Ye Ali Talks Funding His Music Through Brand Partnerships

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This story is part of Billboard’s third annual package spotlighting the trends defining the independent music business.

When I first came to Los Angeles in 2015, I had some meetings [with labels] and got some interest. I didn’t have any leverage, so none of it made sense really. And then by the time I got established, I think they assumed I just didn’t want to [sign]. It’s just me [on my TrapHouseJodeci label]. I’ve got producers and songwriters that I consistently work with, but I would want a bigger financial partner to be able to sign some people I want.

Since I’ve done music, I’ve done modeling. Sometimes I get booked cause they know about my music, and then sometimes I get booked because of my face. I’m good with either one, because I can use either opportunity to raise awareness with the music. I bring it up after the business is done, because I don’t want to be the guy that’s pitching other stuff before I do the main thing that you asked me for.

Companies [like Puma, Footlocker, Urban Outfitters] I have a great rapport with, so we tend to do things monthly. With Urban Outfitters, we teased the song “Sweatpants” [in a campaign video]. The track was also used in a promotional video for [the hair product] Texture My Way. I’m just trying to work smarter and make sure I can pitch stuff that’s sitting [on my computer] to be utilized.

With two or three companies in the past few months, I’ve been able to integrate my music and promote the album [Dangerous, due Nov. 12]. It’s always a goal to find somebody to partner with for the big stuff and use their name and marketing tools to help my music.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 23, 2021, issue of Billboard.

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