There have been many glamorous entertainment events pass us by in the last 2 decades, many talking points, OMG moments and incredible achievements. For the most part in Urban Music this has happened across the pond. BET’s, VMA’s, MTV Awards all rewarding achievements in global popular culture closely driven by street culture and the so called “Tanning” of America. In the UK however, this has been very few and far between. UMA’s, maybe, MOBO’s more often, but in the UK not many names outside of a small handful of people who have been, “trending” have had the recognition they deserve, more so the real engine room of the industry have not had a place to join in and celebrate without hefty table price tags and vanity metrics. The vision is simple yet execution is incredibly complex.
Here is our story, it was time to Disrupt.
Ever since the inception of GRM Daily and the growth of Urban Music there has been an increasing gap to use a respected voice to represent the movement, with 2015 looming and a shift in the culture happening, the time was right. Let’s put together an awards show that focused on Grime Music.
Having been to the MOBO’s last year, experiencing it first hand we felt that there was a lack of representation and credit been given to our amazing British Urban Music acts. We have utmost respect for what the MOBO’s have achieved, but it left us feeling that something was missing. Edge, buzz and more recognition for some of the other artist who are very much needed in order for the household names to propel.
Step 1 : Test the water
In 2014 GRM Daily tested the vision, an editorial led poll shortlisting some of the key achievement categories and bringing light to the industry. The end of year roundup, entitled GRM Best of 2014, had an overwhelming response with over 40,000 votes, 80K page views and tens of thousands of comments, likes and posts across social channels. It was clear this could travel.
Step 2 : Take the plunge
After working with KA Drinks for the last 3 years helping to root them in the Urban Music scene, the strategic approach was to build on this and take a risk, unlocking the power of the brand partnership to invest in something with a much higher return on engagement. The Awards would be a way to reach further than previous micro content campaigns, building a richer brand story that has been building since 2011.
“When we pitched the idea of a Grime Music awards show in 2014, we weren’t sure that KA would go for it. It was a blue sky disruptive idea that was high risk, never been done before and could easily been overlooked. They believed in the vision of what we wanted to do and signed up to help make it happen.” – Phil Kemish
Step 3 : Build the brand
Branding is core to everything we do at Disrupt, it stretches far beyond a logo or design. It’s an affinity, an emotion, it’s a trust.
“We needed people to connect with the awards, they needed to feel ownership, an attachment to something that allowed them to become a part of it, it was only right we made it for the people” – Matt Thorne
We called it the “Rated Awards” because it’s about who the people rate, who we rate, the fans are the people who drive the hits, we curate it. For us it wasn’t about about being just the “GRM Awards” from a branding point of view that felt more like vanity.
“The awards was meant to be our present to the scene, not just our ownership, this fitted right in with KA, it allowed them to take ownership too, it felt mutual.” – Koby Hagan
To take the awards to the next level, it was important that the fans of the scene were involved and could decide who should win, award shows can sometimes end up being a political game but it was important we keep it about the people.
Step 4 : Develop the Creative
At the scale brand campaigns operate, with multiple partners that create, deliver and amplify, the challenge is always tight integration. Too often at the point of creating a media partnership assets are already created, the key to Disrupts involvement was to integrate at an early stage and translate.
Our Creative Director, Matt Thorne, has been leading creative for GRM Daily for the last 5 years, we were in a perfect position to be able to guide creative production and art direction to ensure we met all parties’ objectives. Starting with the initial logo designed in 2012 for “Rated” we worked with the creative production partners Multiply to guide and develop the brand to work across the platform and content.
Step 5 : Drive awareness
The GRM Daily series, “Rated” has always supported the people opinions, it showcases the best up and coming talent and drives engagement with fans to up-vote the best videos. The idea here was to certify this content and use this as an entry point for KA as a brand to align with, then develop this into a journey that works for KA to meet with impact at the awards.
Step 6 : Fight every fire and kick down every hurdle, don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t and keep your faith.
