Last Thursday brought an announcement of a new marketing company, Quality Control.
QC* is the result of four individuals (Karim Panni, Kyle Pierce, Ian Davis, and Jonathan Kim) combining ideas, contacts, experience, and resources to form one like-minded company.
QC* provides numerous services aimed towards the artist, record label, new media companies, lifestyle, clothing and streetwear, and social networking companies. Our goal is to establish a reputation for marketing and promoting the most innovative, progressive, talented and top quality artists, projects, brands and content. Consider Quality Control a source for ‘What’s Next” in Urban music and marketing.
Nestled within the email announcement was a disheartening bit of news:
Greetings and welcome to the brand new newsletter for Quality Control Marketing LLC, and former home of MYX Music Label. Unfortunately, in what is surely a sign of the state of industry and the economy, MYX Music Label has closed its doors and shut down operations. It’s been a great run and we’d like to personally thank and congratulate all of our artists (Keelay and Zaire, D.Black, Jern Eye, Kam Moye, One Be Lo, Crown Royale, Fortilive) for their hard work, perseverance and great music.
Myx Music Label barely lasted a year. Its situation as an label funded by ABS-CBN, a Philippines-based cable network seeking to build an audience in the States, and taking its name from ABS-CBN’s fledgling youth network MYX TV, seemed precarious from the start. How long would a corporation with international ambitions dabble in indie-rap, a game with low profit margins and fickle fans?
At the moment, U.S. indie-rap labels survive on cult of personality. FDrom Stones Throw Records’ Madlib and Rhymesayers Entertainment’s Atmosphere to SomeOthaShip’s Georgia Anne Muldrow and Declaime and Duck Down Records’ Boot Camp Clik, each centers on artists who found individual success before converting their brand name into scrappy companies. Even a relatively unheralded label like Mello Music Group hinges on the talents of Oddisee, a D.C. producer/rapper who enjoys some respect in indie-rap circles.
But Bay Area-based MML didn’t have those assets. Its first release came from Keelay & Zaire, a production duo relatively unknown outside of rap chat rooms. In fact, people began checking for the group because its first MP3 leak, “The Times” starred then-white-hot rapper Blu. Subsequent releases such as D. Black’s Ali’Yah and Jern Eye (from Bay Area vets Lunar Heights)’s Vision — may have drawn blank stares. Its best known artist was Supastition, the North Carolina MC who drew acclaim for 2005’s Chain Letters. So why did Supastition use his real name, Kam Moye, for last year’s little-heard Splitting Image? The change was undoubtedly heartfelt, but it may have not been a wise business choice.
In today’s climate, indie labels have to be extremely smart. They have to target a specific niche audience, and create short goals that end with record sales and other forms of income. They have to take a hard look at each artist and ask, “Who will buy the artist’s CD, MP3s or vinyl? Who will buy a ticket to the artist’s concerts?”
Rap imprints have it worse. Hip hop fans should stop wondering who killed the genre and look in the fucking mirror. They just aren’t willing to spend money on music. Instead, they demand mixtapes and other sorts of free bullshit before they’ll even consider financially supporting a new artist. Then they maintain an absurdly high degree of difficulty for each release (which has to be a “classic”). I’ve spoken with retail store owners that claim rap fans don’t even buy new vinyl any more (with the notable exception of Stones Throw). Most of the growth in the burgeoning vinyl market comes from the indie-rock scene, which maintains an equally absurd myth of a never-ending creative Renaissance. While indie-rock fans think its bands are geniuses, indie-rap fans think its artists suck.
It’s not a knock on MML’s modest roster to question whether it was capable of surmounting these obstacles and fulfilling ABS-CBN’s goal of penetrating the enigmatic hip hop market. In an interview last year, label manager and rapper Karim “Nightclubber Lang” Panni (from the Boom Bap Project) told me he wasn’t interested in specifically targeting Asian-American youth. Why not? “I just look for the people who are making really good music that I would like,” he told me.
Perhaps Panni thought he had more time to make Myx Music start-up work. I was looking forward to albums by Crown Royale, a pairing between promising Detroit rapper Buff1 and veteran L.A. turntablist Rhettmatic; and Michigan cult artist One Be Lo. I wonder what will happen with those projects?
After I received the Quality Control press release, I sent an email to Panni asking what happened with MML. He hasn’t responded yet. If he does, I’ll let you know what he says.