2016 has been an incredible year for music and in some way a ground breaking one with many tour, streaming and chart records broken as well as some interesting developments in music trends and how business is conducted. In this post we look at the people behind the artists, the individuals whose work has had a profound effect in all aspects of the business from rights management, marketing, A&R-ing to style, photography and management.
1. Caroline SM
This young lady is the true definition of a trailblazer, her relentless efforts and dedication to cultivating the new cannot go unnoticed. As A&R Manager of XL Recordings, Creative Director at GRM Daily and founder of NEW GEN her work entails discovering, developing and marketing the new. This year her achievements have been outstanding, the upcoming release of the NEW GEN album under XLRecordings, which features the collaboration of 17 of the hottest Grime, UK Rap and R&B acts – including the likes of Tiggs Da Author, Nines, 67, Bonkaz, AJ Tracy and Ray BLK, Kojey Radical – further exemplifies why she is the glue connecting the ‘Underground’ to the ‘Mainstream’. Having been named one of the Independent’s 50 Unsung Heroes of Indie, nominated for Music Business Worldwide’s A&R Awards as A&R of the year (hip hop & grime) and various other accolades to her name, we are not alone in sharing this opinion.
2. Tobe Onwuka
This is the young man who quit his job at a car dealership to take a gamble on his friend and went on to become the formidable force behind two time MOBO Winner, BET itnl. – Best International Act winner and the soundtrack star in the campaign announcing the biggest signing in sporting history for one of the biggest sporting clubs in the World (#Pogback – Manchester United), Stormzy. This year has been an incredible year for Stormzy and it goes without saying that as an independent artist a lot of this is owed to Tobe’s business acumen. Tobe’s entrepreneurialism has been pioneering and is being applied across the industry as the ‘Stormzy Model’ and has even made its way into academia. Tobe’s outstanding contribution was honoured this year at the MMF and FAC’s Artists and Managers Awards where he received the ‘Breakthrough Manager’ Award.
3. Fiona McGugan
Photo Source: Instagram @fimcgu
She is one of those stars we don’t often hear spoken about, the ones that work quietly behind the scenes on the “boring” bits. As general manager at the MMF (Music Managers Forum) and the Artists and Managers Awards, Fiona is at the forefront of the all important work being done to fight for the rights of artists and managers as well as create dialogue and develop tools for greater transparency within the music business. Fiona’s work has been central to this year’s ‘Dissecting the Digital Dollar’ report which has been instrumental to the music community serving as an educational tool as well as instigating further discussions among music industry professionals and artists. Fiona has also been heavily involved in the ‘Fanfair Campaign’ against ticket touting. We think it’s fair to say that this lady here deserves a fair bit of credit for her outstanding contribution to the music community.
4. Nadia Jae
photo Source: Instagram @itsNadiaJae
This young lady is not short of titles to her name as DJ, Writer, Entrepreneur and podcast host. As a DJ at multi award winning station ‘the Beat FM’, resident DJ at the new BoxPark Corydon and contributor to ‘MTV Wrap UP’ Nadia has certainly made her mark as a formidable force this year, being enlisted by major brands such as Adidas to deliver sonic pleasures. This year also marked the launch of her platform ‘CRNB’ which aims to ignite the revival of R&B music and create visibility for upcoming R&B talent, particularly within the UK. With that being said, Nadia sits comfortably on our list as an individual who is elevating and cultivating the scene.
5. Caius Pawson
From running illegal club nights to running his very own ‘Young Turks’ label – subsidiary of Beggars Group under XL Recordings, this young man is a risk taker, innovator and inspiration to many. Young Turks is home to the likes of FKA Twiggs, Sampha and Jamie xx and is a champion for diverse sounds, celebrating artist’s authenticity and unconventional aesthetics. Young Turks has truly left its imprint on music in 2016 having enjoyed major releases (as well as a sold out tour) by Sampha, FKA twigs and the XX. Through ‘Young Turks’ Caius continues to set the example as a label pushing artistic freedom, and his entrepreneurialism has also not gone unnoticed this year picking up the Award for ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Artists and Managers Awards.
6. Ibrahim Kamara & Jide Adetunji
Photo By: Zekaria Al-Bostani
This dynamic duo are the founders of the World’s first video magazine – GUAP, which is a testament to their innovation and entrepreneurialism. GUAP is fast establishing itself as a go to for industry insights and has secured covers from the likes of J Hus, Avelino and Yinka Bokinni. This year it has become more and more evident that GUAP is branching out, having hosted several events which serve to drive the cultural fusion between art and music as well as having added a few artists to their management and development roster. The GUAP boys have been instrumental in the emergence of some 2016’s hottest breakthrough talents such as Prynce Mini, SNE, Richyett and continue to make their mark as major players in music.
7. Ashley Verse
Photo Source Instagram: @AshleyVerse
When it comes to music photography this is perhaps one of the most trusted names in the business. If you have seen any picture in 2016 of the key events in music, we can bet on the fact that it is probably one by Ashley’s lens, with perhaps the most iconic one being Skepta’s ‘Whipping Excursion’ shot at his landmark Ally Pally show earlier this month. This year Ashley took to ‘Boxpark’ to showcase a solo exhibition, which also featured a live Q&A session, presented by Courtney Francis for a live instalment of his podcast ‘Focal Point’, which served as a reminder that Ashley is the man with the tool, angles, vision and passion delivering to us the best moments and memories in music.
8. Leila Singh
It would be an understatement to say that this girl is at the top of her game, when it comes to Marketing and PR she is the blueprint, with top brand such as Reebok, Asics and JD Sports employing her services. In 2016 she has continued to make her mark, as one of the main names behind grime’s biggest live platform ‘Eskimo Dance’, she has hugely contributed to turning ‘Eskimo Dance’ from a regional to a Global franchise, with Eskimo Dance America expected to take place sometime in 2017.
9. Ayishat Akanbi
Stylist to the stars and cultural/political commentator Ayishat Akanbi has truly left her mark in 2016. Styling the likes of Tiggs Da Author, Wretch 32, Lady Leshurr iand has been a re-occuring name in various editorials for major publications such as Notion Magazine as well as look-book features for major brands such as FILA. In addition, this year her work has featured in various music videos and she continues to be influential in shaping and pushing aesthetic boundaries within music.
10. DJ P Montana
When we speak of unsung heroes, here’s one to mention! The Radar Radio DJ’s dedication to music has not gone unnoticed by us this year. As well as constantly bringing on and promoting new talents, he has gone on to rack up some major production credits. ‘The Montana Show’ also comes in the form of a live platform which launched its first phase earlier this year - featuring hot new talent such as YXN Bane, Big Tobz and Rabecca Garton - hosted at popular music venue o2 Accademy, DJ P Montana surely intended to make a statement. 2016 has seen DJ P Montana as having fast established himself as the hottest DJ in town, with his name appearing on the hottest line-ups internationally, dubbed the next Tim Westwood we are sure to expect nothing but greatness from this guy.
This is in no particular order and please note that this list is in no way exhaustive and is not intended to suggest that the many other incredible young people driving the scene are not worthy or that their achievements and contributions are not valid. YMB has carefully sourced this list of individuals to create a diverse and cross-sector representation of some of the key individuals who stood out to us in 2016, please believe that compressing this list to a mere 10 was a challenge in itself.
Also look out for the YMB Awards 2017, check out the events page on our website to view some of the categories, some BIG announcements coming in 2017.