I worry about people that don't follow Jme on Twitter. They probably respect the things they see; a couple tunes every now and again, increasingly bigger Boy Better Know shows and a few YouTube cameos. But what else does he do?
He's out here making power moves, that's what.
Jme's entrepreneurial spirit has taken him far beyond music, but non-followers have probably only seen a small portion of his endeavours.
Every few months, Jme schools people on business with something new. Marketing his music is light work; he's putting in work selling all types of products to all corners of his fans base, and beyond.
All of these lessons – as obvious as some may be – are always executed with the wickedest precision.
This is what Jme taught me:
1. Building a brand is a long term game
This is the foundation to everything. Let's just talk music for a second. A Boy Better Know mixtape came in 2004. The crew went from mashing up radio to party islands. A company was formed in 2008. The classic line-up formed in 2009. 2010-2012, we had albums from everyone – Jme, Frisco, Skepta, Jammer, and a couple from Wiley. “Blacklisted” then dropped and changed the game. Month by month, bigger and bigger things kept followed since 2012, and now here we are.
Whether Jme had the foresight in 2004 that it would become this, we have no idea, but what he and the camp built took time.
Creating a reputable brand requires patience.
2. Become synonymous with your niche
Tell anyone to do a word association with “Grime”, and they'll get to Boy Better Know in the first five goes. Since the crew's inception, they've remained in the conversation through every phase.
They flooded the streets with mixtapes, then t-shirts, then albums, then kept headlining everything. When people in the scene talk about the elites, they mention them. When the media talks about Grime, they mention them. When outsiders latch onto the sound, they want to work with them. This wasn't done by accident.
Having a brand that represents Grime so inherently means that both casual and die-hard fans want to show their loyalty to the cause with something of yours. If for any reason the cashflow wasn’t right for a little while, there are some easy merch cash-in opportunities.
Whatever brand you create, make sure it leaves a dent in your industry.
3. Don't be greedy
Anyone that's tried to buy an authentic Boy Better Know t-shirt understands supply and demand. When they land, get there early, or expect to pay double on eBay.
The t-shirts are so sought after because they're sold in limited runs. Jme knows full well he could press up about four times as many units and make plenty more profit. Instead, he turns the fans into impulse spending fiends that have to grab the merch as soon as he drops the link. We saw the same with the vinyl version of “Integrity>”. With his caps. With the limited number of shows he does.
Boy Better Know and exclusivity go hand-in-hand, making fans feel lucky to even own something Jme personally pressed up. It takes serious restraint to resist selling 100 units instead of 1,000, even though you know it will all sell out, but it’s worth it in the long term.
Over-deliver on quality, and make the people want more next time.
4. Bootstrap until you're fully funded
Jme and Skepta had serious setbacks early on their careers, so they had to be creative to make things work. Where other MCs might just be able to buss up a rave with reload bars, they're both capable of creating a badboy riddim too. Imagine how much money they saved by using their own productions, and (probably) making money by selling instrumentals to others.
Jme's got those graphic design skills too. DIYing it pays off. It meant he could cut costs by making his own CD covers, and t-shirts, and whatever else the people wanted off him.
Once you know how to do it yourself, you're more knowledgeable about how to outsource tasks, how long it should take and how to budget for it. It might be a bit harder at first – trying to fit all kinds of tasks into your own schedule, learning new skills and whatnot – but the rewards are far greater.
Do as much as you can yourself, build your funds, and then expand.
5. Surround yourself with greatness
As much as many of us want to, we can't do everything ourselves. Jme brought his vision to life by surrounding himself with people that bring the best out of him. Videographers (Matt Walker), producers (Deeco, Mr Virgo, Swifta Beater) and MCs (I mean, you know).
Another benefit is that the all-stars within Boy Better Know help keep his brand buzzing year-round, so Jme can take as many breaks as he wants and still keep the name ringing out. If Jammer's not busy, Frisco is, if Solo's locked up again, Skepta's out there. The diversity keeps the ever-building camp fresh and in the public eye.
Being a solopreneur is cool and everything, but having a tight camp of equally motivated people means even more can get done, and you have more flexibility to do things when you're ready to do them.
Build a unified, focused team.
6. Set levels
Jme's tweets suddenly stopped back on 2012. Out the blue, lock off. Twitter got boring for a little while.
He came back with a surprise: a mobile network. No one could have anticipated it. Everyone was shocked. Everyone wanted in. The SIM cards out purely off the power of the brand.
Jme has mastered the art of surprise, and has set the benchmark for independent artists time and again. If you want to make an impact, you need to do things that would otherwise seem alien to your core audience. You need to see how other communities are moving to find these opportunities.
If you have the influence, you can jump into a completely new niche and bring your market with you.
7. Keep creating
Jme has the best stream of consciousness Twitter feed around. We get insights into his plans, ideas and visions for the future. We also hear about mad things he wants to do with his day. These are just the things he shares with us, so imagine what’s been kept under wraps.
Entrepreneurs often have active minds that want to keep moving onto the next thing, whether or not it’s going to make them money. There was the time he drew whoever asked, started making his own trainers, and I’m probably forgetting loads of others things. Being sidetracked isn’t all that bad. Exploring new things helps us discover more and solve problems.
I’ve spoken about the value of focusing your time and energy in the past, and stick by it. However, there’s always value in trying new things.
Keep learning. Keep trying. Keep doing.
8. Get in the game early
It's no fun being late to the party.
Jme opened my eyes to private labelling when he was selling Swegboards. Everyone wanted a hover board after they saw them and he had the vision to find a supplier bring them to the UK, before the craze popped and HUNDREDS of others flooded the market.
When you see an opportunity that you believe it, pounce. Jme did just that, talked everyone through the whole process, and brought a product to market in front of our eyes. Once he’d done what he needed to, manufacturing costs dropped, and that was the catalyst for loads of others to follow in his footsteps.
Currently in a Skype call with the Chinese gangsters that make these electric swegboards.
Ima be selling them on my site. (MAYBE) (70%)
— Jme (@JmeBBK) May 18, 2015
Of course, no one can be certain about what trends will blow up. Everyone wants to have the next loom band or hoverboard or fidget spinner. Just know that if you find that next winner, you need to act fast.
Hunt down opportunities while they’re in their infancy, and pounce on ones you believe in.
9. Badman don't business with wasteman
Block out people that cloud your vision. Criticism and dialogue is welcome, but badmind energy is an unnecessary drain. Surround yourself with people that bring the best out of you.
Now let’s get this money.