NEW SYSTEMS: Stories on creative innovation during lockdown

How artists in the UK’s rap, grime and drill scenes are pushing the boundaries of creativity.

As part of our NEW SYSTEMS initiative to support creators during the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been speaking to artists, DJs, broadcasters and platforms about how the music industry can cope and evolve. We don’t have all the answers but we firmly believe that it’s through talking and collaborating that we can build new ways of working that are both fairer and more sustainable for audio culture as a whole – not just during lockdown, but beyond.

Earlier this month Ian McQuaid, journalist and head A&R at Moves Recordings hosted a roundtable discussion with artists from across the spectrum of the UK’s rap, drill and grime scenes – ProdbyWalkz, Abigail Asante, TSASHA, BVDLVD and Tim & Barry – to find out how despite the restrictions of lockdown they’ve managed to carved out new ways of working and continue to thrive and innovate creatively.

First up, he speaks to ProdByWalkz, somewhat of a polymath most widely known as a YouTube reactor but also a producer and rapper. As a creative well-versed in self-isolation he’s used this time to go into creative overdrive while “everybody’s at home looking for content,” even putting out 22 reaction videos in one day. In a time when new digital opportunities bubbling up can feel overwhelming, he’s focused his energy on staying connected to his fans more than ever before; “it doesn’t seem like anybody’s slowing down,” he says.

Of course, creative innovation isn’t just about the volume of output but establishing entirely new methods of producing music. A lot of artists are fortunate to be able to do a lot of their recording at home with the basic building blocks of a track: sending beats via WhatsApp and laying down beats in their bedrooms. Speaking to Abigail Asante, she was due to make a track with Barbadian artist RoRo but instead they met for the first time on Houseparty. “Our energies really matched,” she says, highlighting new playful ways to connect with fellow artists on the other side of the planet in real time. 

Balamii resident TSASHA echoes these positive shifts in reaching out to people you wouldn’t usually hit up and building new global connections; she says lockdown’s “helped open up opportunities to collaborate with people abroad”. With the dancefloor out of action, she’s also spending her time up-skilling with new DJ equipment and thinking outside the box in terms of her music selections, “drawing some more experimental edits”.

Not just the dancefloor, but with studios and physical spaces out of bounds, what do you do when you can’t get together to shoot a video? We go on to explore how artists are pushing the boundaries with a DIY approach to video production in a scene where tracks can live and die on the strength of the music video. He speaks to BVDLVD, an artist who’s taken complete control over the process from shooting and editing his own videos to now shooting videos for other artists. “Sometimes it’s fun working with a constraint as it pushes you to do things you don’t normally do,” he says. Working outside of his comfort zone he’s had to re-think his new video and used rendering farms to outsource the processing power he lacked on his personal laptop.

Finally, he speaks to Tim & Barry, who’ve been at the forefront of creativity and pioneering new techniques since 2000 and arguably lead the charge in live-streamed DJ sets. They explore how they’re innovating to build better interaction and connections between the DJ and audience; their new project is built around MCs spitting over a DJ’s beat from a different location entirely to re-create that IRL club experience. “What we’re trying to do with people jumping on having a chat will hopefully make people feel more connected”.

Our mission working towards a fairer, more sustainable future for the creative community has never felt more urgent – we’re waiving our SELECT revenue share until the end of June and offering extended 90 days Pro trials so you can get set-up with Mixcloud LIVE and start earning from your work. Find out more here.

What challenges have you faced as a creator in lockdown? Join the discussion and let us know your thoughts. We’ll continue to work closely with the creator community to workshop solutions for how the industry can change for the better. Check out our article on how creators are looking to become self-sufficient during the crisis.

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