Access All Areas December 2021 - Page 50

WINTER 21 / 22 | IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Yaw Owusu

After graduating with a law degree , Yaw Owusu ’ s fascinating career path has involved everything from managing artists , creating podcasts and landmark music concepts , to curating huge events such the Liverpool International Music Festival . Along the way he has become a key proponent in tackling racism in the music industry .

“ Already the powering up process has been amazing – with many of the group moving up in organisations or growing their own .”

When and what was your first live music experience , and what impact did it have on you ? I can vividly remember the Caribbean carnival in Liverpool . I was about five but can accurately recall the scale of it all . It gave me the understanding early on that live music was more than just performance – it was about the holistic experience , the connection between the performer and audience .
You have a law degree . What led you to get involved in music and events ? I have always loved music , but I just didn ’ t know it could be something I could build a career around . A law career was suggested by my school career advisor , maybe because I was quite academic .
I started managing my cousin , Kof , during the height of UKG & Grime and we started a business called URBEATZ . The company was a vehicle to support his artistic career goals , but also became a conduit for other creatives who had a passion for original Black music and creativity .
In 2011 you set up Nothin But The Music which has seen you work on
music events with clients including MTV , Liverpool International Music Festival and MOBO . What inspired you to set it up and , 10 years on , what are the moments that stand out ? We wanted to establish a more commercially focused entity and not get watered down by the challenges and expectations of communityfocused and publicly funded activities . We created Nothin But The Music , and it allowed us to work fluidly with brands , organisations and individual creatives .
Standout moments include the first year of Liverpool International Music Festival , we had more than 200,000 people attend . BET Music Matters was our first European live event , which was broadcast to 90 million homes and , in 2017 , I conceptualised and coordinated Garage Classical – which celebrated UK Garage music by coupling it , for the first time , with a full orchestra .
You recently merged with The Playmaker Group . What key projects are you working on now ? This year we have already produced a chart-topping music podcast for Spotify , a range of weekly shows for BBC Radio 1Xtra and the Asian Network , a series for CBBC and documentaries and specials for 6 Music , Radio 4 and the World Service . We have just announced that we will be producing a national tour for unsigned UK R & B artists ,
spearheaded by BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter and champion of all things R & B , Ace .
You are the senior manager of PRS Foundation ’ s POWER UP initiative – how important is its work and what progress has been made ? The need for POWER UP cannot be overstated ; the music industry for the longest has been an inequitable place for Black music professionals – whether music creators or behind the scenes .
Already the ‘ powering up ’ process has been amazing – with many of the group moving up in organisations or growing their own , being able to deliver artistic projects that have real worth but may not have been supported elsewhere and being part of a tribe that supports and understands them .
Who has influenced you the most over the years ? I have been hugely influenced in recent years by the approach of people like the designer Willow Perron , the architect Dan Meis , cultural connector Steve Stoute and the artist / creative businessmen Jay-Z and Pharrell .
If you could change one thing about the live music industry , what would it be ? The sector needs to be more diverse . Not just on stages but everywhere , the whole ecosystem .
50