Earlier today, we ran a story entitled "12-Year-Old Viral Rapper Matt Ox Signs With Warner Bros. Because Money." Before publishing the article, DJBooth reached out to both Matt's label and his management for comment, but neither party replied. Less than an hour later, though, we received an email from Finesse, co-owner of Ox's management/production company Working on Dying, LLC, who wanted to set the record straight about Matt's deal with Warner Bros.
"Warner was interested just like every label was because we did something that they want to do at a lower cost and more direct," Finesse wrote. "We got a great deal because of our business, not internet bullshit. We have to do it again and we will."
Instead of only securing a deal for Ox himself, Finesse revealed that Warner signed a partnership with Working on Dying, LLC, which he co-owns with his business partner F1lthy. In addition to Ox, who they signed earlier this year, the company has three producers on their roster: Oogiemane (who produced Ox's "Overwhelming" single), Brandon Finessin and Forza.
"Don't group him with Danielle Brigoli," Finesse wrote later in our email exchange. "Matt has been making music way longer, y'all just took notice. At what point do we allow the kids in the game and give them time to actually develop into artists?"
Finesse didn't provide the terms of their deal with Warner—nor should he have—but he did stress that, unlike virtually every other viral rapper to ever ink a major label deal, Ox has been promised patience and time to develop.
While I'm certainly skeptical that a major label—Warner or otherwise—would give any artist in 2017—with one big YouTube record to their name—complete creative freedom and the luxury of time, I'm certainly ready to be proven wrong.
It should be noted that over the past few months, I've spoken with several major label A&Rs, all of whom, in private, have told me the same thing: majors prefer to sign acts with 'cultural relevance' and who have gone viral and picked up a fanbase along the way. They don't care as much about signing legacy artists who require years of development because that takes time and deep pockets—more time and deeper pockets than they're willing to provide.
"I agree with a lot of what you said but we made ["Overwhelming"] go viral—not the label," Finesse concluded. "No one paid for marketing, we are on the ground every day working."
From a business standpoint, the deal Ox and Working on Dying signed with Warner makes sense on multiple levels—the label, the artist (assuming he didn't give away everything for a large advance) and the fanbase he has already secured. If the label actually gives him time to develop over the next few years, that will be wonderful—after all, he's not even old enough to obtain a driving permit—but no viral act over the past five years who has signed with a major has been given that luxury.
Ox, who is currently half-way through recording his debut album and plans to release his new single "Messages" soon, will be going out on the road this fall for his first major tour. For his sake, and the sake of those invested in his long-term success, hopefully, it won't be his last.