DMV rapper Abel Meri has gained notoriety in 2020 for his conscious lyricism. And while music is his first love, his hustle in the tech industry is just as impressive. Having founded multiple tech startups, his latest venture Notice is ideally positioned to streamline business operations in the post-COVID era.
While many artists lead with their music and then transition into entrepreneurship as a second act, Meri has taken the opposite approach, coming into the music industry as a seasoned entrepreneur already. “Entrepreneurship is hip hop” said Meri referring to his experience in both lanes.
We recently had a chance to talk to Meri about the differences and similarities he has found in music and business through is experiences in both lanes.
Q: Do you consider yourself more artist or entrepreneur?
A: I’d say both. In my opinion, artistry and entrepreneurship are very similar. I think people often conflate entrepreneurship with business, but I think there’s a big distinction there. You can read books or go to school or work in an industry to learn business, but you have to be wired a certain way to be an entrepreneur. It requires some innate characteristics. Being bold, creative, resourceful, having a high-risk tolerance, patience, persistence to pursue things despite short-term failures are all necessary. You can’t just wake up one day and exhibit those traits. They’re part of who you are already. I think art and business are binary opposites, but I have found that art and entrepreneurship are actually are more similar than different. An artist is essentially an entrepreneur in a lot of ways whether they realize it or not. And with technology streamlining so many business functions and processes today, the gap between art and business is narrowing.
Q: What does your company Notice do?
A: Notice is an appointment scheduling and tracking software platform for businesses. It allows customers to see current wait times for service at local businesses and schedule appointments online. It also allows customers to track the real-time arrival of home-based service appointments so they aren’t stuck home all day waiting for service providers to arrive. Businesses subscribe to the platform and use it to manage their appointments. It’s web-based and also has apps in the App Store and Google Play.
Q: How has your business experience translated into navigating the music industry?
A: The journey of an artist and a startup are parallel. In music, the artist is a startup and labels and corporate partners are venture capitalists. Artists and startups need to create an MVP (minimum viable product) to show market validation for their product. In the music industry, that would be the equivalent of an artist creating and releasing self-funded mixtapes, EPs or videos independently to prove that their product has traction and is viable in the marketplace. The more validation they are able to show, the more leverage they have to demand bigger deals and partnerships on better terms. Those partnerships then bring additional resources and relationships that allow you to scale further, faster. My experience in tech was a blueprint for how I move in the music industry.
Q: Does your artistic side help or hurt you in business?
A: It actually helps a lot in my role as CEO. You need a lot of creativity to offset the lack of resources as a startup. You’re competing with huge companies that have a thousand-mile head start and way more money and reach, so you have to constantly find ways to position yourself to be competitive. The learned resourcefulness from the startup world has helped me in music by teaching me how to “bootstrap” in order to optimize the reach of my resources. Creativity and agility are your advantages when you are small and starting out so you have to find ways to use that to your benefit.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and artists?
A: It’s truly a great time to be an entrepreneur and an artist. Technology has removed many of the obstacles and information gaps historically associated with either. It has allowed talented, resourceful and driven people to start businesses or release albums right from the smartphone in their pocket. The flip side to that is now everyone has access, so it saturates the market with charlatans and less committed prospects vying for attention. I would also say that I have found skateboarders to be the best symbol or metaphor for being an artist or an entrepreneur. Think of how many times they had to fall down and risk grave injury to be able to land that heelflip 720 off the roof. But they kept getting back up and trying over and over until they got it right. And even after they master and land it, each time they try it again, there’s still a risk that they’ll fall. That pretty much encapsulates artistry and entrepreneurship. The risk is the only thing guaranteed, but as long as your drive to succeed exceeds your fear of failure, you have a shot. My advice to aspiring artists and entrepreneurs is to keep that in mind and move accordingly. Neither one is for the faint of heart. It can often be a long and lonely journey, full of rejection and failure, so you have to be honest with yourself to decide if you’re really up for the sacrifice and ambiguity that come along.
Q: What was the inspiration for your latest project “Truth to Power?”
A: It came from an increasing discomfort and frustration with the state of affairs in the United States. I wanted to succinctly express my views the way I do best. The response to it has been great.
Meri’s latest studio album “Truth to Power” was released on September 3 to critical praise and features production from DJ Pain 1, Mike Vince and Boomerang Kid.
Official Website: https://abelmeri.com/