‘There is more collaboration now’: MOBO founder Kanya King on the rise of super producers and providing grants for new production talent - PSNEurope

‘There is more collaboration now’: MOBO founder Kanya King on the rise of super producers and providing grants for new production talent

Back in October, the MOBO Trust partnered with Help Musicians UK to launch the MOBO Help Musicians Fund – a new scheme aimed at supporting the best in grassroots producers and artists. Here, Daniel Gumble speaks to MOBO founder and CEO Kanya King to discuss her ambitions for the fund and how the organisation is renewing its commitment to studio professionals…
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In the past 20 years we have seen the rise of ‘super producers’ that command a big profile and release successful records in their own name. I think it is safe to say this has influenced a new generation of creatives to pursue this path

In October, MOBO’s recently launched charity arm, MOBO Trust, teamed up with Help Musicians UK to launch a brand new fund aimed at supporting grassroots talent, from budding songwriters and artists to the most exciting up and coming music producers. The initiative invites those at the start of their career to apply for funding to help them hone their skills at the most pivotal stage of their development. Over the course of a year, the fund will offer grants of up to £2,000 each to help support the best new talent from across the UK. According to the MOBO Trust and Help Musicians UK, those who attain grants will be better equipped to ‘fund a broad spectrum of activities that are vital to an artist’s career and creative development - from vocal coaching, support for live performance and touring, video production, recording studio access, PR, marketing and promotion’.

Adding to MOBO’s commitment to recognising the best in studio talent, next year will see the 2018 MOBO Awards incorporate a Best Producer category for the first time in its history (this year’s awards took place at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on November 29).

Announcing the launch, Kanya King, founder and CEO of MOBO Organisation, outlined her ambitions for the initiative: “MOBO has a long history of championing and supporting the next generation of musical talent in British black music. But with each new generation of artists, come new challenges to develop one’s art and get to the next level, so financial backing early on is critical to the long-term growth of a fledgling artist. We are delighted to partner with Help Musicians UK, a charitable organisation we have much affinity with, to offer extraordinarily talented artists the chance to progress at a crucial stage in their careers.

In the past year alone, the British black music scene has grown from strength to strength, contributing hugely both commercially and artistically to our industry - MOBO continues to be pivotal in supporting the scene, from the start of a career, through to the pinnacle of success.” Claire Gevaux, creative director of Help Musicians UK said of the new initiative: “This is such an important partnership with MOBO Trust and we’re delighted to be offering this new opportunity to support emerging artists realise their career aspirations. We know that the journey to achieve a successful, long-term career in the music industry can be incredibly tough. We are dedicated to investing in artists who are performing or creating great music and who, with a bit of support and guidance from this new fund, can grow their talent even further.”

To find out more, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble asked King how the new fund will help future generations of producers and what she believes are the biggest barriers facing grassroots talent…

Why is now the right time to launch this fund?

MOBO has a long history of championing and supporting the next generation of musical talent in British black music. But with each new generation of artists come new challenges to develop one’s art and get to the next level, so financial backing early on is critical to the long-term growth of a fledgling artist or producer. We are delighted to partner with Help Musicians UK, a charitable organisation we have much affinity with, to offer extraordinarily talented young people the chance to progress at a crucial stage in their careers. In the past year alone, the British black music scene has grown from strength to strength, contributing hugely both commercially and artistically to our industry - MOBO continues to be pivotal in supporting the scene, from the start of a career, through to the pinnacle of success. 

How do you envision the fund assisting budding producers starting out in their career?

The MOBO Help Musicians fund will offer grants of up to £2,000 to support exceptionally talented producers with their musical career ambitions. Those eligible for the grants would be able to fund a wide range of activities that are vital to a producer’s career and creative development - from production to recording studio access. The fund will be open to producers who have been making music but do not already have significant financial backing.

Kanya King

Has there been a notable rise in the number of young people looking to pursue a career in production as opposed to, or in addition to, pursuing a career as a performer or artist?

In the past 20 years we have seen the rise of ‘super’ producers that command a big profile and release successful records in their name, such as Timbaland, Pharrell, Mark Ronson and Naughty Boy to name a few. I think it’s safe to say this has influenced a new generation of creatives to pursue this path.

How are you seeing talent on the production side of things progressing at the moment?

With advances in technology making it more accessible for virtually anyone to experiment with Logic or ProTools etc., it has opened the field up to more emerging talent and with that comes emergences of different styles and influences. It is a very exciting time for music production. Traditional understandings of genres are breaking down and there is more collaboration.

What are the biggest barriers/challenges facing grassroots musicians and producers?

Opportunity and the right exposure. It is important more than ever to protect live music spaces and continue to foster environments where emerging and grassroots talents can develop and showcase their material.

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How challenging is it for working class kids to break into the music industry?

Of course it is a competitive industry and it can be challenging to break into the industry, but the likes of MOBO Awards winners such as Krept & Konan, Stormzy and Skepta are inspiring a new generation to think it is possible to succeed in the music industry despite where they have come from. The MOBO Help Musicians Fund is the first scheme to be announced by the MOBO Trust and has been developed as part of the organisation’s existing talent development programme. Through the work of the fund we are trying to break down barriers and help young people realise their potential in a wide range of disciplines and help them break into creative sectors, in particular the music industry. 

What was the thinking behind adding a Best Producer category for next year’s awards? 

As a music awards platform showcasing a diverse range of music genres, it makes perfect sense that we recognise the achievement of great producers who are shaping the sonic landscape and creating a soundtrack for a generation.

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