The Business Lesson All Artists Can Learn From Hopsin’s “Ill Mind of Hopsin 8”
Funk Volume went from one of hip-hop's strongest independent labels to a smoldering pile of debris so fast it feels like it got hit with a drone airstrike, and today Hopsin took to the YouTubes to share his side of how their fledgling empire collapsed in his new "Ill Mind of Hopsin 8" video.
Not at all surprisingly, Hop lays the blame squarely on his ex-business partner Damien Ritter's shoulders. Frankly, I'd rather be forced to read the collected tweets of Kim Kardashian than get in the middle of men bickering over something that doesn't involve me, but if you set aside all the drama and gossip, there's actually one powerful business lesson to be learned from this video for any artist.
Keep Your Team's Roles Separate
When I told you I wanted new management, why the fuck you throw a fit and seem bitter? / Why you catch an attitude whenever I question you about all my fuckin' percentages? / I know why (why?), you've been bending it in your benefit / What are your fucking motives, Dame? Let’s talk about it / You’re our manager, our label-owner, our accountant
Setting aside whether Dame actually engaged in any shady business practices or not - again, I'm not about to get involved in any specifics, I have no idea what transpired - any situation where the same person is running the label, managing artists and running all the accounting, that's generally a bad idea for artists.
Ideally, artists should have everyone on their team - label, management, lawyer, accountant, financial planner, etc. - completely separate. That way they can all serve as a check on each other and fight for your best interests. The lawyer can point out if they see management trying to set up deals that will benefit them more than you, your manager can go in and throw a fit if the label tries to screw you over, etc.
But as Hopsin points out, when your management, your accountant and your label are the same person, it's far harder to uncover any shady business practices.
Artist: "The label wants to control all my publishing too, do you think that's a good idea?
Manager: "Let me call the label and talk this over. (picks up phone, calls self) They say signing over your publishing would be a good move, I agree. Don't worry about it, just get in their and make music, let me handle the business."
When you're a small artist and you're not making much money (if any money) it probably makes more sense to keep your team as small as possible. You don't need to hire a lawyer or an accountant if there aren't any contracts to sign or funds to account for, and it's not like labels and managers are breaking down your door to work with you. Your best friend/cousin/neighbor might be the only person who's willing to spend any time with you at all, so one person might end up playing all those roles.
There's nothing wrong with that in the beginning, but as your career grows, just be aware that the more power any one person possesses, the more easily they'll be able to hide any shadiness. There are of course exceptions, but generally speaking, no one person should have all that power over your career, and remember, no matter how much you may trust someone, money has been known to make even family disloyal.
I've seen labels "recommend" a lawyer to a young artist about to sign a deal with no existing representation, which is like hiring a lion to protect a gazelle. So whether you're Hopsin or have never heard a Hopsin song in your life, just remember - in the music industry, no matter how paranoid you are that people are trying to screw you over, you're probably not being paranoid enough.
UPDATE: Damien Ritter responds via Twitter
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.