Matthew Knowles And Che Pope On The Music Industry And Lil’ Rick
While cleaning up my laptop I came across some audio that I previously thought was lost. Sitting in a folder of unnamed files was the elusive recording of a press conference with industry stalwarts Matthew Knowles and Che Pope (read his interview here), who were in the island for the Caribbean Music Summit – held in February this year.
In the room filled with established media professionals (you know, CBC an’ dem), and I, the conversation went from the summit, to girl bands, to Rihanna. While talking about songs, Knowles dropped this gem that I have been using since then: “Wack plus wack, equals wack.”
After the seasoned journalists had their turn, I wiped the Similac from my breath and pitched my questions. Here’s what the guys had to say.
Image and Story by Carlos Brathwaite
On keeping up with the constant changes in the music industry
Matthew Knowles: I learn everyday. I read the Billboard magazine. I read, I read, I read. I look at thinking outside of the box. We’re in a business where you can create a sound. You dont have to follow a sound; you can create it. So you have to have that creative process as well. Thinking outside of the box; dare to do it differently.
But when you do it differently, you have to be the very best at it. It always goes to fundamentals with this. We try to make it difficult but it always goes back to fundamentals.
Che Pope: It does [go back to fundamentals]. The music businesses is ever changing, especially as the result of technology and things of that nature, so you have to stay connected. You have to stay, as he said, reading and active. For me, it’s even a matter of connecting to the new artists and the young artists, and so on and so forth. Because I gotta know what’s fresh.
And at the same time it’s a little bit of ego with us.We feel like we’re fresh. And that’s part of what hip-hop and urban music is about. It has a little swagger with it. So when we create, we are trying to… Drake just put a hot song out so we’re like ‘oh okay’ – we’re trying to come back. If Beyonce puts something out hot, [we’re like] ‘oh okay’ – whether it’s the concert… it’s everything! It’s a friendly competition. We’re back in the studio like ‘ Oh okay, you see what she just did? Okay, we’re back to the drawing board.’ It’s a constant challenge for us, because we have been successful, to remain successful and to continue to be successful.
Matthew Knowles on Beyonce’s surprise album release.
You know we talked about that for years. These things just don’t happen overnight. You don’t just do these things overnight. There’s a lot of planning that goes with just putting that album out without marketing, traditionally. Without ANY marketing… First of all, without anybody knowing about it. That in itself was miraculous: that only five people knew about this album.
So let’s start there. You had the songwriters, you had producers, you had engineers, you had people and folks in the studio; all [of them] could have had – as we know [with] social media – gotten that word out. Then, no radio. And it shows where radio [is] and it’s impact today. And I think radio is not what it used to be for the music industry. And we’re learning that. We still got some folks still believing that old school thought process.
But everyone can’t do that. I don’t see a new artist doing that.
Che Pope on Barbadian artists keeping up with others internationally.
The point that we’ve constantly reiterated is: a song. A really hot song. So how do you keep up with the changes is the same way anyone else does: you got to make good music and you’ve got to make viable music that you can sell to an audience. Like [Matthew] was saying, anybody could put a record out. The challenges you faced in the past, where you were in Barbados and where you were isolated, you’re not as isolated anymore. You have all these avenues to get your music out.
So now the challenge you face is: Ok, now we got to make a hot song that brings the people to us. Those are the challenges you have. It’s just to make a hot record. Where as before you had to make a hot record and then you still had to figure out ‘How do we pierce this industry?’ You’re not as isolated anymore. You have tons of avenues to get your music to people.
On Lil’ Rick’s performance and overseas potential
MK: I loved his energy, I loved his connection with the audience. There are some critical things, though. I think that would have been a tremendously better performance had he had a band. Had he had background singers. Its about building this experience for the audience, and, so, I’m very critical. And that is with no disrespect because I thought he did a really good job.
But I always say ‘How can I make it better?”How can the artist make it better?”How can the team make it better?’ The moment we become complacent and be like ‘Oh okay, we’re there now.’ Somebody else will do something different.
CP: I would say, to me, he’s definitely an artist that would have like a really big single, à la Pitbull. Pitbull is from a paticular genre. [Rick] has that kind of impact to me. But, it’s the same thing. It’s putting all the pieces together: It’s the song, it’s the presentation. Because obviously you could see he is a dynamic performer – anybody could see that. Then you match that with dancers and the energy of a live band, because the tracks weren’t impactful.
I mean, that’s the sound system and different things, but a live band would’ve been more impactful where he could interact with the band. Because he is such a dynamic performer, if he had the dynamics of telling the band to take it down and bring it back up; or the drummer to really get busy and I’m going to follow him with the dancers and really put together a show and a presentation, then I think he can pierce that market.
Carlos Brathwaite will remember to label his files properly. Follow him on Twitter.