Meet The Industry #002: Ben Martin (Adelaide)

In the second instalment of our new industry profile series, we head from the west coast down south to the home of Golden Era Records. Based out of Adelaide, the hip hop label has been providing a platform for not only the Hilltop Hoods to cultivate and release music, but their friends as well. Helping to foster the careers of the likes of BriggsVentsK21 and more, Golden Era has flourished exponentially since its 2008 inception.

Label manager Ben Martin has been with the Hoods for years; from tour management through to artist development, merchandising, marketing and pretty much everything else under the umbrella, he tells us a bit more about how GE life generally rolls out.

Briefly outline your day to day and the scene/location in which you are based?

Golden Era Records is based in Adelaide. The label was started by the Hilltop Hoods and is home to A.B. Original, The Funkoars, Briggs, Vents and K21. I do the day to day operations of the label including management, marketing, promotion, events and overall brand management. Day to day is very different, depending on what we are releasing and what is going on at the label. The variety definitely keeps me on my toes.

How did you become involved in the hiphop scene and eventually, the creation of Golden Era?

I started out in the music industry working as a music journalist in Vancouver, interviewing artists and reviewing shows for an online Canadian publication. I later found an advertisement for an internship with Battle Axe Music, so I started doing stickering and mailing for them for about six months unpaid. I was then hired full-time as their tour coordinator and started separately managing a young group called Okay City, who ended up going on tour with Hilltop Hoods in 2010 in Canada.

Okay City ended up dissolving and I sent Suff an email asking if they needed any help, as they had started Golden Era a couple years earlier. Suff asked if I was interested in helping them with the label, as they obviously had an incredibly busy schedule. I am grateful that the Hoods trusted me with their vision.

You’ve worked for Sweatshop Union in Canada too – how would you describe the scene you mixed in back then, compared to what’s happening with hip hop out there now? How did those experiences influence you in the work you’re doing now?

Working with Sweatshop Union was a great experience. They are one of the hardest working touring groups I have seen and did hundreds of shows a year. They demonstrated to me the reality of what an independent band needs to do in order to be successful and how important it is to have a stellar live show.

The hip hop scene in Canada is fairly similar to Australia, in that there is a huge amount of homegrown talent that tours relentlessly to build an audience and try to make enough money to not have a day job. Some acts you may want to check out that aren’t Drake include: D-Sisive, Shad, Tasha The Amazon, Pigeon Hole and Matt Brevner.

The GE brand has expanded into something much more than just a platform for the Hoods to release music nowadays – what’s exciting you the most about the direction the label and business is heading in?

Right now, I am really excited to see where we can go next. There is so much new talent in Australia and I think we have a great platform to have it heard. The label was started essentially as a platform for Hilltop Hoods and their friends to put out music. Now the label has reached a point where we can expand and bring in an entire new generation of artists who believe in the Golden Era ethos, whilst still having the same incredible original roster. The original roster will help mentor the new artists and lend their expertise to the new release.

Thinking back to when it first launched, to where GE sits now within the wider Australian industry, does the original vision match up to the current reality?

I would say so. The Hoods laid out exactly what the label was about in the mission statement when they started (which you can read on the website or on any GE release) and they are very adamant about maintaining that feeling.

What are some of the exciting things you’re working on at the moment (that you can tell us about)?

Currently we are getting ready to release the A.B. Original album Reclaim Australia, which is very exciting. I feel some of the content is and will be quite confronting for some of mainstream Australia, which is great. I would describe it as ‘an audio punch in the face’. K21 should also have his album done soon and I think people will be pleasantly surprised.

Our annual cypher is taking a bit longer than normal as everyone has had such busy schedules, but it’s on the way. This year everyone will be rapping over an original Snowgoons beat. I’m also excited to sign a few new acts over the next 12 months.

Any advice you’d give for emerging artist managers/label managers or young people who’d look to the success of Golden Era and think, ‘That’s what I want to build towards’?

Go see as many live shows as possible, show up early and check out the opening acts. Listen to everything that is coming out in the scene. Be passionate about the artists you work with. I think I would have a hard time working with acts I wasn’t a fan of, but luckily all the artists on GE are dope!

What do you think is a common misconception people may have about artist management or development when it comes to Australian hip hop artists?

I think in terms of hip hop music, there is a percentage of kids who think they can make a song in their bedroom and send it to a label and that will get them a record deal. The reality is we want to see you out in the scene, doing shows and creating a buzz.

The stigma surrounding Adelaide as a viable place for music to thrive and be toured here is shifting more and more; how would you describe the city’s creative scene as it is now, from your perspective?

Adelaide doesn’t have the population to support every touring act that may do a show in Melbourne or Sydney, which can sometimes be frustrating. But the city is thriving creatively and the local scene is pumping out some of the best acts in the country across all genres.

What’s exciting you about the hip hop scene in this country at the moment?

It is a great time for Hip Hop in Australia and for how many artists there are, there seems to be an audience for it all, which is amazing. I am loving the new breed of non-traditional Aussie Hip Hop.

Some of the younger generation whom may not have grown up listening to Aussie Hip Hop are making some really exciting music i.e. Remi, Anfa Rose, Claz, Marcus and I Am D, to name a few.

The artists who have been around a bit longer are also releasing really exciting stuff. Drapht‘s new album is dope, The Funkoars’ new album will be crazy and Horrorshow always come with the goods. It will be interesting to see how the new wave and the more traditional stuff blend and work together over the next five years or so.

A.B. Original (Briggs and Trials) deliver their BIGSOUND keynote speech at 2:00pm on Thursday, September 8th. 

For more information on Golden Era Records, visit their website HERE.
Follow Ben on Twitter at @BenMartian.


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