The saying goes in Hip Hop “it’s not about what you’ve done but what your doing” and no truer words could befit the ethos of one of the most respected and hardest working hip hop tour promoter, artist developer and manager’s in Australia. Sam Dutch of Grindin’ has been toiling away at a career that spans nearly two decades long and has covered varied spectrums in the hip hop community from promotion to management.
Building his independent hip hop artist management & touring company Grindin’ from the ground up has been more than a labour of love for Dutch. As the hip hop game has evolved over the years so too has Grindin’s artist stable featuring the cream of Australian and New Zealand’s hip hop crop. We tip the hat to Grindin’ for discovering, cultivating and promoting artists such as Diafrix, David Dallas and Sky High to name a few, each artist providing a unique and fresh perspective on Australia’s urban talent. Stepping aside from artist management has also seen Dutch create a successful niche for himself as one of the urban communities most reputable and respected promoters touring international and local artists with great success. He has been responsible for bringing some of the most authentic names in hip hop to Australia, holding court with the likes of independent heavyweight acts like US rapper Kev Brown, New Zealand’s revered production powerhouse P.Money to British spin doctor and superstar DJ Shortee Blitz. His formula is simple really, work with what you know and do it for the love of the music….. and the success speaks for itself.
It is always a pleasure to write on an industry peer that I respect and admire for his resilience, work ethic and continuity in a game that often falls short of the art of real at times. Sam Dutch is sans the ego that one would expect a Hip Hop manager, artist developer and promoter to have. With the growth of Grindin’ and its artist roster Dutch remains focussed and ready to take his company and those that trust him with their careers to the next level …. And he always does, humbly and confidently creating careers that continue to shape the inner sanctum of Australia’s organic hip hop community. This interview is testament to his survival in the Australian hip hop industry and shows the various layers of a man that does what he does for the love of Hip Hop!
Hey Sam, thanks for taking time to do this interview with me. It’s been about 6 years since my last piece on you how have the years?
To be honest I can’t even remember the last interview so it has been a while! Where do I start? From my own perspective I am a father to three girls and obviously with that comes a lot of personal growth and responsibility. Through this I had to tighten my circle because when I do have spare time I got to be around real people. As for Grindin’ it has gone from me doing everything solo and running a record label when JB Hi Fi bought CD’s and paid for everything upfront (the good old days!) to being part of the biggest independent record label in the country running two labels with the pressure of releasing 2-3 albums a month and making the numbers my boss needed me to make.
Once the global financial crisis happened, the parent company Destra went under so I just told my boss I was taking the Grindin’ brand with me and thankfully he was cool and it didn’t get messy. After a realisation that trying to run an independent record label made no sense because music wasn’t selling and JB HI Fi got clued up and started doing returns I got into touring, bookings, management more and more. On the side I worked for the dance label Sweat It Out (I had to diversify my bonds!) which had one of the world’s biggest hits with “We No Speak Americano” at the time and through that I was booking a DJ one week for $100 an hour at a place like Establishment to booking the same DJ a month or so later for tens of thousands of dollars to play in Rio on New Year’s Eve. It was truly a surreal experience and something I am grateful to have been involved in seeing that side of the music business when you have a global hit.
After Sweat it Out restructured I got back into doing Grindin’ full time and to reality, where I had to take a couple of zeros off the fees I was charging, like I was for the dance acts. For the last year I have opened up a lot more to local Hip Hop artists because the stigma of sexism and racism I had attached to it has been overcome to a certain extent. While some of the artists could be doing a lot more about educating their fan bases and some of the music that is coming out can be highly questioned as to whether its Hip Hop or not there are people putting out good music and I like to think I am managing a few of them. Along with this I still do the international touring, bookings, consulting and running my website (www.grindin.net).
Grindin’ has grown organically over the years bringing some of Hip Hop’s most intriguing and unique artists to our shores. In addition to the tours it has also supported and cultivated a new generation of Aussie Hip Hop artists, making up a very impressive roster. How would you describe the ethos of Grindin’ from the artists it tours to the artists it manages?
I don¹t know if it’s good from a business perspective but everything I involve myself in whether it be touring or management I have to like and feel it represents Grindin’. I built the brand up from scratch and while it’s not massive it’s still something I proud of so with everything I do under the Grindin’ banner I have to feel it has to be a reflection of my personal tastes in some way. I have been offered tours and managing artists that make a lot of financial sense but if my hearts not in it I am not helping them or myself!
You must be doing something right to be a respected promoter in this country ;o) What would say are some of the main reasons why you and Grindin’ have the success and longevity you have to date?
