KSI's agent Mark Bennett on how the UK rap star is stepping up to arenas and festival main stages

KSI's agent Mark Bennett on how the UK rap star is stepping up to arenas and festival main stages

KSI is gearing up for his second album, All Over The Place (BMG), which is released on July 16. 

It follows the huge success last year with debut LP Dissimulation, which was the biggest UK breakthrough of 2020. It has sales of 97,823 (Official Charts Company) after peaking at No.2.

KSI (real name Olajide "JJ" Olatunji) also hit No.2 in the singles chart with current single Holiday and Anne-Marie’s Don’t Play, while he peaked at No.3 with Really Love alongside Craig David & Digital Farm Animals and Patience feat. Yungblud and Polo G.

The album will be launched with The KSI Show, a global online performance via Moment House, on July 17. 

Following his huge streaming success, KSI will then have the opportunity to make his mark as a live artist at UK festivals this summer, including the main stage at Reading & Leeds. He has a UK tour booked in October, including O2 Forum Kentish Town, followed by SSE Arena, Wembley in February 2022. Metropolis and SJM are promoting the shows. 

Here, KSI’s agent, MBA Live’s Mark Bennett, looks at the live opportunities for the UK rap star as he prepares to release his second album...

How significant is KSI’s potential as a major touring artist?

“JJ and I have been working together for just under two years. He was actually one of the first signings I made when I set my company up. He is somebody who, throughout his career, has always been about creating long-lasting memories and moments for his fanbase. When I looked at his touring history, there was quite a disconnect from his [streaming] numbers, because you just assumed he was going to do gangbuster ticket business. We wanted to try and figure out why that was.  

“A large part of the [live strategy] is about him being taken seriously as an artist over the last 18 months. The music that's been put together through him and Mams [Taylor, founder of Proper Loud Management] has definitely raised the bar, and it's really allowed me to get into where we think we can go with him. He's an arena level artist, if not greater, and his ambitions continue to grow as we speak. We had ambitions to get to arena level for album two, and that's what we're doing. While we thought Covid and the pandemic might make it more challenging, all the signs so far suggest that we were not wrong. His goals and ambitions change as he starts to see how he is growing. It’s about how we align his career over the next few years, so we can actually have conversations about festival headlines. It's an evolving process but the signs are really good.”

What are the expectations for the Wembley show?

“I'm very fortunate that with KSI, I sit really closely in the team, so I’m across a lot more aspects of his business. I've been in production meeting calls. I've seen and heard what his ambitions are, and I believe he's going to deliver one hell of a show. He's going to go all out, you can sense his excitement and what he's planning and plotting. I think his album is called All Over The Place for a reason. Very early on, we started to realise that he's somebody that can transcend a genre, whether he’s on a dance record with Nathan Dawe, a pop record with Anne-Marie, drill records or a rap record - he's able to hit all areas. He's going to bring a very big show that will continue that narrative. He's not just segmented into a particular genre. He's a household name. For a certain generation, he is a legend already. For us, it's just about widening that audience.” 

What are the festival plans for KSI?

“We're doing Reading & Leeds, Trnsmt and Parklife this year. [At Reading & Leeds], you can look through the line-up and see that he’s on the main stage; on the second stage is Yungblud, on the dance stage is Nathan Dawe and on the 1Xtra stage there are people he’s collaborated with. So it might be a very cool, unique PR moment with KSI all over the place at Reading & Leeds. If we can create a scenario where he’s played every stage, it’s a cool thing for people to shout about and it reaffirms our relationship with that festival.”  

When do you expect KSI to headline festivals?

“I believe we're going to start having the conversations around album three. Why not?  He was the biggest-selling debut breakthrough artist last year. His shows are selling out very quickly. So each metric that we're looking at right now, it suggests that those conversations on cycle three are not misplaced.”

KSI has collaborated with many artists - is he planning to secure guest appearances at his shows?

“Where possible, we’ll bring guests out in different markets, so every show’s got something that feels special to that unique audience. We’re seeing really great numbers in lots of markets. We've been having discussions in the US for over a year, we've been having discussions with Australia and Asia, mainland Europe. We have plans in place, we just have to keep moving them. We look very closely at the data. We're looking at Spotify figures and we then speak to our promoter partners, work out the right room and the right ticket price, which is equally as important.”

Does he have the ability to connect with a big audience when he plays shows?

“I think it would be a very grumpy person who comes away from a KSI show unhappy. He understands the need to showcase himself, he's got certain goals in his head and he’s going take every step necessary to get there. He’s just naturally charismatic, charming and funny. He's so humble, and he's so easy to work with. I was sat there laughing throughout the whole show when he did The Great Celebrity Bake Off.”

What are the opportunities for brand partnerships?

“We have a relationship with a brand partnership team, and we field a lot of enquiries. But for us it's all about his integrity, what matches with him; what aligns with him and his values and his brand, that's the most important thing for us beyond any financial opportunity. The long-term plan is to make all the right steps so that we can ensure that he's going to have a long-lasting career.”

Subscribers can click here to read our KSI interview.


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