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Allhiphop.com’s Chuck Creekmur on the Music Industry and Tech

“The Hip-Hop community have always been innovators and early adopters of technology from the very beginning of the art form. These days, you have 50 Cent commanding almost 4 million followers on Twitter and he’s hocking everything from penny stocks to promoting a headset line.”

The site www.allhiphop.com (AHH) is arguably the biggest news brand in the Hip-Hop arena. Today we talk to cofounder and CEO Chuck Creekmur about the evolving trends within the rap industry and how AHH plans to stay strategically ahead of the curve.

Adisa Banjoko: What have been the biggest changes in the music industry?

Chuck Creekmur: The biggest changes in the music game are clearly the absence of change. The world and technology have changed more dramatically in the last 10 years more than ever before. And, unfortunately, the recording industry has had change and revolution thrust upon them. Because of it, we’ve seen a decline in just about everything associated with music. I think the artists have been more progressive but lack the structure to make things come to fruition.

What have been the biggest adaptions AHH has had to make as the industry evolved?

AllHipHop has been fortunate to have pioneered much of the content delivery
methods that you see today. Eleven or 12 years ago we were delivering
wireless news to two-way pagers. Since then, we’ve been early to adopt
third party brand extensions like Twitter, which has been extremely
helpful to the business. I still feel we can do much better with how we
utilize other companies to fulfill our agenda. AllHipHop is relaunching
the website with an overhaul and a brand new platform and that’s going
to allow us to really implement what’s been going on in our brains for
years.

In the Golden Era of the 1980’s and 1990’s the formula
for getting signed was pretty simple: Make a demo, get it to an A&R
guy and sign a contract. How different are things now?

The artist today has to be far more savvy these days to even get a head nod of
acknowledgment from the public these days. Talent simply isn’t enough.
Not only do you have to craft a brand and an image, but you have to be
profoundly proficient with delivering that to the people. Last year,
Rick Ross did viral videos for just about every song on his album, all
the while projecting his “don” image. Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, and Big KRIT
are creating incredibly loyal fans and touring without a major deal or
any deal. Furthermore, some of them are doing it without an album out.
If you release a single, well-placed mixtape and fans get it, you can
create a career off of that. You have to constantly generate interest in
yourself and your art. These days, the rap artists is the 80’s artist
on steroids in a ocean full of great white sharks.

What is the AHH strategy for survival in 2011? What specific digital tools with you be using to give you an edge against the competition?

Right now, in 2011, our strategy is to deep dive into the total integration of
social media. This has always been a part of our company in different
incarnations from our earliest message boards. We are simply enhancing
what has been there though Twitter and Facebook. We also are going to
further extend our brand in the mobile world. We’ve always been there,
but we are going to transcend the WAP site and simple iPhone apps for
more interactivity with the reader. Moving forwards, we have partners
that we feel will allow us to really galvanize our community and gather
data about their habits, likes and dislikes to help us better serve
them.

How much will technology help AHH survive in 2011?

Technology may not help us survive in the year 2011, because I think we have
created a brand that is similar to McDonalds and Coca Cola in the genre.
But, seriously, I know definitively that without technology, we’ll
cease to thrive in the future. We’re not here to crocodiles, dinosaurs
that lucked up and made it. We still aim to lead the charge of melding
technology, art and culture.

What strategic alliances have been most beneficial for AHH and why?

Presently, our favorite alliance has been with the VIBE Lifestyle Network, which
has been instrumental in increasing sales for the company. They have
made an investment of sorts into the AllHipHop Brand and it has worked
out well so far. Others in the past have not.

Some people
believe that Hip-Hop Journalism has fallen apart. That it no longer
values in depth reporting and investigative journalism. Has Hip-Hop
journalism descended into tweets, mp3’s and video clips?

I definitely think that journalism in Hip-Hop is in the toilet. It is for
this reason that we have started to do more investigative work.
AllHipHop has always gone against the industry grain. We definitely have
incorporated more short-form content, but there is a huge void left in
critical thinking and real journalism. We recently covered President
Obama’s State of the Union speech, which the report was streamed live
from Washington D.C. and we’ve got a series on mental health in Hip-Hop
on he way. A 140 character tweet can be used in a longer form piece, you
know. This level of adoption is still sorely needed. We’re not about to
have a powerful video platform and use it only to have silly rap beef.
We’re going to help our people grow and entertain them at the same time.

For those that are unfamiliar with your brand, can you tell us who your users are and what they represent on a business level?

The
typical AllHipHop user is a male that is fiercely opinionated. They are
typically educated in school and self-taught as well. This is the
inherent duality that Hip-Hop heads has always had. They are a tech
savvy bunch that want to see the best from the AHH brand and oftentimes
they dictate technological changes in the site based on their
experience. We don’t take on an elitist mindstate with AHH, because of
the type of user we have. They are quite often more engaged that your
average person walking the streets.

What are some of your personally favorite gadgets?

Right
now, my favorite gadget is my Blackberry. I’m going back to my iPhone
too so I will have both again shortly. I’ve been connected in this way
over a decade and there’s no going back.

What rappers are using technology effectively these days?

People
don’t realize it, but rappers and the Hip-Hop community have always
been innovators and early adopters of technology from the very beginning of
the art form. These days, you have 50 Cent commanding almost 4 million
followers on Twitter and he’s hocking everything from penny stocks to
promoting a headset line. Kudos to him and his team for always being
ahead of the curve with his website to other technology extension to his
brand. Diddy also does a marvelous job in using social media and
technology to push his agenda. There are others that have fun with it
like T-Pain and his iPhone vocoder. (laughs)

Any last words?

Look
out for AllHipHop.com’s relaunch in February, where we intend to turn
the industry back on its ear. We also started a new partnership with The
League of Young Voters Education Fund so we will be hosting a number of
election and politically-minded events to get the youth thinking about
the 2012 elections. There’s more, but we’ll let you know as they launch.

About the author

Adisa Banjoko is a writer and speaker based out of Northern California. He has written extensively on technology and youth culture trends.

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