Thank you, to be honest I don’t know how people view me but I like to think that I have built a good reputation over the years. I have never tried to compete with others or step on their toes and have always tried to stick in my own lane being a little different from everyone else I think that comes from growing up on music in a slightly different way to most Australians. One of the main things I have been lucky with from the touring side of things is I have a relationship with the artist before they even touch down whether it be a direct friendship or knowing them through someone so there is connection straight away and it makes it a much enjoyable tour for everyone.
How has the hip hop game changed for you from when you first started out as a promoter to now working and building up Australian hip hop artists? Would you say that our hip hop community / industry is gaining greater respect in the international market given that so many more overseas artists are keen to tour out here and collaborate with our artists? What is your take on that?
I started promoting when I first came back to Australia in 1997 and the R&B club circuit to me was like an underground scene if that make sense especially compared to now. I think the first club I went to was near Central train station and Miles E Miles (RIP) was hosting there was other clubs popping off like Chocolate City and a couple of others but that was about it and coming from England where clubs like this was a regular thing I was kind of surprised I was also taken back from what music people liked. On the Hip Hop side of things I was getting told about groups/artists I had never heard of and I thought I knew everything about Hip Hop! As time went by I realised that being on the other side of the world with a totally different climate bought different musical tastes and I learnt a lot more.
Over the years it has grown with R&B clubs being in a lot more venues as black music became popular in the mainstream and local Hip Hop growing into its own industry seeing artists live off their music. Through that there have been quite a few successes of artists touring and releasing records overseas. In regards to international artists touring here I think for the most part it’s because of necessity as that¹s the only way artists make money with record sales declining so drastically. I think that also applies to most of the collaborations you are seeing you can tell pretty easy which ones are organic and which ones are for the dough.
What does Hip Hop mean to you and why?
Hip Hop has been a part of my life for so long. When I first got exposed to it I was hooked from collecting magazines, tapes of mixes and radio shows, putting posters all over my walls and ceiling in my bedroom, to buying vinyl and not having a record player so I would have to go to my mates to record the 12 inches onto cassette and then put on my Walkman so I could listen to it! I wasn’t living that great growing up but somehow I always found money to buy music.
If you could take 5 albums with you into the afterlife what would they be and why?
Damn that’s a tough one but if I think about it right now writing these answers I look to my stack of CDs and I see Nas “Illmatic”, Jay Z “The Blueprint”, Busy Signal “Reggae Music Again”, Mary J Blige “My Life” and Sade “The Best of Sade”
You have toured many international and local artists across Australia every year. What would you say are the highs and lows of being on the road when promoting a tour?
The highs are when you are on the road with an artist you get on with, the shows are all packed with a good vibe and you travel around realising how beautiful this country is. The lows are the late nights/early morning flights and when a tour doesn¹t go so well there is nothing worse than being away from your family and the reason you are away is to make money and it ain’t happening! Thankfully for me this has only happened on the odd occasion.
(Sam with Skyzoo)
Any artists / albums that you are really feeling at the moment?
Right now I would say my favourite newer MC’s are Oddisee, Big KRIT, Fashawn, Skyzoo, Kendrick Lamar, David Dallas, Freddie Gibbs and Jay Electronica they are all bring something unique to the game. On the Reggae tip its Busy Signal, Mavado, Gappy Ranks, Chronixx these guys to me are the future of Reggae music. On the R&B/Soul flex I have been playing the new Omar album quite a bit and he always delivers. To be honest I really listen to a lot of older stuff but I like being schooled on artists from people too. I worked in a record shop for 5 years where I had to do that everyday so it’s nice to get people doing that to me now!
Where do you see Grindin’ at in the next 5 years?
At this stage I am not too sure as time goes by I get older and the music business is forever changing. The stuff I tour and promote is very niche it doesn¹t really appeal to the younger generation as it once did so I am relying on an older crowd who don’t go out as much because their lifestyles have changed. I also don’t bring the bigger acts out because I have seen so many people try to be the man and either lose a while heap of dough or cancel the tour which just gives the genre a bad look in this country I don’t want to be that person. I think I will always be involved in music in some capacity and the Grindin’ brand will carry on but whether or not it will be like what I am doing now I don’t know. That¹s one of the reasons I started my website (wwww.grindin.net) just so I had an outlet to let people know what else is out there from the norm.
Your motto in life?
Don¹t talk about it be about it!
For more information on Grindin’ visit : www.grindin.net
Always Hip Hop,