If you don’t know Atlanta artist K Camp, it’s highly likely you know his track ‘Lottery (Renegade)’, or at least the 15-second clip of it that blew up on TikTok early in 2020, in turn sending the track zooming back up the charts.

There’s far more to K Camp than one viral track, however. With DJ, producer and business partner Genius he’s been steadily building his career both as an artist, and as an entrepreneur.

The pair co-founded Rare Sound, a creative hub that encompasses a label, recording studio, distribution and other musical activities. And today, they talked about some of the principles that have helped them to build and grow, at Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global online conference. Music Ally’s Patrick Ross was on interviewer duty.

As an artist, K Camp has worked within the major label system – with Interscope – and also independently. It’s been a journey of continual enlightenment.

“It was a long one. But it taught me the ins and outs of the game and how to create a fanbase and how to really establish myself as an artist that people will respect instead of just a single-driven artist that gets one hit and he’s outta here. We see that plenty of times in this game,” he said.

“So just dropping project after project, it taught me how to format, it taught me what audience to attack, and just how to elevate my career. It was all a grassroots thing: we started from the bottom of it, and over the years you keep driving, and keep building the fanbase.”

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When K Camp and Genius started working together, they were distributing mixtapes, which Genius said nudged them in the direction of independence from the start.

“It put us in the mindset of hustling your music can make money for you, in the beginning,” he said. They also had a firm sense that they wanted to learn as much as possible about the business of music, rather than being penned into the lane of ‘artists’ only.

“You’ve got to look at it like this: ain’t nobody gonna babysit you! This is a business, and you’ve got to do what’s best for your business. You can sign to a label, and think your whole career is made, and you think that’s the least of your worries, but that’s pretty much all your worries!” said K Camp, of his Interscope days.

“Me, for instance. I went to my label thinking ‘I made it. I don’t gotta do nothing else… I’m signed, my life is great, my family’s taken care of. In the first couple of months they’ll feed that to you, and you’re feeling that. But then the real business starts to kick in and you start to understand what this game really is. 90% business, 10% music is what they say!” he added.

“If you don’t get in there and learn, and figure out for yourself and understand what this game is really made of, you can get easily chewed up and just tossed to the side. But us in particular, we didn’t want that to happen. We’ve seen the bigger picture, we’ve seen the bigger vision of: we can’t let our careers and our lives be in somebody else’s hand. We’ve got to take control and get in the driver’s seat.”

Genius agreed, saying that working with a major offered plenty of opportunities to learn how the business worked, including the fast-evolving digital side of the music industry.

“We were very conscious of learning the game on a big level,” he said. “And after we went through that phase, we realised that we could assimilate that. We already had a business model [from the mixtape days] so we just had to upgrade it into this new streaming era.”

Genius had spent time working as a party promoter, which he said was also important in teaching him lessons about entrepreneurship. Sometimes tough ones.

“Some artists, it’s just they don’t understand the risks. We understood the risks from early. We understood putting up $50,000 on a party, booking an event, and it rains and it just flops, and you lose it! Artists as entrepreneurs? They don’t understand the risk of what goes into it,” he said.

“Everybody’s not ready to put $100,000 on a record and lose it, and be able to just go back to the studio the next day and be like ‘let\’s just run it up again and do it again’. I don’t think they understand the barriers to entry, truly, whether it’s a JV with a label or whether you’re fully independent.”

“If you’re not going to put the money up, don’t get in this game!” added K Camp, before talking about the challenge of ensuring that he and Genius are taken seriously by the music industry as businesspeople, not just as musicians.

“I feed off that type of energy. I love proving myself, I love proving people wrong, I love just challenging myself to new lanes where I can learn more, where I can experience more, and make as much revenue for the company as I can, and put my artists in position to become superstars and become bigger than K Camp. I’m ready!” he said.

“I thrive off of it. I can’t wait to see what 2021 is looking like, even though the world is crazy. I can’t wait to see what the label is looking like for ’21. We have done so much in this short period of time… off hustle, off knowledge, off just faith and really putting in the work and understanding what we’ve got to do to get to the next level.”

Rare Sound

Genius addressed some of the challenges that still remain, including those for hip-hop artists specifically, when it comes to securing backing from the wider industry.

“In hip-hop, there’s so much negative connotations that go with some of the music sometimes, it makes the industry look at young entrepreneurs like: ‘Can we take that risk, if we’re a major label, of giving them $100m or $10m to trust that this is an investment that they will make into something profitable?’” he said.

“I think there is always that kind of stigma, especially in hip-hop. But I think it’s changing: thank you Jay-Z!”

With Rare Sound, K Camp and Genius are now in the position of signing artists to their label, and fostering a culture of transparency around its business, and the contracts that those artists sign.

“I don’t want nobody on my roster to ever feel like I felt,” said K Camp. “We’re trying to transition the game to fair deals, and everybody can make money… You can’t be too greedy with this shit. If you become too greedy, your operation shuts down. It becomes toxic and it shrinks down.”

“The amount of time we had to go through to learn the game because we felt like information, connections was all hidden from us. It was like a hip-hop thing: to hold everything at the top,” added Genius.

