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Setting business skills to music

20th February 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Zoe Sullivan
The Louisiana Weekly

For 52 months, hip-hop artists and producers have been gathering at The Hanger. The first Monday of every month has become a time for education, showcasing and networking, and it’s all working according to the vision of the men who started it, WQUE DJ Wild Wayne and Nuthin’ But Fire record shop owner and producer Sess 4-5. Together, they have established Industry Influence, and the event has grown to the point that prominent music industry figures such as Mystical and Lil’ Wayne have participated in its information panels.

The event averages 300 attendees at a session, and the evening offers opportunities to those in the audience to make announcements and see others from around New Orleans perform. Wild Wayne says that one outcome of the five years the event has been going in is that there are more connections and more collaboration between artists in New Orleans.

“We want to educate folks,” Sess 4-5 told The Louisiana Weekly. “We want them to network with each other, and then we want to showcase their talent.” Sess 4-5 also explained that the idea behind Industry Influence has to do with hard work and patience.

“[We’re] just trying to get folks to be consistent. Folks want to see some overnight success. We have folks that have been successful from the Industry Influence, but it’s just not overnight. It takes time.

Sess 4­-5 described a common attitude. “Folks look for ‘I perform on Industry Influence, I want a deal.’” What is needed, he said, is to “[t]ake a little bit from this panel, and a little bit from the next panel. That will build the performer or producer’s knowledge base so that they can be more successful with the business end of things.”

Security guards wand everyone at the door to make sure that there are no troubles inside, but the atmosphere around the music is definitely one of socializing and business. Some come to see their friends perform, but for many, Industry Influence is the place to be to learn how to succeed in the music industry.

Wick Reid, a New Orleans native who works with the Grammy Foundation, spoke on a panel this month about monetizing your music. He described the experience of J.R. Branch, who filed the paper work to copyright a song he wrote with his band roughly 30 years ago. “A few years ago, when everything went digital, they put all their stuff out on iTunes.” According to Reid, Kanye West heard one of Branch’s band’s songs, and used it. Because the paperwork was right, Branch and his colleagues were able to continue making money on the song they had recorded years earlier.

For Wild Wayne, the business skills that go along with the creative ones are like the yin and yang. “I think that what we do is that we make someone whole. It goes back to the teach a man to fish concept,” Wayne told The Louisiana Weekly.

While New Orleans has a long musical tradition, according to Wayne it also has a long history of musicians getting pennies for their work while a “fat rat” takes the profits. Wayne and Sess aim to provide some of the tools for area artists to change that.

One of the local performers who has seized this opportunity is Azitiz. A female vocalist, Azitiz has produced a video with a Polish group and performs regularly overseas. To be true to her own message and style, Azitiz is working on developing her own fan base independently of a major record label. Currently, she is working on setting some concert dates in South Africa. Asked about the impact that she sees Industry Influence having on the city, Azitiz said: “The networking is amazing, and the fact that it’s run by responsible, African-American men…hopefully it’ll stop some of the violence and the things going on in New Orleans.”

So far, Industry Influence seems to have flown under the radar of the city and state. Asked about the event, Scott Hutcheson, who runs the city’s office of cultural economy, admitted that he hadn’t heard of it. In spite of this, Hutcheson said he was eager to find ways to support the event and its mission. He spoke about how music could offer positive outlets for young people. “I think certainly hip-hop musicians, or any musician, has a role to play in helping youth see something differently. They’re role models. They can offer a message of hope, opportunity…There’s a tremendous opportunity to make a difference.”

This article originally published in the February 20, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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