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Artist Collective looks to help creatives scale by creating connections

Willie Wright. Photo supplied.

When Willie Wright moved to Madison from New York, he noticed that the resources for artists were too spread out for people to figure out how to take a step up in their careers. He decided to bring his knowledge as an artist himself to others in Madison and founded the Artists Collective.

The Artist Collective uses a formulaic approach to help artists scale their careers and platforms by matching them with the services they need. It serves as a central service to match artists with producers, photographers, venues, marketing, designers and other tools that an artist needs.

“When I moved to Madison… I really transitioned from being a performance poet, to a local rapper, and a local hip hop artist,” Wright said. “I realized quickly there weren’t five boroughs to go to. If you were going to be great, you had to be really good here and everyone had to know you were top five, top 10.”

Wright noticed that the network for artists Madison was severely lacking compared to New York. He saw that the only way to be successful as an artist here was to be considered one of the best overall in Madison, but at a certain point, scaling hit a wall and there were no other pathways to take.

After five years in Madison, he wanted to start a business that helped match artists up with resources to scale. He notes that figuring out the best path on your own without the experience can lead to wasting precious time as an artist manages to work it out themselves.

“What we did first was say, ‘How can we help artists?’ Let’s connect them,” Wright said. “Let’s help artists connect to be able to find producers, beat makers, photographers and videographers without having to go anywhere.”

The effort pooled artists together and led to stronger events as the network grew. Events have live DJs and give chances for artists to showcase themselves in a performance setting.

When an artist comes to the Artists Collective, it’s best to come with a goal defined, Wright said. Both established artists and newer ones can benefit from an outside look on how to focus efforts to reach their goal, Wright said.

“An artist has to decide where they’re at in their art journey. The Artist Collective is designed for you to take a chance on your art journey, or for you to be serious about it,” Wright said. “Your next step in your art, which should allow you to go back to creating the best art you want to create for yourself without worrying how you are going to package it.”

Attendees at a previous Artists Collective brunch event.

The Artist Collective also uses an interactive questionnaire for artists who don’t necessarily know where they are at in their careers but know it’s time to take a chance. The first question asks who their favorite artist is.

For Wright, that tells him a lot of who they want to be and speaks volumes to the path they need to take. Wright says for his journey, he wanted to be “as big as The Beatles.”

Other questions include how many fans they want, whether they want to focus on album sales or streams,  and the last three are centered on how an artist wants to be perceived. The last three in the  questionnaire looks at an artist’s desire for commercial use, touch on people’s lives and how they would feel about others hearing their music

The framework can look different for each artist, but there is a formulaic aspect to it. To reach a larger fanbase, consistency and work up to establishment is important for growth. Consistent releases and smaller projects that capture an audience and eventually build up to a full album release will help an artist grow and keep their fanbase.

But the Artist Collective is branching out into another venture now: brunch.

Wright noticed that despite the work for half a decade, the Artists Collective was hard to find. His new mission is to increase its presence through brunches and other events instead of just music.

“When I got into 2023, I realized I still wasn’t Googleable,” Wright said. “I remember telling my team at that time, ’Listen, if we’re not Googleable, everything that we’re doing is a waste of time.’”

Wright decided to make a pivot to increase the Artist Collective’s following. He noticed there was a lack of brunches on Sundays but knew that there was another demographic of people that he wasn’t reaching that also weren’t being serviced.

Since the pivot, the Artist Collective has done five brunches including a Soulful Sunday Brunch during Black Restaurant Week in 2023.