Odd Future Manager Christian Clancy On Chaos, Authenticity and Building The Pull

image from upload.wikimedia.org (UPDATED) The band generally known as Odd Future, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All or OFWGKTL, has been on the talk lately of hip hop fans, tastemakers and industry insiders for their seemingly no-holds-barred approach to rap music and apparent commitment to doing things their way all the time. But how does their indie, diy, free website tools approach to building a brand translate into commercial success?

Given that they were willing to compromise their lyrics for their now legendary appearance on Jimmy Fallon, by substituting a variety of terms for swear words, and that Tyler the Creator's upcoming album release Goblin is repeatedly appearing at the top of Amazon's Bestsellers in Rap & Hip-Hop list, I'd say they're going to do what they have to do to get what they want and that they're already achieving commercial success. Plus, they've now got Christian Clancy, former head of marketing at Interscope and cofounder of 4 Strikes Inc., on their team.

As interesting as some of the online discussions about Odd Future have been, from the topic of whether or not they are a secret creation of a major label to the content of Tyler's underground version of Kanye West Twitter account, the recent interviews with manager Christian Clancy from Al Lindstrom most closely address industry issues.

Clancy has a lot to say about what he's learned from working with Odd Future and how that's shifted him out of a traditional music industry perspective. Here are some highlights:

From Organizing Chaos with Christian Clancy Part 1:

"Every decision we make is based on what's authentic to them. So it makes my job easier. Because they're so driven to what they want and what they do and what they don't like."

"They turn down covers because they don't read the magazine. Right? I love that…No one does that."

"These kids are smarter than the music being sold to them…because of that you stand to learn a lot from them. So, because they have been raised on the Internet, the way they market themselves, the way they handle themselves, you'll hear people say, 'why don't they do this'…kind of the old mentality of how you push. They've mastered the ability to build the pull."

From Organizing Chaos with Christian Clancy Part 2:

"There's two types of artists. There's science project artists and there are authentic artists…If you're an authentic artist who spills your emotion…then you allow that artist to do what they do and then you complement it. As opposed to, ok, let's get this hook or this song. Or what if you wore this or changed your hair? No…it's not a strategy. It's not a marketing plan. It's how do I allow this artist to be who they are and if they are truly expressing themselves it will connect at some point. It may not happen immediately but it will connect because it's emotion."

"The way we navigate is what's truly authentic to them because at the end of the day, no matter how this plays out, it's going to be an exact representation of them."

Of course, the problem with authenticity is that, when an artist changes and their work changes with them, many fans feel betrayed or left behind. If their sales increase in the process, then the sellout label is readily applied. Watching Common move from the underground to the mainstream one sees that process at work. He still appears fully authentic to himself but not to the particular values of fans who haven't changed with him. On the other hand, Ice Cube is making children's movies yet is still, in many camps, afforded the status of a revolutionary voice from the streets. Observing the progress of Odd Future through such changes will be a learning process not only for Christian Clancy but for the music industry as a whole.

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger whose current projects include Weekly Hip Hop Albums and All World Dance.

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  1. “But how does their indie, diy, free website tools approach to building a brand translate into commercial success?”
    Really, really well, assuming you can afford to replicate their back end of professional, highly connected PR geniuses and publicists. Without the national media spotlight, they’d be just another collective making cool shit to post on tumblr.
    Yonkers single sold like 13k on iTunes, right? So Goblin release will be the first real test. It’s either 36 Chambers or it’s the beginning of the end.

  2. Yes, Humposaurus, the hidden infrastructure is on many people’s minds. I can’t get to that so I tried to dodge the issue! But I’d really like to know what’s actually going on behind the scenes.
    Nevertheless, Clancy’s comments felt geniune. He models authenticity well!
    That said, Goblin’s #50 on Amazon’s music rating at the moment and it doesn’t come out for weeks. It’s going to be huge. I check out the top rap chart on Amazon quite a bit due to my weekly albums report and not that many new albums show up there these days. Rarely do they get to the top. Presales on Amazon aren’t the whole story but it’s a good quick benchmark and Goblin’s outperforming at the moment.
    I expect the next hip hop blog meme (did I really just say meme?) will focus on Odd Future’s management going out and buying a lot of records! I’m not saying that’s what going on, I’m just saying that’s the next industry gossip point.

