days before release. You want to make sure you pitch your track correctly, tagging the right moods and the right genres. All of those elements will give you the best opportunity to at least be considered for support. It’s just doing the basics really well and consistently.”
And are rap and hip-hop artists doing that?
JB: “Yeah. We have many examples of artists who are now really successful that, when I first heard them, it was through the back end of Spotify when they didn’t have as many fans or listeners as they do now. It’s really exciting to see an artist grow from Radar First Listen to Today’s Top Hits, for example. We’ve seen that first hand and that’s really inspiring.”