Interview: Nicola Coaker (Nrthrn Baby) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Music publicist and artist manager Nicola Coaker is the founder of North East record label and music education provider Nrthrn Baby, an organisation that offers support to the next wave of creatives to help them navigate the music industry, in particular for artists in genres that were previously underrepresented.
 
We caught up with Nicola to find out more about herself, the label and the North East music scene…
 
What was your background before setting up Nrthrn Baby?
My journey into the music industry started in journalism, writing for the likes of GRM Daily, UK Grime and more! Honestly, I would recommend journalism as a first step into the industry for anyone (given that you enjoy writing) as you get to know so many artists, publicists, managers and kinda get a feel for the dynamics of the music industry through this. I then went on to intern at a music PR company where I worked on so many amazing campaigns like Tion Wayne and Russ’s ‘Body’ which was the first ever drill track to go number 1! Then, after I finished my degree, I secured a full-time role at the PR company and worked my way up to a senior publicist where I got to work on so many fun campaigns, work with my favourite artists and was surrounded by major labels which was really eye-opening. 

What made you want to set up a talent management company?
I lived in London for around five years during my degree and for a couple of years after to solidify my career in the music industry, and in this time I really focused on building my network across all corners of the industry, from marketers to journalists, and even A&R’s. After speaking to a few North East based artists I realised that there was a disconnect between the NE and the wider industry, especially when it came to education and knowledge of music business (how an artist could actually make money). On top of this, I realised that there were actually a lot of opportunities for Northern artists but there was just a missing piece somewhere in the middle of connecting all the dots. So, Nrthrn Baby was born, firstly as an Instagram page that dropped music industry gems, and then developed into a music management company. 

How did you come up with the name?
I was in a London studio with a North East based rapper that I was working closely with at the time and he dropped the bar. “I’m a Northern Baby, lifestyle crazy” and then it somehow became the name of the company. At first, I thought it would maybe sound a bit cringy but I’ve grown to love it and you will literally see me walking about with the logo on my phone, bag etc, etc. 

What is the ethos around Nrthrn Baby?
Nrthrn Baby was built to give a voice to those that are underrepresented, especially those that sit within the realms of afrobeat, rap, soul and R&B (all genres which may not necessarily be associated with the North East). We are proud to represent a diverse range of talent, and are made up of a management team who represent just that, and strive to give life-changing opportunities to those who may have missed out on these chances as a minority.  We pride ourselves on our family feel, and ensure that our team and artists are comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings with no judgment, ensuring that we provide the best care and practices possible.

What services do you offer artists?
As much as we would love to manage more artists than we currently do, management can often feel like being a full-time parent and the last thing that I ever want to do is underdeliver on our promises. So, with this being said, we offer other services to artists who we love but don’t have the capacity to manage, such as PR, playlisting opportunities, artist bio writing, marketing strategies, release strategies and distribution. We tend to work with artists who fall into the genres of afrobeat, amapiano, rap, neo-soul and R&B as this is where our industry contacts are and where we feel that we can do the best job possible.

Tell us about some of the artists on your roster.
Currently, we’re home to Sisi who is an 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Stockton-On-Tees who is constantly defying the odds. Sisi was the first black female from the North East to perform at Reading and Leeds Festival in 2022, and has so many accolades including Young Songwriter Of The Year 2022, BBC Introducing One To Watch 2023, funding from PRS Foundation and Youth Music, Radio 1 plays, Radio 1Xtra track of the week… I could go on forever but Sisi honestly makes us proud every day and given that she’s only 18 we honestly can’t wait to work with her along her journey to stardom. 

We also manage Merczz, who is a 16-year-old rapper from Durham that has built an insane online following that includes 50k on TikTok and almost 10k on Instagram, not only this but he’s reached over 26 million streams on his debut track DTB, 2 million streams on his most recent release Hold On and he just keeps on building. We started working with Merczz at the end of last year and already have a five track project ready to drop and so many other exciting projects that we can’t wait to announce. 

Also a big shoutout to Dawkins, a local DJ that recently joined our roster! 

What do you look for in a potential Nrthrn Baby artist?
Drive, talent and determination. I repeat this phrase so much, but I always say that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. As I mentioned before, at Nrthrn Baby we pride ourselves on our close-knit family feel and so it’s also important that the artist radiates good vibes, because there are some days where we will literally spend 24 hours together and we all want to enjoy our job and have a good time! 

What do you think of the North East music scene in comparison to the rest of the UK?
I think it’s getting to where it needs to be. Traditionally, I feel like the North East is known for its indie music scene, and we’re really trying to give equal opportunities to those that may release alternative genres such as rap, R&B etc. I can definitely see a shift of confidence in local artists, producers, songwriters and engineers and I imagine that as NUFC grows, so much more investment will come to the North East and allow the local music scene to develop alongside the rest of the city’s infrastructure. I’m aware that the North East brings in the lowest amount of music tourism money in the country, however I do feel like the live music scene is continuing to blossom, as more and more artists announce shows across so many fantastic grassroots venues in Newcastle.  

What are your future ambitions for the company?
What we’re already doing but bigger and better. I would love to be able to give opportunities to even more local artists and on a bigger scale, all whilst maintaining that community feel. I would eventually like to partner with a major label and give a bigger platform to North East artists, but this will of course take a lot more time. 

If you could pick any artist (living or dead), who would you like to sign for Nrthrn Baby and why?
Ooooo… What a good question! It’s so, so hard to choose only one! I’m gonna have to say Raye or Dave. I’ve loved Raye for so many years and adore her penmanship, her storytelling abilities are second to none and she can honestly jump on any genre and somehow turn it into a banger. Again, with Dave his penmanship is unreal and every business move just makes so much sense. Plus, his performances are 10/10.

 

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