‘German hip-hop audiences not only want to listen to the music, they want to be part of the movement.’

MBW’s World Leaders is a regular series in which we turn the spotlight towards some of the most influential industry figures outside the US and UK markets. In this feature, we speak to Patrick Mushatsi-Kareba, CEO, Sony Music GSA. World Leaders is supported by PPL.

The rise of homegrown hip-hop in Germany is a trend MBW has been following for a number of years.

Back in 2017, we noted how the genre is ‘exploding’ in Germany – and creating mainstream chart stars in the European country in the process.

One of the companies betting on the genre in the market is Sony Music Entertainment.

In 2019, Sony Music Germany launched a dedicated local hip-hop label in Gold League, and the major made also made another big hip-hop play in the market in the form of a deal to distribute the entire catalog of top German independent rap labels Selfmade and Division. Their artists include the 257ers, Karate Andi, RIN, Kynda Gray and Yugo and the catalog includes nine No.1 albums.

In June this year, Sony Music Entertainment Germany made another big rap-focussed move, by investing in the independent hip hop record label Ragucci & Boldt and live booking agency Ibrahim & Boldt.

Patrick, Mushatsi-Kareba, CEO, Sony Music Entertainment, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA), tells MBW that the company’s goal is “to become the home of hip-hop in Germany,” and that it struck the deal with Selfmade and Division because Sony “wanted to go all in and have a much deeper and integrated relationship [with the scene]”.

Mushatsi-Kareba was named CEO, Sony Music Entertainment, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (GSA) in January 2018, joining SME from Universal Music Germany where he had been General Manager of Marketing & Digital since 2016.

Prior to UMG, Mushatsi-Kareba spent eight years at Apple in a variety of leadership roles within the Cupertino-based company’s European music operations.

While there, he was responsible for overseeing music markets in Germany and Austria, and later added responsibilities for Italy, Switzerland and Pan-EU.

Previously, he held a series of leadership roles at Napster, where, from 2005, he helped launch the service in various European markets, and had responsibilities in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

Earlier in his career, Mushatsi-Kareba helped develop and lead Deutsche Telekom’s digital music strategy from 2002-2005, and also served as a music manager and journalist.

Here, Mushatsi-Kareba tells us about Sony Music’s hip-hop strategy in Germany, breaking artists, and the success of the genre in the country as a whole…

Sony Music launched hip-hop label Gold League in April 2019. Why was the label started at the time?

At a global level, Sony Music has been heavily involved in the hip-hop scene since the early years and equally in Germany we have built and expanded the genre nationwide for a number of years, celebrating many chart successes with rappers such as Kool Savas and Marteria.

However, 2019 was a seminal year in our ambition to be the home for hip-hop artists, culminating in the launch of Gold League.

The goal was to not only to increase our reach and impact in hip-hop, in terms of focusing on quantity of releases and signings, but also culturally within the business by building an expert team with a highly-respected professional history and cultural affinity for the genre. That represents the uniqueness of Gold League.

Tell us about some of the label’s key signings over the past couple of years?

Gold League is truly a home for German hip-hop repertoire. We take great pride in having signed both well-established and emerging artists.

RIN was recently awarded 15 certified Gold singles for his latest album Nimmerland. There’s TheCratez, whose songs recorded with Bonez but also with Bausa, Maxwell und Joshi, are about to go platinum and have accumulated over six million listeners since we’ve signed them. Also Alicia Awa, who since signing last December has released four singles and reached over six million streams.

At the same time, we were also privileged to be involved in launching and kickstarting the career of artists who, since signing to Gold League, have already left their mark in the genre. Artists like Yung Kafa & Kücük Efendi, Kynda Gray, Jalil, Lugatti & 9ine or Schmyt are perfect examples of this.

 Gold League is led by Brook Demissie – tell us about the role that Brook has played in the label’s success since then?

Brook combines classic business acumen and management skills with A&R expertise and repertoire knowledge, and has a strong understanding of the digital and technological landscape.

He manages all of this while also being able to connect with artists. Additionally, he has plenty of experience coming from his time working in the catalog division. For me, he is the ideal leader for a young, ambitious and modern label like Gold League.

Sony Music signed a deal to distribute the catalog of Selfmade and Division back in 2019. Tell us about how this partnership played into Sony Music Germany’s wider hip- hop strategy at the time?

Prior to 2019, we had already had partnerships with Elvir, the founder and CEO of Selfmade Records and Division to support his new artists and their music.

However, as part of our goal to become the home of hip-hop in Germany, we wanted to go all in and have a much deeper and integrated relationship.

This has brought significant opportunities and benefits for both frontline and catalog repertoire, as Sony Music helped scale so many artists’ reach and visibility by harnessing our marketing and strategic expertise.