  3. I think Clancy is awesome, I ain’t saying he’s not authentic…just that most Hypebot readers can’t afford him, and he makes a major difference — really, more of a difference than any of their other “strategies.” Tumblr and twitter promo isn’t getting them magazine coverage, you know? That’s a matter of phone calls between professionals with a pre-existing relationship.
    I’m really glad you’re on the Hypebot team, btw.
    Thanks for the data point on Goblin pre-orders, didn’t know that, but it sure bodes well for him.

  4. I find it odd that there are so many articles about the marketing guy behind a band that is supposed to be authentic. If he legitimately stayed behind the scenes I could give him credit for being a marketing genius, but the need to constantly say how Chris Clancy is the man behind odd future makes me think that he is trying to cash in, in case this band turns out to be just hype.

  5. Chris Clancy has done exactly…one interview, right? Just because every music biz blogger alive has posted and commented on these videos doesn’t have anything to do with Clancy’s motivations or decisions.

  6. I think the current fascination with these two videos of Chris Clancy talking has more to do with the public fascination with Odd Future and the desire to cash in on that fascination on the part of bloggers and websites.
    But I just think it’s a great and timely interview.

  7. I am quite fascinated by the stigma associated with the term “Hype”. When music becomes “mainstream”, yes it is Hype; the media clings on and promotes the shit out of something for one reason or another – Frank, are you saying that they loose their credibility / authenticity for this? There is nothing wrong about with- these guys are sticking to their guns and sticking it to the man. As with your comment on Chiris Clancy “cashing in on the hype”; I actually think the way he shares his marketing and promotion, and the idea of artistic integrity and characterized music a great slap in the face for the music industry – collectives like this should be recognized more often – full of passionate talent and musical zest!

  8. Odd Future’s un-marketing is their marketing. This whole idea never ceases to amaze me. Maybe because I live next to the skateboard stores they frequent and I get to witness first hand the flocks of kids associated with the movement. They don’t “try”, they just “do”.
    Also, its not like these guys just have a tumblr account. They utilize the hell out of it. You should see the interaction between them and fans. The amount of fan created artwork is unbelievable. It blows my mind.
    Personally I’ve become obsessed. A lot of the joy of Odd Future is digging and understanding their slang and other chant-type things that you would only know if your a fan.

  9. Bg, one of my favorite aspects of hip hop is picking up on the slang and accents of different scenes around the country. It must be fun to be checking this stuff out up close!

  10. band, group, collective – whatever you want to call them – I refer you to the beginning of clydes article below where he calls them a band. I’m not into nitpicking.
    (UPDATED) The band generally known as Odd Future, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All or OFWGKTL, has been on the talk lately of hip hop fans, tastemakers and industry insiders for their seemingly no-holds-barred approach to rap music and apparent commitment to doing things their way all the time.

  11. OFWGKTA = authenticity. It’s hard to fake and easy to prove. The Collective spits creativity. I think its the reason their fanbase is so expansive. Their authenticity creates this pull where genre is no longer a boundary.
    Friends of mine who generally only like Slayer dig Odd Future, And the reason for this stem’s back to the quote Chris Clancy references in the video,
    “Labels focused on songs that sounds like hits, not feel like hits.”
    Slayer fans, Kanye Fans, Bieber Fans, MUSIC fans can feel that their(OFWGKTA) music is a hit.
    Clancy video, offered insight onto them as artists and as people. Clancy doesn’t need the publicity for himself.
    As to the term sellout. I think they will gracefully transition into the mainstream, and as long as they only do things that are authentic to them…they will keep producing music that will have that feel to it.
    I look forward to what Odd Future in the future is like. I feel it will be mind blowing.

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