In a pretty insightful article from the Sunday New York Times, Jeff Leeds follows the story of an up-and-coming R&B singer named Governor. But more than just chronicle some of the behind-the-scenes struggle of a new artist trying to find his big break, the article also takes a much deeper look at one of hip-hop’s growing phenomenons:
“…the music industry is cranking out thousands of new CD’s each year and only the luckiest new artists will manage to score a spot on a radio playlist. What you might need is someone to open doors. A trusted ally who could put his arm around you and introduce you to his friends. Say, a million or so of them.
Acting on that theory, record labels in recent years have made a point of introducing new, little-known acts as protégés of established stars. In some cases the two musicians might have grown up on the same block. Or perhaps they had shared the struggle of performing in the same unknown group. Either way, it’s a rich backstory that can be woven into any future marketing effort. But what if the new singer doesn’t have any long-lost pals who’ve gone platinum?
For an increasingly desperate industry, that is but a minor obstacle. These days, label executives routinely shop their new prospects around from one star to another, trying to convince them to act as a mentor. Then the newcomer is marketed as a devotee, or a card-carrying member of the star’s ‘camp.'”
Check out the full article (you need your free NY Times online subscription), and learn more about Governor’s near-misses with mentors as well as which camp he finally wound up in.