Wretch 32

On the weekend, the BBC held the largest outdoor music festival in its history, the Hackney Weekend. In the shadow of the Olympic stadium over 100,000 people watched some of the biggest names in music, including rapper Wretch 32. Wretch 32 was recently on the Chris Moyles show, talking about how he went from living on a estate in Tottenham with his mum and four sisters, to being one of the UK’s best-known rappers with a single at No.1 in the charts.

It makes for interesting listening, as it turns out there are a few lessons we can learn from his experiences that apply to anyone looking to build a brand from scratch:

Know ‘why’
Launching a new brand or product is not a quick job. It takes time. In order to stay motivated you need to know why you’re doing it. In Wretch 32′s case, it was partly to improve his and his family’s life, and partly him wanting a bathroom of his own (imagine sharing with four sisters).

Just get started
For every 100 great ideas scribbled down, 99 of them never get off the napkin. Its always going to be easy to find reasons not to do something – no time, lack of funding, etc. Wretch 32 plugged an old set of headphones into the mic socket of his tape deck (yes, he started out a while ago) and found he could use them as a microphone and record onto cassettes. Wretch explained:

“I realised I could make my own tapes in my front room, once I figured that out, it was non-stop recording”

He’d found a way to do what he loved – writing and recording music. He could now practice his craft and had a product, the cassettes, to promote his music.

Keep moving
Once you’ve got something to show – a prototype or a case study – you then need to share it, to grow awareness of it and start creating a buzz. In these early days Wretch 32 gave out free copies of his cassettes around his estate in Tottenham.

“Once everyone starts believing in you, the word starts spreading and it goes from one estate to the whole of Tottenham and then it spreads out – and that’s how you build an organic fan base.”

He started to collaborate with other artists from different parts of London, each one had 50 or so fans and by bringing them together they both doubled their listener base. He’d go to local events and meet other artists and DJ’s and share information, all the time establishing his name within the industry. In these hyper-connected times, its easy to neglect the importance and effectiveness of meeting up in the real world as well as the digital world.

It doesn’t matter if yours is the best idea since the iPod, its still going to take relentless commitment and energy to make it successful. Once Wretch had a wider fan base he wanted his recordings to sound more professional and spent every penny he earnt from his job at Sainsburys on recording studios. He would then do what he could to get them in the right hands – which in this case meant spending hours standing outside radio stations handing them out to DJs and Producers. As Wretch says,

“you’ve got to have a mechanism, you turn into a super android.”

Looking the part
You believe in what you’re doing but how do you demonstrate that to new customers? Wretch 32 wanted his CDs to sound and look as professional as established artists, so as well as hiring the best studio he could afford, he also had the artwork designed and took care in the packaging,

“it came shrink wrapped, you had to unravel it”.

The sound, the look and the feel all given due attention because all these things say something about your brand.

These are just a few of the things that helped Wretch 32 become a successful artist. He’s now signed, enjoying massive chart success and even has his own bathroom (2 in fact). You can listen to the full interview here: