The Legacy Series: Gifted & Black – Women In Music x YouTube Presents: Ebi Sampson | Media

Music Week is partnering with YouTube for the Women In Music Awards in October – Black History Month – with our second content offering and webinar event, The Legacy Series – Gifted And Black: Women In Music. Here, Music Week’s Colleen Harris meets inspirational August Agency founder Ebi Sampson.

Ebi Sampson began her career in fashion PR, working on a wide range of fashion and music projects at the height of grime’s resurgence in London.

During this time, Sampson has been able to work on exciting collaborative projects like Skepta x Nasir Mazhar, A$AP Ferg x Astid Andersen as well as the very first Places + Faces exhibition.

After six years of immersing herself in fashion, Sampson decided to pursue something she’s always been passionate about. Not only did she co-manage her friends Youngs Teflon and K-Trap, but she also worked as an in-house PR at Atlantic Records working on campaigns such as Meek Mill, Kojo Funds, Janelle Monáe, Nipsey Hussle, Roddy Ricch, A Boogie Wit. Da Hoodie and more.

After two years at Atlantic, Sampson launched August alongside business partner James Cunningham with a vision to create an agency dedicated to artists who could inspire the cultural landscape and push the boundaries of music. At August, Sampson and Cunningham create bespoke PR campaigns for each artist to define and propel their stories and form a strong brand identity. Their clients include Burna Boy, Pa Salieu, Rico Nasty, Tems, Tiana Major9, Tion Wayne, Denzel Curry, Enny, BackRoad Gee, Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs, Popcaan, Grace Carter and more.

Here, Sampson tells Colleen Harris about her journey so far, her personal growth, and the changing landscape of the press…

You started in fashion, but it was in music that you wanted to work. How did you manage this transition?
“It was really difficult because I didn’t really know anyone in music. I always knew I wanted to work in PR, and it took me working in fashion for six years and seeing the intersection of fashion and music working in this hybrid space. I knew a lot of artists, but I didn’t really know anyone behind the scenes. It was a weird transition, but I left to start managing Youngs Teflon and K-Trap. I did management for a few years and then got an in-house job at Atlantic as a public relations manager. I was hustling, it was a lot of learning. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I forced myself into that space and taught myself.

In the past, you’ve talked about the feeling of impostor syndrome. Can you talk about it and how you overcame it?
“I started working in public relations when I was 20 years old. I was the only black person in the [fashion] company I worked at and the only black person in the room most of the time. I was code switching and couldn’t really be myself because I didn’t feel like anyone really understood who I was. I struggled with that until I started seeing other people like Grace Ladoja and Sharmadean Reid – women who looked like me occupying similar spaces. It made me feel more comfortable. I had therapy to boost my confidence because I struggled with it for quite a long time. I was still able to do my job, it didn’t impact my job. But when I was leading, I was going to label meetings with a bunch of older white men, and I’m a black girl in her twenties who leads a drill artist. I know what I say and I know what I do, but for some reason this whole space was very intimidating. Things have changed a lot because now when you go to label meetings, the staff is diverse, there are women running labels now, there are black presidents. The space has changed enough for people to come after me. They won’t have to feel that way.

You went from working for a big label to setting up freelance. Did that feel like a leap of faith? What was required of you personally for this to happen?

“It really was a sink or swim moment. I had to believe in myself, even if I didn’t believe in it 110%. I was super nervous. I teamed up with someone else. When I ran K-Trap, I thought his publicist [James Cunningham] had a very good campaign and we got along very well. So when I left, I asked him to come with me and start this agency. He also took this leap of faith with me; We moved in together after knowing each other for less than a year. I clicked with him instantly and believed he was the right person to do this with. I have no regrets. »

You work with everyone from Tems to Burna Boy to Pa Salieu to Enny… How does it feel to be at the center of some of the biggest new hits in black music across the world ?
“It’s really exciting. I started working with most of these names very early, almost when they released their first singles. To be a fan, to listen to their music and to fall in love with them and of their artistry, and then talking to them, hearing their stories – that’s the only way for me to do really good work, if I really believe in who I’m working with. So to see them become such amazing artists that everyone fell in love with, especially someone like Tems, she accomplished so much more than I could have ever imagined. You can never predict where people are going to go, but it’s super exciting, you get yourself feel really proud.

There’s a lot more room for black faces on magazine covers now.

Ebi Sampson

Can you name some of the accomplishments you are most proud of so far?

“In our first year, we were nominated for a Music Week Award, which was really exciting considering we were up against some pretty huge agencies that had been around for years. It was for the Pa Salieu campaign. Watch his progress has been really exciting because when we first started working with him he never had to talk to reporters and explain his talent, why he does what he does. Watching him go from being really shy to be able to express that, it’s really rewarding – to see people live their dreams. Tems has been an incredible talent to watch. She’s at such an early stage in her career and everyone looks to her as the next one. Nigeria’s big name She has a sound that’s miles away from it all I’ve been working with Burna Boy for years, I’ve seen him go from a Grammy nomination to a Grammy win, with a number two album Plus, we had our first al bum number one with Nines. Tion Wayne, he just broke records; he had a number one single, his streams are insane. Just watch everyone.

What do you think is the key to a good press campaign today?
“It’s not a question of quantity, it’s a question of quality. We always hold back from opting for the greatest looks that position your artist as a trendsetter. It’s not about doing dozens of interviews but about doing one or two key things that can translate globally. The artist’s story is super important. I think that’s the job of a really good publicist – taking the key points of an artist’s journey, their process, their accomplishments, and putting them into a really concise and cohesive email. You always want to position your artists as the biggest and most exciting person around.

Tell us one thing that hasn’t changed about the job over the years, and one thing that has definitely changed?
“I think there’s a lot more room for black faces on magazine covers. When I started, there weren’t really any. I felt like if a magazine put a black woman on the cover, it probably wouldn’t put another black woman on the cover for a few months. But now it’s like, why not? You may feel more comfortable challenging posts. We deal with a lot of Nigerian artists, and there are spaces for them now, whereas before it didn’t feel like there were any on these mainstream titles. It is something that has changed for the better. What hasn’t changed? It’s still hard. You can’t predict someone’s journey, so to be able to convince a reporter that they’re the hottest, best talent is always a hustle. And unfortunately there are fewer magazines, after the pandemic, it doesn’t look the same as before. »

Finally, who are your closest confidants in the industry?
“One of the key people who helped me was Grace Ladoja. Before I officially launched my agency or told anyone about it, I talked to him about it. Right away, she’d be like, ‘Okay, cool. I want you to do this with me. It was as if she believed in it even before I had the chance to prove to myself that I could do this. She was an incredible champion. To this day, we still work together. Sheniece [Charway] on youtube he’s someone i can talk to about anything and everything all the time – on professional advice [and] friendship. She was a very special person to me. Rachel at Wired. I don’t even think I would have started August Agency without Rachel; she sat me down and said, ‘You can do it’. Jackie [Eyewe] at 0207 Def Jam. Twin to Def Jam. Jen Ivory at Warner. I have so many people who have stuck by me all this time.

Interview conducted by Colleen Harris

Comments are closed.