It has been well documented in the media, both print and tv that there has been issues around urban events in the UK for some years now. You don’t have to look far to find the VICE documentary FORM 696: THE POLICE VS GRIME MUSIC (Watch this after reading)
“I’ve spoke a few times at conferences recently on Grime music, often dismissing the 696 as folklore apart from a few obvious events. I definitely have a differing opinion now!” Matt Thorne
What most people won’t know is that the event almost didn’t go ahead. Phil’s role managing the event was certainly tested. Working with the talent, production teams and venues requires a lot of coordination under the best of circumstances, so complications with venue pull outs was something that we wanted to desperately avoid
“At first finding somewhere to do it seemed easy, we secured the first venue months in advance – but because this type of event had never really been done before the relationship with Grime and the Police made it impossible at the point of submitting the 696 forms” Phil Kemish
Only at the 6 week to go mark did the first venue submit the 696 form, which got rejected, then from there we embarked on a weekly cycle of new venue, submit a form and get rejected. We totalled up 6 venue changes before changing our approach.
“We sat down with the team and decided that we had to make this happen, no matter what, we now had two missions, the second being to show the police that this type of show can be possible, and we have to change the ruling on how these events are dealt with” Phil Kemish
Our approach was to go private hire, and with 8 days to go before the awards we found our venue. Gracepoint, the Old Carlton Theatre. Our idea was always to stray away from a typical gig, the venue allow us to do this and free the shackles that loomed over us working with the previous live venues. This gave us 8 days to plan, produce and build the whole event. Sometimes, no amount of planning can prepare you for adversity.
Step 7 : Just do it…
But not without making it more complicated. Creating an award for the people but not being able to fit all people into the event seemed to not follow the brand we were building, so we decided to add extra pressure on production by choosing to live stream the awards to YouTube.
Luckily we had some great teams in place, our brand partnership with KA allowed us to go beyond our immediate resource and hire some great people. With spiralling costs aside we stomached the pain and focused on putting together the best show first and foremost and invested in getting the security right. The 696 gave us another battle to contend with, we had to ensure the event was safe.
We coupled tight security with endless phone-calls to attendees, emphasising the importance of working with us. The relationships both the team and GRM Daily held were paramount in making the event safe. If the culture couldn’t work together then it couldn’t move forward. The tone of this and the night was fantastically set by So Solid’s Megaman as he kicked off the show with the first award. “Great to see all us united together, lets just make sure we behave and the night goes well”
The event truly wouldn’t have gone ahead if we didn’t all pull together. We’ve lost count of the hours it took us and GRM Daily to produce the event, days blurred into nights, iPhone’s took a battery battering, we fought, we cried we laughed but we pulled together with a common vision and belief that we could do it.
Step 8 : Reap what you sow
Over 50,000 votes
26,000 people tuned in to watch the live stream
2 instances of “white boy beef”
10 hours trending on twitter
11.8 Million Impressions
1.6 Million reach
1 amazing event!
1 Missed performance
5 Sleepless nights
15 Lost files
1 Skipped nomination video
8 minutes of technical difficulties
12 script revisions
Thanks to the Team
We all worked full out for the leading up to event, big shout out to the GRM Team, Posty the CEO, Bernard, Elle, Caroline who gave constantly 100% to make this happen. Shout out to Saquib on social, and Marisa, Kayne all the GRM writers who contributed and helped make it happen.
A special thank you to our Brand Director, Lauren, who held the whole event together, working across all the teams, leading from the front and keeping us sane!
Rachael and her team at iLuvLive, who were in charge of the event management, and has over 11 years experience putting event on around the UK, worked closely with us on all the event logistics, battled through the venue problems and pulled out all the stops to help make the event happen. I can’t thank her and the team enough Janelle, Chloe, Eunice and Lauren.
To all the artists, talent, nominees and extra people that worked to make this possible, special shout outs to John head of security and his team, Steve, Rachel and Tasha running the PR, Gavin, Shan, Willkay, Tom the great (lighting) Thomas from Living Indie, Tom and Chris from Air Drawn and everyone else that we may have forgot – remember that you helped to make history! Thanks to multiply for working hard with us on the creative, and PHD for supporting us on delivering media for the event.
Finally, a huge thanks to Ag Barr + KA, on behalf of us and GRM for making this whole event possible.
Matt, Phil and The Disrupt Team