- Words Cleo Webster
As they launch their very own label, we meet with studio Root 73 to discuss their community-first approach.
Not just your average studio,ROOT 73 is a non-profit artist development platform, recording studio and record label based in Hackney. The affordable youth-led arts hub is founded by four extremely ambitious London based creatives who were yearning to create a space to hone their sound. The uniquely established art centre and studio complex has a beautiful community ethos which stands firmly at the heart of the company, establishing a creative space to meet other like-minded individuals, inspire and grow with one another as a community – all for free.
The high prices for recording and rehearsal spaces for all artists are dramatically increasing, fused with the combination of recent art cuts and minimal affordable hubs, it has created a severely challenging environment for the majority of budding creatives. Luckily, entrepreneurs like Asher Korner and Maya Diaz, who are the founders of ROOT 73, were dedicated to breaking the current system and aspire to create their own space, welcoming all.
Facilitating, producing and promoting youth-led creative projects, ROOT 73 is driven by a strong sense of community and collaborating to ensure growth for all. Politely declining the label of a collective or a charity, ROOT 73 state that their aim goal is working towards being self-sufficient and eventually making an earning off their talents as a body. The proceedings of artists who do not want to join the community, but still aim to create a project with the team, is invested towards the organisation as a whole, and for those artists who do want to join the spirited community, their fee’s are free.
The high scale of achievements this team of four have established is beyond our amazement. Their sense of drive, ambition and their bright visions for the future generations of music are one to keep on top of. We sat down with one one of the founders, Asher Korner, to find out more about the venture.
What do you look for when collaborating with an artist, musical and personal qualities?
While much of the work we do is free of charge, ROOT 73 is not a charity, so we are selective about who we work with. We look for artists who we can vibe with, who we can see ourselves spending a lot of time with and who we feel can do great things musically. In terms of their sound and genre, we’re not in the habit of turning people away… We just look for artists who are serious about their craft and who want to work more but can’t find the space to do so.
What did you feel was missing from the community to initially spark your idea to create this platform?
There’s a Roundhouse in Camden, but there’s not one in Hackney. We used to bike up to Camden to use the studios there. We just thought ‘this is needed in our area’! That’s the end goal – to create a fully-fledged creative complex where productive time can be spent and positivity can be spread. I think community activity and shared space has been slowly eroded over the past 30 years to the point that it barely exists any more, and where it does exist it is poorly funded and poorly equipped. Community arts organisations do exist, and so do community recording studios, but not like ours. We don’t put an arbitrary limit on artists’ time with us, and we get fully involved in the projects. That’s what sets us apart – we are able to offer a much more personal and personalised experience. Being creative isn’t something you can rush, and by being selective about who we work with, we are in a position to really dive into each project and help the artist to achieve their creative vision and aspiration.
What does being a part of your community as a young artist entail, for those thinking of joining?
To be honest, it varies. The relationship is flexible – we don’t sign artists on deals that restrict them creatively, so we just ask that they reciprocate in whatever way they can. We usually ask that the artists who use the studio perform at one of our events in exchange for the time we spend with them. We also usually release one of the songs they work on with us through our label set up. We’ve tried to steer clear of traditional structures as best as possible and it has admittedly been difficult to maintain in some cases, but it has also got us through 3 years, so we carry on!
Are there any challenges or learning curves you have faced whilst founding a label at such a young age?
We only founded the label arm of ROOT 73 in February 2019 – having worked on the rest of the project for 3 years. We decided to launch with a project by Liv East & CD Spinz called ‘The X Tape’, an EP about love and breakups, that had been over a year in the making and had developed into a solid body of work with a great concept. The guys had become close friends over the course of the project and we wanted to get it to as many people as possible, so it felt like the right project to launch our label with. Of course, launching has come with its challenges but it really felt like a logical progression and allowed us to actually offer artists the opportunity to release their music professionally and properly rather than simply through Soundcloud. Much of what we do as a label has come from our experiences over the past years and through connections we’ve made along the way. We’ve definitely come up against challenges, like how we treat the money involved, but we decided to go with a fairly typical 50/50 deal which is fair both to the artists and to us.
As young founders of ROOT 73, what is your own personal relationship or aspiration within music and how does ROOT 73 allow you to pursue this?
I think everyone involved in ROOT 73 has the goal of having a career in the industry. ROOT 73 allows us to make music whenever we wish, and to participate in its creation in many many forms. Beyond the dream of being a rapper or a producer, we also want to do something socially progressive, something bigger than the music we are making. ROOT 73 allows us to have a voice in another sphere – it allows us to stand for something bigger and to show people that it’s possible to do great things as a community.
How important is it for you as a company to keep your rates low and constantly maintain your community at heart ethos, even if you make it to a bigger scale?
It is vitally important we maintain our community ethos. We’ve been vocal about our ideas from the beginning and it would ruin the whole concept to start acting like any other label or business. It’s also important for us as organisers. We never wanted to walk a path that had already been walked. We wanted to do something different and something impactful. As soon as we leave behind what sets us apart, I’m sure that the passion for the project would disappear too. Lastly – if we do scale up and become a bigger organisation, we’d be able to make a huge mark on the industry and scene. That is the dream! Not to make big money but big change.
Its hard enough to afford a coffee as a young creative in London, how did you all find funding and the support to build this creative space for others?
That’s the question! We’ve worked pretty much every day to keep ourselves afloat. At the beginning, there were no overheads and the work we were doing cost us nothing – just time. If you add up the hours we’ve probably invested big numbers but we don’t see it like that. For the first 2 years we earnt money by organising events and charging for entry. We saved up all our money, and when it came to building the studio, we paid for the materials using all of it. We’ve always been surrounded by a community of people who support us and our message – the studio was built exclusively by people donating their time, day in day out, after work and on weekends, for 3 months. ROOT 73 has been funded by passion, kindness and community – this was made very clear to us when we ran a crowdfund campaign and hit our £4500 target within 1 month. Since then we’ve been earning a bit of money by charging clients industry rates for our services, in order to pay for the free / subsidised time.
What advice would you give to other young creatives who have found a gap in the industry, who don’t know where to start and are low on funds?
I think any young creative who has found a gap in the industry is in a great and enviable position. They’ll know what to do. If you don’t know where to start, find others who have started or who want to start – they’ll give you ideas and motivation. In terms of being low on funds, everyone is low on funds! Unfortunately, there is no clear solution to that one other than to try and create and produce as much as possible while spending as little as possible. Try and treat creativity as the central thing. People always say it, but if you’re doing what you love and you really love it, money will come in some shape or form at some point! It’s about hanging in there until that day comes. We could have quit so many times and I’m glad we didn’t. We’re also not quite financially sustainable yet, so there’s still work to be done!
What are the physical ways in which you bring the community and the musical scene together?
The first has to be with our events which are all showcase nights where 7-8 artists make up the line up and perform. These events are low cost – we’ve even done free entry ones, and they really bring our audience together. It’s always a good vibe. The second and more constant way is at the studio. There are sessions there every day, with different producers working with different artists, collaborating and creating. On Fridays there are often big sessions in the evening where there are 10 or so people all networking and showing the work they’ve been doing. I can name so many partnerships and projects that have come from people meeting through us.
At what stage in your life did you all start making music and when did you take it seriously?
I think most of us started around 10-14, so quite young. But I think it became serious for us around 21. It depends how you see it, I dreamed of being a rapper from when I was 12, but I decided to go full 100% on music when I was 24… it’s always been a part of our lives, it’s always been a possibility, and the more serious we became the more possible the dream became.