R. City takes ‘What Dreams are Made Of’ old school amidst digital culture

Bangladesh and Don Cannon support Rock City at their private listening session at Silent Sound photo credit MyHartEnt
producers Bangladesh and Don Cannon VP Def Jam, support Virgin Island duo Rock City at private listening session (photo credit MyHartEnt)

It’s been said the Internet killed the music industry. If it didn’t absolutely murder it, the Internet certainly handicapped the business. Today, we download and share singles as opposed to buying complete albums. But fans sharing non-related singles don’t work towards developing an artist’s identity and establishing a core fan base. This is just one of the issues Virgin Islands born duo R. City aka Rock City face as they prepare to release their first project “What Dreams Are Made Of” (RCA/Kemosabe). The duo have a hit single, “Locked Away” feat. Adam Levine, that is currently dominating charts across genres; however. the group realizes a hit singles isn’t always indicative of a burgeoning career. “It’s important to us that the single doesn’t become bigger than the group,” says manager Ray Daniels. “It needs to be about the movement.”

As a part of the group’s internal PR & Management team, my PR bones were itching to invite music media out to listen to a sneak preview of the album and to critique the project, allowing their praises to show up virally in their respective blogs and magazines; however, the guys argued against my suggestions.

“We don’t want industry execs in the rooms. Let’s do sessions with 25 fans in different cities and let them hear it; see what they think,” Theron half of the group instructed. My face fell as I realized this grassroots initiative going against everything in my publicity driven DNA. Huge pop record featuring huge pop icon equals huge pop fan base right?  How will we reach them at 25 fans a pop? Can that be impactful?

Utilizing their immediate four person staff, R. City personally invited fans from their private social media accounts to a local recording studio to hear their album. The response was overwhelming and while we surpassed the 25 slots three times over, we still welcomed four groups out to listen to in my biased opinion a very cohesive album entitled What Dreams Are Made Of. Fans listened to brief introductions of each song and got a chance to hear the boys’ very personal story overcoming poverty, cultural differences and later the industry naysayers to be signed to one of the biggest forces in music, Dr. Luke, and of course resulting in this top ten pop hit and an upcoming very promising album. It didn’t feel like a listening session; it felt more like a group of close acquaintances listening to music in a friend’s basement or even back porch. Each song was appreciated, no one spoke during the times the music was playing and people asked questions and surprisingly remained engaged during the entire session.

True to form, I tried to encourage scheduled tweeting and social media sharing and was shut down. “We appreciate Christal, but she does PR. If you don’t want to tweet or post on IG don’t feel like you have to. We just appreciate you coming out and listening to our album,” Timothy, the other half of the group, brushed off my instructions to the crowd.

Whether or not R. City’s approach to introducing their new project on Oct. 9 will be successful remains to be seen. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have done similar stunts in various cities and their results would suggest fans are tired of being fed the usual music industry promotion song and dance. I have to commend them as artists for attempting to share a real experience with fans of their music. Still the publicist in me was aching to include some signage or at least artwork somewhere in the room and to invite a camera crew to capture the event. Maybe in the next city, I’ll win them over.

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