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Black History Month Community Spotlight: The Blues Project and BLUES100

Black History Month Community Spotlight: The Blues Project and BLUES100
October 20, 2021

As we all step out of a tough stretch of isolated months, we’re fortunate to have supportive communities out there, ready to take us in and help us thrive. That’s what The Blues Project (and BLUES100) is all about– serving as a community resource, uplifting wildly talented artists throughout the UK who perform variations of soul, neo-jazz, and R&B.

The collective didn’t start as a response to the pandemic though– it was already clear back in 2016 to founder Simi Agbaje that the need to support these artists, primarily Black artists, was there. “At the time I just didn’t see the music I liked being represented well,” says Agbaje. “As someone who’s a fan of those genres I found it really hard to find the kind of music I liked, and the few platforms that did exist weren’t representing the talent in a way that was matching the level of creativity that they were putting into their music. It just didn’t have– I hate to say “cool factor,” but cool in the sense of being creative, pulling people in.”

So, The Blues Project was born. The collective supports artists in multiple ways– hosting unique performances (or Cyphers), keeping a strong social media presence, and utilizing a membership service for listeners to discover and support artists directly, starting at £2 a month. “The average music listener, or even the average music lover, isn’t going to go hunting, so you have to present things in a way that has a certain level of appeal and ease of engaging with,” says Agbaje. 

Of course the biggest focus remains the music itself. The Blues Project works to make that resonate in its own way as well, creating distinctive environments for each live performance. “We don’t want it to be like an experience you’ve had before at a gig,” says Agbaje. “We just find ways to make it a more immersive experience and bring that communal and collective effort feeling.”

 

More recently the collective started BLUES100, highlighting 100 artists, giving extra visibility to raise awareness, and bringing more financial opportunities, including partnering with brands, organizations, along with direct support from the collective memberships. There’s even a collaboration with AWAL on the horizon for a release of BLUES100 original music. BLUES100 shares only a handful of artists at a time via “seasons,” and launched the second season line-up back in August, featuring artists like Sofar alum Mali Hayes

“Discovery is still a challenge, but it’s not the biggest challenge for artists... it’s more about those artists being fairly compensated for the great music they’re making, and particularly black talent,” says Agbaje. “It’s really apparent to me and the team that they’re just not getting the kind of opportunities that create income from their music, so we created the BLUES100 as a kind of answer to that.”

Simi AgbajeSimi Agbaje, Founder of The Blues Project

It’s a lot of irons in the fire for the collective, but it’s been paying off– artists from The Blues Project have landed agents, been featured by platforms like COLORS, and have even secured grants from the PRS foundation. 

Curious how you can get on The Blues Project’s radar? “It’s ultimately us being immersed in this community,” Agbaje says. “The music industry is really small, all of the artists know each other, like one degree of separation. They’re always sharing or talking about their peers [on social media]. I think that’s one of the great things about this space of music, that because it is fairly underground, it is quite a supportive culture.”

Wondering how you can support The Blues Project? Check out their website for details on memberships, mailing lists, social media, and of course, ways to listen to the wonderful artist collective. 

Be sure to catch Sofar’s upcoming live concert in Brixton on October 26th, curated by The Blues Project. It’ll be a unique night, and the chance to see UK artists who are redefining the bounds of new age Soul. 

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