As much as creative industries focus on the art that they produce, they are also concerned with monetizing art. In the music industry, this much is achieved through selling music and musical experiences. For Durban native, Mpumelelo Claudius Luthuli, better known as MrMc, music and business go hand in hand. After starting Outy Records in 2011, MrMc later founded the July Unplugged Tour in 2015. While Outy Records is about being a different type of label for up and coming artists, the July Unplugged Tour is about providing a stage for them as well. Having caught my attention on social media, and being personally invited to the July Unplugged Tour, I had a few questions!
Q: As a DJ, what prompted you to start your own record label?
A: I went to school to study music, which gave me access to a lot of information about my industry. When I finished and was seeing different artists signing with different labels and not really being happy to have been signed. I decided to start my own label to avoid all of that given that I had all of the means, so me and my friend Charlie Deep. Right now, I’m releasing my music with a label that I plan to register in the near future as well as Outy Records.
Q: What makes you different from other labels right now? If you created Outy Records to avoid signing with a label that wouldn’t make you happy, what is the incentive for any other artist to sign with you?
A: What’s different about us is that we are youth. We don’t have a lot of artists on our roster and we genuinely want our artists to be totally in charge of the creative direction of their music as well as more influence on the business aspect of their music. Simply put, Outy Records is about providing an entity that houses artists and even though we are also making a profit, the idea is that they are equally benefiting as well.
Q: What is something you look for in artists before choosing to sign them?
A: I really appreciate artists who play an instrument. Music at its purest form is instrumental. Anyone can pick up a mic and make something out of themselves that way, but a commitment to an instrument is also about discipline and an overall dedication to the art. Or if you can’t play per say, you need to be very knowledgeable about different instruments; so reading sheet music for instance…I want to sign artists who I could put on a stage with nothing but an instrument or a band and still have them do well.
Q: How did the July Unplugged Tour came to be?
A: I start ed the tour last year with my partner, who is also my friend, Gumbi. I enjoy planning events, so the tour is one of the three events that I plan every year. I know a lot of people in Durban that make great music, and all of them were keen to see me work on an event like the July Unplugged Tour while Gumbi knew a lot of musicians out of Polokwane (Limpopo); eventually we just brought everyone together on one stage and that’s how everything got started. Some of the artists aren’t dominating airwaves the way others are, but their music is amazing and they are doing well for themselves. I wanted to bring them all to one stage and have a really great atmosphere going in my hometown.
Q: In your opinion what is the best part of the July Unplugged Tour
A: I think the best part is getting to see all of these artists working with a band. There are also different pop-ups that set up shop at the event. As a guest, you would get local to see local brands doing their thing. I see a lot of talk about supporting local business and lot’s of people don’t actually know who is out there because of the larger brands, so I feel like the July Unplugged Tour gives people a chance to get to know local artists as well as local businesses.