The Grime Crime: Exploring the contrast between Public Relations in Pop Music and Rap Music…

Within the world of Public Relations and in particular Music Public Relations, there has always seemed to be a clash or more a divide between the worlds of pop and grime/rap artists. This in my eyes consists of factors such as image, brand, reputation and overall public behaviour. Pop artists appear to have this crystal-clear squeaky-clean image, whereas Grime/Rap artists have more appeal if they are ‘more relatable’ and share their story or their struggles with the world. This again is relating back to the future industry I would like to be a part of, so I find great interest in this diversity between the two genres and also the people involved with them. Furthermore, pop music has always been around however urban music is currently on the rise, with mainstream radio stations like Capital, Kiss FM and Radio 1 having created their own platforms solely for the Grime/Rap genre of music. I wanted to delve deeper in what truly works for these artists in what PR angles work best for them.

Due to obviously the circumstances of Coronavirus, I had to find another method of how I gathered my information, besides media analysis. I decided to follow in the footsteps of my Spotify investigation Blog post in which I used Instagram to delve into public opinion. I used the same questions that I planned on asking the general public in Leeds. In some ways, Instagram was a more suitable platform to use as I received more of a widespread response, in that it reached people all over the country from Scotland to Cornwall. Again, my followers are an appropriate target audience as they consist of people with a mixed taste in music. These were the stories I put onto my Instagram, disclosing beforehand that people didn’t have to take part and that I just needed some numeral statistics to get an overall idea of people’s thoughts, and no names would be mentioned.

On average I had around 180 respondents for these questions which I’d say is a favourable sample size. These results were interesting as I found most people agreed there was definitely a significant difference between the perception of Pop artists and Grime/Rap artists (91% said yes, whilst 9% said no). Moreover, 84% of the respondents suggested that pop artists are more likely to have a squeaky-clean image when compared to grime/rap artists. This was lower than what I expected but is backed up by the following evidence from online music platform NME. Pop artist Justin Bieber has been negatively exposed through the media over the years due to involvement with alcohol, drugs, driving under the influence, buying illegal animals and just erratic behaviour with cases of violence. This is an example of media surveillance and demonstrating that the artists who find fame at a young age are sometimes greatly affected by this change in lifestyle. There are many pop artists in a similar situation.

My third question asked whether people could relate more to Grime/Rap music if the artist spoke about their struggles. 74% said yes whilst a slightly larger 28% said no. This just shows either a disinterest in the grime genre or an overall miscommunication, in that people can’t resonate with something unless they’ve been through it themselves. Linking to the previous questions, I asked whether in general people relate more to Pop music or Grime/Rap and I was surprised to find a 57% grime and 43% result. Obviously Grime and Rap are two current and upcoming genres however more people voted for Pop music. However, there was no clear definition to what ‘Pop Music’ was, so this question was slightly ambiguous.

Now moving onto looking at the press and media coverage within these two genres. I asked my followers if they thought that ‘there was more negative press and media coverage around Grime/Rap music and the artists themselves, compared to Pop artists’. The result was that 90% agreed whist 10% disagreed. This is an extremely relevant figure as an article from The Independent discussed that music venues across the country are demonstrating racist behaviour towards Grime/Rap artists, due to fear of violence at their events. Local authorities and police are also guilty of administering the same behaviour, saying that these events are changing the nightlife of London in an unfavourable fashion. The London MET police recently dismissed a risk assessment form due to the backlash it had received for being labelled “excessively racist”. This is the ’form 696’ which allows venues to refuse an event due to the attendance of a “particular ethnic group” (The Culture Diary, House of Commons doc.). This has been slammed in academic journals for example Fatsis. L (2019) and other newspapers such as The Evening Standard who branded it as controversial and unnecessarily ‘targeting’ Grime and R&B artists.

My final question relates to the growing issue of racism within this industry. I asked my followers whether they thought that racism was evident within the Music Industry, with 84% saying they agreed. The DCMS Committee (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) have been trying to deal with this issue through regular hearings regarding live music events. A representative from BBC Radio 1 XTRA who is known for advocating Grime, Rap, R&B artists and Music Culture is DJ Target.  He has voiced his opinions particularly on the ‘696 form’ on ArtsProfessional, stating that you can relate the situation to anything. He expresses that you would not go into Manchester United football ground screaming “Leeds supporters are on their way, so the game is off”. Likewise, an indie gig would not get shutdown because of someone’s rumoured attendance. It is a demonstration of “ignorance” and when looking at statistics, there is little evidence of severe incidents happening. So why should these artists suffer the brunt and misunderstanding of other people, with the DJ even labelling this stigma as “institutionalised Racism”.

To conclude this blog post, I would like to recognise that I indeed agree that there is a contrast between the PR for Pop artists and Grime/Rap artists. They approach their marketing, behaviour and reputation from widely diverse angles, and I would observe the ‘696 form’ as a document stemming from a racist perception. These events are there for people to enjoy, let loose and be excited about. Taking that away simply adds more fuel to an already burning fire that is fighting to shatter the racist veil that the Music Industry is heavily dragging around. Stereotypes need to be dropped and people need to remember the true source of the industry, the music.

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