“But everybody over here is an entrepreneur. Everybody over here has really good deals where they could be entrepreneurs, where they could start their own labels, where they could develop their own artists. That option is there for everybody that signs to Rare Sound.”

“We don’t really believe in the conventional locking artists into million-year deals, because we want artists to come over here and develop and learn, and then be able to take that on. If you look at Lil Wayne and then what he has done for Nicki Minaj and then Drake, and what Drake has done for OVO, and it just continues.”

“There’d be no Drake and Nicki if Lil Wayne was selfish!” chimed in K Camp. “We’d never know who Drake or Nicki was if Lil Wayne was selfish with his success.”

How does Rare Sound stand up against other labels and studios in the industry?

“We start everything with the music at Rare Sound. That’s our business model,” said Genius. “We really focus on first the music, and then focus on the message that our artists have to give to the world… We understand that we have something special because we scrutinise the creativity and the music.”

Genius also talked about the development of Rare Sound digitally, and his work building out a network of playlists to support the artists he work with, as well as deep-diving into – we promise we’re just reporting what he said here – Music Ally’s editorial archive and training modules.

“I want to always know how the game is changing digitally, because that’s the world we live in. Especially during this pandemic: if you didn’t see this coming or you didn’t see how digital was going to take over music, you’d almost be non-existent right now as a hip-hop label… I feel like it has given us a unique advantage,” he said.

“I’m so excited for the future of the music business, because I feel once a lot of the developing markets come online… You see what’s happening in Africa, you see how hard the Afrobeat movement is coming, you see once India goes online what that’s doing for certain DSPs in that market.”

“So I’m just really excited for the globalisation and growth of the digital space in music. I feel it’s going to be really profitable, if we can secure ourselves on a global level.”

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The conversation came back to K Camp and Genius’s accumulation of knowledge about the music business, alongside their evolution as musicians.

“I feel like at one point, we were just staring at a curtain in the music industry, and we somehow happened to pull the curtain back and saw all the inner workings of what was going on behind it!” said Genius.

Their ambitions remain high, and beyond just signing a joint-venture agreement with a major label.

“We want to build the next Def Jam! We want to be one of those majors. I would hate to set a ceiling cap on just a JV situation,” said Genius. “Of course you have to go through those to build, but we want to establish ourselves as the new Cash Money, the new Def Jam, the new 300. Just one of the biggest!”

It’s a process of building blocks, just as it is for building an artist’s fanbase, in a way that’s familiar to both from the city where it all started.

“Coming from Atlanta, a music artist can just start out in his neighbourhood, and convince everybody in his neighbourhood: he’ll record his song, everybody in my neighbourhood knows the song, the song spreads to another neighbourhood, if it’s a really good song it spreads to another neighbourhood,” said Genius.

“Now it spreads to the clubs, now it’s into the mix show, now somebody’s gonna come in and invest in this artist, and it all blows up. So we’ve never forgotten that. Even in the streaming era where it’s all these big numbers and looking at the analytics all day long!”

“But I think the key is to actually pinpoint where it’s working. You could have massive numbers where they could be crazy widespread, so you don’t know where your core fanbase is and how to even zero in on your core fanbase and build from that level. I feel like all the big numbers sometimes confuses where if this person is actually a star. Does this person have a real movement going on? Does this person have the potential to really take it there?” he continued.

“You could have small numbers, but they could all be coming from Atlanta. And those numbers might be way more important than if you have those numbers from all over these cities all over America… you can’t really do a show if you only have 100 fans here and 100 fans there. But if you have 10,000 fans in Atlanta, you could definitely go and do a show, and create crazy more impact in the real world!”

The pair offered some final tips for would-be artist-entrepreneurs out there.

“Be willing to learn. Step out of your box, get uncomfortable,” said K Camp. “Do some shit that you don’t want to do. Do some shit that you never thought that you could do. And go for it.”

“It’s never stopping. Every single day we wake up and go to work. We don’t stop. Don’t matter if we’re at the top of the charts or we’re not at the top of the charts. We just go to work every day. Because there’s always something new to learn,” said Genius.

“You never know when that day is that you’re gonna meet the next big act that you could sign, or when is that day that you’re gonna make the record. When we made ‘Lottery’ it was probably one of the most annoying days of our life!”

“We were on tour, it was in New York, the tourbus couldn’t find parking, we were just tired, we couldn’t find food! We were just so frustrated, and New York has been probably one of the hardest cities to really sell out, coming from the South. So every time we were in New York it was anxiety… Camp was like ‘y’all I’m just gonna go to the studio’ just annoyed. Whatever: ‘Lottery’. Imagine if that day we had just been like no, we’re going to stay in the hotel all day, we’re not going to work, we’re annoyed, we’re hungry… [But we] just kept the work going.”


Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global is taking place online this week, with two hours of talks and panels every day starting at 3pm BST (4pm CEST / 10am EDT / 7am PDT).

It’s broadcasting live on Zoom and – thanks to our sponsors Linkfire, Chartmetric and MQA – is completely free to access. You can see the agenda and register here.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you build the strategies for artists to thrive in new international markets!

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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