HYPE Interviews JOOX Head Of Content: Mike Smurthwaite [Read]

HYPE Magazine got an opportunity to interview the head of content representative, Mike Smurthwaite and discuss a variety of topics such as the music space in SA, “new wave” artists, the challenges of streaming and JOOX celebrating their 2 years in SA.

The local hip-hop scene is seeing a new wave of youngsters coming in with their own unique sound and fresh lyrical content. Who are some of the new guys that you think are the ones to watch out for?

Halfway through 2019 and a lot of material has been catching my ear but if I was to put together a hit list of artists who are either doing something fresh or are about to blow after years of hard work then I’d say you have to check out these artists:

  • LucasRaps
  • KC the Plug
  • Mass the Difference
  • Lynchparty
  • The Big Hash
  • Lord Black
  • Touchline
  • Nu_edison
  • JayHood
  • Champagne69
  • PatrickxxLee
  • Nyota Parker


Looking at the state of the culture in 2019, what are some of the trends that you see standing out from the ‘new wave’ and from our OGs? And what do you think 2020 will bring?*

The biggest change for me personally in the last decade is the breakdown of the traditional gatekeepers of media and the proliferation of platforms through which you can reach and build an audience. This is going to be amplified as we head into 2020 as ever more tools and platforms are added online and connectivity increases. Knowing how and what they can do with all the tools at their disposal it is going to be key for future artists careers and success. The ecosystem between fans and artists is becoming closer. The underground is no longer restricted to a localised existence and talent discovery is amplified.

Real issues, commentary and conversations are returning to lyrical content. The current socio-economic and political climate is setting the scene for a new wave of hip hop that directly speaks to these issues. A new sound is sure to emerge, post trap.

Local streaming numbers are gradually picking up and seem to be heading in a positive direction, how do you think this will impact the local music industry in the future, especially considering that CD’s are still big in SA?

With the increase in streaming, we see local artists being able to launch and reach into current markets quicker and unlock untapped listeners because anyone with a mobile device with a stable internet connection can access the latest or new music with ease. Artist can now reach fans with content that goes beyond music. They can provide branded-content in the form of video and apparel. This allows for an experience that provides more access to the artist and deepens the brand connection. Streaming allows artists to bring more to the fans, where CDs were linear, providing one thing – the songs.

NOTE: Streaming music increase since June 2017 in SA (SA was 2nd fastest growing streaming country in the world last year – 125% growth). With the continued decrease in data cost, we believe streaming will become more of the norm. Streaming allows music lovers and part-time listeners to discover more of the music they love.

JOOX recently celebrated its second year in South Africa, how would you say the brand has grown since launch, and what are the next set of milestones you aiming to achieve?

The brand has grown immensely over the past two years and has seen a lot more South Africans jump into the wave of music streaming. A lot more artists have also taken to streaming promoting their music and doing exclusives on songs and albums. We expect more people to stream their music in the next year or two and as a brand, we aim at increasing our subscription numbers and get even closer with the music industry by continuing with support especially for young upcoming artists.

What do you think makes JOOX the ideal music streaming platform for South Africans?

With boots-on-the-ground, we are able to build relationships directly with artists, management, distributors and labels. This allows for a more authentic promotion of local talent. Along with this, it allows us to identify up and coming talent. Furthermore, our curation is more relatable as we are building music experience and playlists for South Africans by South Africans.

What exciting JOOX partnerships, events or content can we look forward to in the next coming months?

  • Look out for our NHHR *(New Hip Hop Releases)* updated every Friday.
  • Major festivals and music experiences partnerships: artist interviews and behind the scenes at events we attend
  • A *new* HIP HOP Meets Series: To kick off the series we look at hip hop’s unlikely collision with classical music’s orchestral tradition – with powerful and emotive results.
  • Playlist example, *”Hip Hop at the Orchestra”/*.. find it in the app.
  • Playlist Description – Music is where all things meet. This playlist is going to take you on a musical journey where you will listen to Hip Hop Meeting an Orchestral sound.
  • “SOURCE: Curated by Kabelo”.
  • On-going exclusive songs and artist interviews and content that give JOOX Fans an unparalleled view into the lives of these musicians.
  • Continued support of the CTEMF Connect *programme:* Winners have been announced, seeking out talent and allowing *these new producers* to thrive under supervision.


Join the Hype fam and sign-up today

Newsletters • competitions • events