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The documentary, the rapper’s lethal weapon?

Who has never dreamed of following the evolution of an artist as they evolve or the design of their favorite album down to the smallest detail? If the general public is not a little mouse capable of observing these private moments, documentaries exist to reveal behind the scenes of the music industry. Present in rap/hip-hop since the beginning of the genre, they have been able to multiply with the advent of the Internet and streaming. Behind these resounding successes hides a commercial strategy finely honed by artists and record companies. Answers with Ismaël Mereghetti, journalist, and Alexandre, owner from the Punchline Orelsan & Gringe account on Twitter.

The age of streaming

Angèle, Lomepal, Vald, Kid Cudi, Kanye West… Whether they are French or English speakingthey and they share the common point of having a documentary on their career. Not that these artists are megalomaniacs, but this type of program is the new fashionable marketing tool for musicians to communicate. They allow you to reach the public in a different way and have more reach than yet another interview.

The documentaries were distributed in the form of DVD in the early 2000s and the striking power of the internet allowed the democratization of the dematerialized format. The rise of video streaming with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV have contributed to the development of this phenomenon over the past five years.Rap has been selling since the era of music streaming. Apart from specialized media, production companies and video platforms want to produce content in this genre to attract new subscribers. They have substantial means and can bring an interesting added value for the culture when they are carried out correctly.”, notes Ismaël Mereghetti.

This audience to be captured is therefore a significant source of customers and these new video platforms have sniffed out the vein. When Netflix pays nearly 30 million dollars to narrate the career of Ye or that Apple grants itself the rights to tell the life of Billie Eilish for 25 million dollars, these sums seem disproportionate. However, that would be to forget the huge communities that its artists federate, especially among the young singer. It is certain that some of his fans used the seven-day trial to watch the Apple TV program…

Move around, there is everything to see

the Never show this to anyone, launched by Orelsan to the camera of his brother Clément Cotentin, resonates like a beautiful irony. On the contrary, the special moments are one of the reasons for the success of this format among the general public. Anecdotes, backstage, studio sessions, the artist’s aficionados love these privileged scenes of life. At a time of overuse of social networks, the public has access to more and more behind the scenes with artists playing the story or post game. For the others, more discreet off-promotion, the documentary is the moment to reveal “everything” from the beginnings until now. For Orelsan, we saw his career as a guy from the provinces like us, which makes him even closer to his community. This allows us to identify with him and his journey. I think we couldn’t do a more sincere, authentic and complete documentary on him.”, confides Alexandre, the fan of the Caen rapper.

Documentaries aren’t just about music. They go further in the intimacy of the artist and show a different facet. The general public was touched to see a more authentic Lady Gaga, removed from her many controversies and dresses made of meat, in Gaga: Five Foot Tworeleased on Netflix in 2016. The program gave another image of the American singer, undoubtedly more natural, and gave new impetus to her career. hatik experienced a similar situation in another register. The artist, yet very present in rap, saw the character of the series Valid stick to his skin – at least for some Internet users. The Yvelinois and his team enjoyed a documentary Booska-P accompanying the release of his album Blues for reveal the “true” face of the rapper last year. And the mission was successful if we are to believe the comments section where viewers praised the sincerity that Hatik exudes in the video. “Our challenge was to show reality. Staying with him, we understand that he is passionate about music, not looking for success at all costs as some people thought. It was the ambition of the video, but at no time did we have instructions from his team, says Ishmael, the co-director of the documentary. On the contrary, they gave us carte blanche and we were able to provide journalistic work.”

But are these documentaries as authentic as the public can imagine? The border between promotional product and hagiographic work can be fine. And the question arises when the artist is credited as co-director (almost too much of Bigflo and Oli , The Wandering Stars of Nekfeu). Ismaël Mereghetti has his opinion on this issue. “You have to step back on yourself to detach yourself from this aspect of communication. When you build your career, the documentary will necessarily fall into it, because you can’t afford to do just anything. We must distinguish the visual works that we will remember in a few years from the fast-food documentary already forgotten”, says the co-author of the book “I was there” with Driver. He continues with the example of “Never show this to anyone”. “Even though it is made by his team, his brother is a grassroots journalist who has done this kind of format before. The most important thing is that he is not Orelsan, but a third person who has a different view of the artist in question.

A sharp increase in streams

The music industry has understood that a documentary release was systematically accompanied by an increase in streaming for the artist in question. Kanye Westthe latest example, has seen its early projects see a revival thanks to Jeen Yuhs, his Netflix doc. Thus, College Dropout went from the 109and at the 36and place in the Billboard chart and Late Registration returned to the top 200 after five years of absence. As a reminder, the documentary on the Chicagoan traces their beginnings in music to the present day. Director Coodie Simmons’ camera has allowed a new generation of listeners to discover Ye in his early days, those who only know him through the prism of Yeezy or his latest scandals.

With us, Orelsan has seen his pieces The earth is round, San, Notes for too late, Basicor The rain find the top Spotify the weeks following the launch Never show this to anyone. The Caen rapper saw his daily streams increase by 130%. All this without having released solo music for more than three years… Clearly, the program introduced it to new peoplecontinues Alexander. I saw him as much on Twitter, but especially on Facebook where many forties and fifty-somethings discovered the artist, and now listen to him with their families. Even my mother, who is not a fan, watched the documentary and liked it!

With his account centered around Orel news, Alexandre was more than a witness to the craze for the Prime Video docu. He admits it, his subscriptions skyrocketed when he left Never show this to anyone. He gained 4,700 followers in October, when the miniseries was released, compared to 300 the month before. He too was indirectly impacted by the documentary on the big brother of a lost generation. “I had ten million tweet impressions in October versus 1.73 million in September. The progression is just crazy, and it presses on the power that the program could have had”, he explains. Let it be said, the documentary looks like a lethal weapon…

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