James Cuthbert, the former BET and Coca-Cola marketing executive who joined Rock the Bells as president in October, tells Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast that the company plans to invest that new capital in content production, merchandise and e-commerce opportunities and infrastructure to work with brands on marketing and sponsorship opportunities.
In Cuthbert’s shorthand, the pillars of Rock the Bells (named for LL Cool J’s 1985 hit) are “content, commerce and experiences.”
“We think those work together to form a flywheel,” Cuthbert says. The first priority is to bring more staff into the company, which at present has a handful of employees. “It’s important to have the right human beings,” he says.
Rock the Bells began a few years ago as a channel devoted to classic hip hop on SiriusXM. The popularity of the channel inspired LL Cool J to formally launch a company last year with media at its center and commerce and brand partnerships as a big part of the business.
At present, Rock the Bells is producing short-form content for its website and social channels about key artists and their eras. But the ambition is much greater.
The goal is to rev up “short, medium and long-form content, all with the underlying thematic of elevating classic hip hop and building cultural bridges for people who have yet to fully discover the mythology that sits in our classic hip hop,” Cuthbert says.
Rock the Bells defines classic hip hop as stretching from the birth of the form in the early 1970s to the mid-2000s. That’s a wide net of demographics. Cuthbert is encouraged by the fact that a large percentage of the listeners for the Rock the Bells on SiriusXM are under age 25.
“Imagine if somebody had wrapped their head around building a brand (that encapsulated) classic rock,” Cuthbert says. Rock the Bells aims to be just that for the hip hop arena.
“We are working with brands who want to authentically play in this space,” he says. “If you want to leverage hip hop, we can help.”
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.