Earlier this week I virtually sat down with Makeda Bennett-Amparbeng and Jade Reid, the two Black women who have created Setting Da Standards (SDS) Entertainment; the Croydon-based hub for all things music and creative arts based. Since creating the company in 2018, they have made massive waves in their community. This includes playing an integral role in The ENDS Festival 2019, where they connected with organisers to create a ‘Future’ stage at the event, dedicated to homegrown talent in the Croydon borough.
Successfully avoiding all jokes about having to take a helicopter to their ends, we had a great conversation. From building a community to Jhene Aiko, the long-term university friends discussed what they wish to achieve, dream interviewees and more.
“We’re not just a music company, it is what we specialise in, but we want to do more” they said. “We want to help those within the black community get the information they require to progress, that they may not have known otherwise. For example, funding and opportunities that creatives may not have access to. We want to educate and to bridge that gap between generations.”
Jade, who works in artist management, spoke about how she’s been able to transfer skills in that music space to SDS; “Being an artist manager, you’re inside the music industry bubble, so I had that experience going into SDS. With music management you’re managing the artist day to day, so I’ve been able to transfer that skill of managing people and projects to the hub.”
Both spoke of what they wish to achieve in creating this community and whether they’d want to expand it out of Croydon; “We created SDS as the go to hub. If someone is looking for an artist, photographer, videographer, whether they’re from Croydon or outside of it, we want them to be confident to use the SDS directory and our members. That’s how we’ll know we’ve done what we wanted to do.”
Right now, SDS is Croydon based because the creative arts scene here- if we’re being honest- it’s dead. But, we know the people, we know the talent, we know who to contact. We want to ensure we’re able to make it work in our community first, have a model we know works first, before branching it out to other locations.”
SDS is now able to hold amazing live events, support artists and conduct interviews with those from Marc Jones to Jords. However, this may not have always been the case. Prior to the creation of SDS there existed Form 696 – the racist risk assessment form, which has been previously required before hosting events. Promoters had their risk assessments rejected based on the ethnicities and/or the music genres listed such as grime and rap, and even after this element was removed, was still found to be discriminatory. Without the abolition of this risk assessment, which Makeda played a role in, SDS may not have been able to exist.
“I said to myself ‘I can’t do what I want to do with SDS if this form, this obstacle, exists.’ The culture around the form was having a distinct impact on events in Croydon, we needed to cut through that red tape to create this community. Removing the form also allowed me to have greater knowledge of the council and the way local government works which I’m able to apply to the work I do with SDS daily.”
What SDS would be doing often, are live events - but COVID-19 doesn’t care about your plans. However, innovatively, Makeda and Jade found a way to combine live music with the newfound digital nature of events, creating Bedroom Sessions, showcasing local talent on the SDS feed. [Jade] “In the beginning, it was difficult to mitigate because we are an events-based company, but we didn’t want to lose momentum and all we’d built prior to COVID-19. So we created Bedroom Sessions, our Instagram live music series. It’s still live music, keeping the element of radio and such, but is digital so bridges the gap between what we do and COVID-19 restrictions.”
Speaking on the future of their digital content and life after COVID, they also discussed their new Instagram series Can You Kill It, giving upcoming rappers the opportunity to go head to head, and viewers the chance to vote for their favourite; [Makeda] “There are so many amazing [rappers] and we’ve done a cypher before so had that experience and knew that it could work. We’ll continue to strike a balance between live events and online/digital ones as we do enjoy it but live events are our speciality, so we’ll also continue doing that once COVID-19 has subsided.”
As mentioned earlier, outside of events, SDS also conducts interviews and as we edged towards the end of our conversation, we discussed their ideal interviewees. Without a shadow of a doubt Makeda gushed over Jhene Aiko “Her whole vibe, you can just imagine interviewing her and she’d make you feel so zen. I’m also obsessed with her music.” Sticking to the R&B realm Jade speaks of her ideal interview being with NAO, or SiR “I love SiR lyrically, he’s so multifaceted, there’d be a lot to discuss and NAO? I just love her.”
Finally, I asked Jade and Makeda what advice they’d give to those trying to create similar community projects;
Makeda: “Your network is your networth. That was drilled into us at university. Meeting new people is important and when you’re developing your own skill set and model, it’s nice to be able to bounce off of each other. “
Jade: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s necessary, especially when you’re struggling. For us it was with funding and asking for help is how we were able to get several things done. In black communities we struggle to ask for help because we often feel we have to do things by ourselves - but you don’t.”
To find out more about SDS Entertainment please visit: