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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Coalition DJs' Atlanta strip club takeover gets play in 'Wall Street Journal'

Coalition DJs critique offerings from potential clients at New Music Mondays

When Atlanta music industry vet Jermaine Dupri talked to CL three years ago, he blamed "payola" for corrupting Atlanta's well-documented source for breaking new hip-hop music - the strip clubs.

"That's been destroyed with payola," he said at the time. "Now [a DJ] will play his man's new song, or a record somebody paying him to play."

But the pay-to-play strip club promo system he may regard as a bane to Atlanta's rap industry has been a boon for others.

The Wall Street Journal published a detailed piece today about how Atlanta's Coalition DJs have emerged as enterprising kings (and queens) of the strip club scene. For the last five years, the conglomerate of strip club DJs - including DJ Big X, DJ Funky, DJ Black Bill Gates, DJ Nando, DJ Shawty Rock, DJ Outta Space, DJ Buu, Miss Atown, and others - has focused its individual efforts to break new music by mostly unsigned artists and turn them into national hits.

It's an ingenious adoption of the systematic approach major labels have long used to break records via commercial radio, without requiring the buffer of a middle-man record promoter. Each member of the coalition "is responsible for spinning five new songs two to three times a night over an eight-week period, working them in between better-known hits," WSJ reports. In a sense, the Coalition DJs have capitalized on the weakened state of the music industry by creating a new music economy that prioritizes the streets over the suites.

Although artists pay "several thousand dollars per song" for their records to be played at clubs around town (Magic City, Kamal's 21, Strokers, Pin-Ups, Diamonds of ATL, Stilettos, Onyx, etc.), it's not payola in the literal or legal sense. It's also not an all-out money grab on the DJs' part, according to WSJ:

The strip-club DJs won't accept just any song. They vet potential clients at their weekly meetings, inviting a handful of artists each week to play their best tracks. They critique the work on the spot and make suggestions, often advising the artists to rework certain sequences or invest in getting a track mixed and mastered by a professional, not "your cousin."

Besides providing such professional services as a "customized printout of data" that shows when and where each client's song was spun, the payment is also a way to separate the pros from the pretenders, Coalition DJs' manager/co-founder Nick Love tells WSJ:

The fee also helps to screen out artists who aren't serious, a necessary filter in Atlanta, "where half the city raps," said Mr. Love.

But it's also given serious independent artists, with enough cash to back their vision, a window of opportunity to increase their buzz before signing with a major. Even signed artists like Cash Out continue to employ their services, because it's a quicker way to reach the streets than going through the label.

Their list of former and current clients, as provided on their website, speaks for itself. It includes ATL heavyweights 2 Chainz, Future, Young Jeezy, Cash Out, Travis Porter, Waka Flocka, Gucci Mane, Shawty Lo, T.I., B.O.B, and yes, even Jermaine Dupri.

Coalition DJs celebrate five years in business Sept. 26-29.

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