SB.TV have been known to rule the digital realm of underground talent across British youth subculture and this Sunday, they are hosting their first live summer all-day party. This isn’t gonna be a small affair. A huge number of guests and over 25 acts will be united in Studio 338 for a celebration of good, British music. The venue will have both a glass-covered indoor terrace and an outdoor beach stage hosting independent food vendors.
The event is being curated by Ben Cross and David Dabieh, the co-founders of Idiot Savant, and SB.TV boss Jamal Edwards. Last week, over a pot of tea in Spitalfields, gal-dem sat down with the Idiot Savant duo to find out more about the creative vision behind the event and how it all came about.
The Idiot Savant and SB.TV partnership came about through a mutual friend who put them in contact with each other. “Jamal wanted to do an event for ages – and that’s what we do,” says Ben. “He got David and I to make a lookbook and Jamal loved it – we had the same vision so we were like, ‘Let’s do it!’”
“We’re not a massive corporation who runs events – and I think that was part of the appeal. Jamal always wants to work with people who are up-and-coming.” SB.TV launched back in 2006 and are a key platform in showcasing and championing underground British talent. “That’s part of the reason why we have special guests and not named acts. There are a few names on the bill of people who have done one song or [are] only on SoundCloud.”
Despite no prior announcement of the line-up, the demand for tickets will ultimately go way beyond the venue capacity. To accommodate interest in the fairest way, the tickets for the event are being allocated using a ballot system. In order to be considered for a ticket allocation, you must fill in a form on the website. “The good thing with SB.TV’s name being on this event is that we’re not scraping around trying to sell tickets. People want to come. Our main task is to curate the best event we can.”
With an online following well into six figures, the audience of SB.TV’s platform are interested and trust the concept enough to take the time to fill out the form, which takes a few minutes to get through. “It’s longer than just putting in your email address and bank details. But we want people who are committed to the concept.”
“Part of the reason we’re not announcing the line up straight away is so that the focus isn’t just on the big names”, David tells me. “What often happens with these parties is that the attention from the smaller acts gets drowned out. We want everyone to come to find some new talent and good music.”
They are being attentive to the music interest of people who want to attend by means of the ballot. It has helped them in curating a stellar line-up and selecting attendees. “The responses have been crazy in terms of seeing who is on everyone’s radar at the moment. We keep seeing the same names pop up.” Some of the most wanted acts include AJ Tracey, Nadia Rose and Etta Bond.
“Jamal has been very hands-on with everything. Even the little bits. He’s very sure of who he wants performing, what he wants the vibe to be and we’re working very closely to make sure we achieve that,” David explains. “Because he knows what his brand is he knows what the platform is and what it provides to the industry and people in general.”
“During the day, we get to pack more in, but also nothing is hidden. You can physically see more and it’s more social. People interact differently to alcohol during the day. And there’s food as well. You eat well, drink well, listen well. We’re applying to all the five senses!”
They’ve even got the food covered. “Food is a big thing for us, hence the cookout element. We went to Camden at 11pm to try out some wings the other night. We’re going out to places that we’ve been recommended by friends to try the food ourselves and to get a taste of everything. We’ll be making sure there are options for everyone.”
With attention being increasingly brought to lack of diversity on festival line-ups, and the likes of Glastonbury launching a women-only venue on site, with an all-female line-up to directly tackle this problem, I ask David and Ben what they are doing in order to ensure they aren’t further exacerbating the problem.
David is quick to hold up his hands on account of previous events. “We have been guilty of having done some all-male line-ups. We know and recognise that’s a problem, especially in the type of music that we operate in.”
Recognising it as a problem and being conscious of it isn’t always enough, however.
“Obviously we’re both guys. There’s an actual industry problem, because there are less successful and famous women than men in music. But we don’t want it to fall into tokenism and it has to be genuine. That’s the great thing about this show,” says Ben. “It’s about 50/50 male-to-female ratio.”
“We have a responsibility in our generation to ensure everything we do is relatable, representative and original. We owe it to ourselves be the leaders of that and let that shine through in every aspect. You have to take that attitude with you when you do events, or if you’re socialising, you have to have that mindset.”
I get a feeling the team have a genuine bond and cohesive creative vision. “Jamal deserves the respect he gets,” says Ben. “He’s conscious of being authentic and representative. In many parts of society, people aren’t represented. So we have a responsibility in our generation to ensure everything we do is relatable, representative and original. We owe it to ourselves to be the leaders of that and let that shine through in every aspect. You have to take that attitude with you when you do events, or if you’re socialising, you have to have that mindset. We want people to turn up to the event and go – ‘that’s London, that’s Britain’”.
This type of music event isn’t often allowed to happen in London legally. For example, ‘Talking The Hardest’ rapper, Giggs has a criminal record and he isn’t allowed to perform at many London shows for this reason. We get talking about the Form 696 and the difficult history between the police and grime and hip-hop music in the UK. David sits up. “It’s not the problem of having to fill out the form – it’s the fact that the minute we say a grime or hip-hop artist, that’s when venues ask for us to fill the form. When we’ve done electronic events of the same size, they’ve never asked once. That’s a problem.” The guys go on to tell me that Studio 338 has been very accommodating in helping to get this event organised and hosting these type of artists.
North London emcee, J.M.E made a documentary covering the issue of the form for Noisey several years back. Highlight that ethnicity groups of the acts and attendees were being asked (which has now been taken off the form), but they still ask for I.D from every artist. “Imagine trying to coordinate I.D from 30 artists, via management and so on. There are guys who don’t even have a passport or a driving license. It’s an issue, and the issue is always drawn along racial and class lines and it means event organisers tend to stay with electronic events for the sake of ease.”
“Most of these types of events are shoved into the smaller venues. And the same venues. It’s always Visions, Birthdays and XOYO.”
Ben leans in. “In electronic music raves, there’ll be a lot of people taking drugs. If you’ve got a big crowd – 20 per cent of them are on MDMA and zoned out. That crowd will probably take far more drugs than those at a grime rave. It’s just not the same culture.”
“There’s a real drug-taking culture in Britain and it’s actually mostly white, middle-class people. And it’s not a secret.
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David explains that because these type of events don’t often get to happen, a large part of it was representing the scene. “You go onto Resident Advisor and they have an endless list of day parties going on for electronic and disco music, and there’s nothing for hip-hop. You have to go Wireless if you want to see these people. This is a time for it to be represented and for us to market it without having to hide.”
They tell me that they’re hoping this is the first of many. “We’ve put a lot of thought into the branding, image, concept and we want to build on this for the future.”
Check out more of the guys’ work here and stay tuned to see our coverage of the upcoming event.