Since both catalogs are not short of classic material, we took the opportunity to bring the best of both worlds together to create new and exciting music content for German hip-hop lovers.

What has it been like working with Elvir Omerbegovic, founder and CEO of Selfmade Records and Division?

I have known Elvir for a long time and see him as someone who has truly transformed the hip- hop scene in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in multiple ways. He’s devised outstanding promotional digital campaigns for top rap artists, live shows and given a once fragmented rap and hip-hop scene a whole new sense of purpose and belonging.

He stands for creative innovation, having many seminal releases under his belt, but also equally for groundbreaking ways of marketing artists and their music.

Being able to mirror his rich label history, his untampered hunger for more and his professionalism with our expertise, global reach and dedication to artists made this liaison a perfect match.

Sony Music and Division have recently celebrated 15 certified Gold singles for RIN in Germany – looking to the future, do you think this success can be repeated for RIN’s forthcoming album?

I have tremendous faith in repeating this success and believe we can go further. Seeing how the quality of RIN’s creative output combined with his core producers Alexis Troy and Minhtendo matches with Elvir’s work, and the effort we bring to the table as Sony Music, makes me confident.

A number of the most-streamed artists in Germany are hip hop artists – to what extent has music streaming played a role in the explosion of hip hop in Germany over the past few years?

In the early days, the German market was overwhelmingly dominated by pop and rock and as a result, the ability for hip-hop to develop was limited.

Whilst globally, the industry has been fully involved in hip-hop becoming mainstream; in Germany, pop and rock represented up to 55% of the market revenue share in 2010 and hip-hop only 1.8%.

German hip-hop artists therefore had to turn to streaming to build their audience, which has subsequently been instrumental in the rise of the genre and often came with a powerful development of their social media channels.

As a result, the growing number of hip-hop fans had to be digitally-savvy to consume the music of their heroes. This has led to a very young, digital-first core audience which has made hip-hop the currently best-streaming genre in Germany.

We helped them reach growth and a new tipping point and today, hip-hop is now closing the gap with pop and rock, now taking almost 20% of revenue share.

How well do hip hop artists do in terms of physical sales in Germany – vinyl and CD?

While the classic CD has taken a further dip, the vinyl business overall has not just been healthy but has even seen growth in recent times. True to the very German phenomenon of a strong physical market in the country, the physical hip-hop business also does well.

German hip-hop audiences not only want to listen to the music, they want to be part of the movement and have a deeper commitment to the artist.

This is why premium packaged physical boxsets and branded merch is so popular with hip-hop fans. It creates a sense of belonging.

We have written about the mainstream popularity of hip hop in Germany a few times over the past few years, and have noted the emergence of a number of chart stars in the genre – has it been getting harder or easier to break hip-hop artists in Germany as the popularity of the genre has increased?

In one sense, it has been easier to break hip-hop artists, as the genre has now become an established part of mainstream culture, which led to more open doors and more opportunities to market.

On one hand however, in the streaming age and with platforms like Spotify uploading 60,000 tracks a day, it is harder than ever to pierce through, cut through noise and grow your base of fans.

That is what makes Gold League so compelling to German hip-hop artists, because they are relentlessly focused on talent and the artists. They provide unrivalled expertise in building sustainable careers in the music business, equip their artists with the tools needed to go global and capitalize on the range of cutting-edge services Sony Music has to offer to help boost the earning potential of their artists.

Hip hop is currently the second best-selling genre in Germany after pop music. Do you foresee a time in the near future when it becomes the bestselling genre?

Hip-hop is certainly doing very well. What is interesting about hip-hop in Germany is its evolution and how it is crossing over into over genres.

The zeitgeist has shifted towards the genre, which means it has become a point of reference even for pure pop artists who integrate hip-hop elements in their music.

That shows you the power of hip-hop. It’s already the most impactful genre despite not being the best-selling genre, so there’s plenty of room for it to grow here.

What is Sony Music’s strategy for hip-hop in Germany over the coming years – are there any more partnerships or label launches in the pipeline?

We will remain committed to the genre as we are to other genres, by offering artists global reach, expertise, putting the artist first and focusing on helping artists navigate the digital age.

The goal remains of being the ideal home for hip-hop artists who are seeking creative, powerful, dedicated label teams who respect their art and help them to make the best decisions – business wise and creatively.

World Leaders is supported by PPL, a leading international neighbouring rights collector, with best-in-class operations that help performers and recording rightsholders around the world maximise their royalties. Founded in 1934, PPL collects money from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. It has collected over £500 million internationally for its members since 2006.Music Business Worldwide

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