Newham record label owner Yazz Nasir says there’s a beauty to being independent
- Credit: Archant
There is a beauty that comes with being truly independent.
Its most important virtue is freedom; of expression and of decision making, both particularly important in creative industries.
However, as shown by the experience of Newham record label owner Yazz Nasir, independence must always compete against the large swathes of money on offer in the industry.
It doesn’t always win. It can’t. But would Yazz change a thing? Absolutely not.
The 35-year-old – born and raised in the borough – is the founder of Ghost Recordz, an independent record label which operates out of two studios in Plaistow.
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Also a successful entrepreneur, Yazz’s passion for music is clear.
What is more obvious, however, is his commitment to helping artists thrive without the distraction of a bottom line.
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Having been around the industry for half his life, he founded Ghost Recordz as an antidote to what he considers the money-motivated giants.
“I saw a lot of artists not being treated properly. Labels would only support artists with very big numbers.
“The best thing about running an independent label is that I can choose who I work with.”
And Yazz chooses wisely. His most successful artists are the KhanTwinz, a 19-year-old Slough-born duo whose singles have clocked up more than 10 million YouTube views combined.
Yazz has been working with the twins for three years; his independent status has allowed him to nurture their development in a way that may have otherwise been impossible.
The huge number of views. The interest from the giants. The bright future. They’re not a coincidence, but rather are the product of almost 40 months spent honing the twins’ craft, helping them discover their artistic identity.
“I found them on Instagram, and spent the first 15 months building a following with the boys before releasing music.”
That time, Yazz says, would simply not be granted at a mainstream label. He believes commercial interests outweigh all, so much so that “identities get taken away from the artist and they have to make music in a certain way”.
He wanted more for the twins, and after a cyberbullying incident which threatened to cut short a career which had scarcely taken off, the rise began.
They have now released a number of singles, each video more sophisticated than the last. This is thanks to concept creator and in-house videographer, SP Visuals.
The twins’ YouTube channel now has 220,000 subscribers. Not bad, for an independent label that isn’t meant to have the reach.
Their growth has interested those higher up the label food chain, and Yazz admits meetings have taken place.
The owner’s two principles – “transparency and loyalty” – came to the fore. Yazz was open with the twins regarding the interest, and they, in return decided to stay put.
The pair see no reason to jump, and Yazz is understandably desperate to keep them.
The fact that he was able to do so without compromising his principles feels good. After all, “trust and loyalty go further than business”.
That lesson came from Yazz’s father, who sadly died just over six months ago. He is survived by the entrepreneur and his six siblings, with the strong impression left on Yazz serving as motivation.
He wants to keep thriving. There are plans to expand the record label, particularly in mainland Europe and Morocco.
Yazz is also taking over a venue in Canning Town, though its opening date has been delayed by coronavirus.
The entrepreneur could barely have imagined his success when he first became involved in the music industry, and is grateful for everything he has achieved.
He is also mindful of the fact that it has been no solo effort, and makes a point of passing this attitude on to the twins — “it’s important that they thank every person that helps get them there”.
This statement personifies Yazz. It’s not simply about success. It’s about achieving in the right way.
The likelihood is that artists like the Khan Twinz — talented but in need of patience to grow — would struggle to get their chance at a giant label, where the need for quick returns often trumps development.
Ghost Recordz isn’t banking on quick returns, and that’s where true freedom lies.