For every successful artist, there’s a strong team around them helping take them to the top. Meet Andrew Barber, a Chicago native who has been in this industry for over a decade. He’s watched the transition on how fans discover music from the golden “blog era” to the current streaming dynasty; he manages artists; he’s been a staple in the Chicago community discovering artists like Chance The Rapper years before he blew up, and so much more.
We recently caught up with Andrew to get his perspective on the changes in music media, the scene in Chicago, his transition to artist management, and much more. Check it out below!
SSAP: For those who are unaware, tell us a little bit about who you are and your role in the industry. How did you get started?
AB: My name is Andrew Barber, and I am the creator/owner of Fake Shore Drive, a Chicago-based music and media company. I started FSD as a music blog back in 2007 to cover what was happening in the Chicago music scene. 2007 was when blogs really started to become a thing, and unless you were Kanye, Common, Lupe Fiasco or Twista you weren’t getting any kind of national coverage. And that struck me as very odd because Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, and it had such a rich hip-hop scene that the outside world didn’t know much about. At the time it was a just a hobby. I was working a corporate job and doing FSD as a side hustle. Around 2011 is when I was able to quit my main job and focus on FSD full time.
Since then we’ve helped break artists like Chance The Rapper, Chief Keef, Vic Mensa, Lil Durk, Valee, and many many more. I later expanded the blog to cover the Midwest as a whole. Now I have a weekly radio show on SiriusXM’s Shade 45, sit as Governor of the Grammy board, do playlisting for Apple Music, manage artists, throw concerts and events, do live interviews, and work with a number of brands. I have like seven jobs for one salary. Ha!
SSAP: Your blog Fake Shore Drive, one of the most popular platforms during the golden “blog era”, just turned 10 years old earlier this year. Congrats on that! How does it feel knowing your site has prevailed despite how much things have changed?
AB: Thank you very much! We actually just had our 12 year anniversary on October 10th. It’s truly a blessing to still be around and be relevant in the game. As you know, a lot of entities in the music business don’t last two or three years, so to be here over a decade is a great feeling.
I think reinvention is key. You have to always be three steps ahead and always willing to make changes in order to adapt to the current industry. Technology waits for no one…it’s always evolving and changing, and you don’t want to become a dinosaur.
Obviously, hard work and relationships are key. But I also think just being a good person and showing up to do the work plays a huge role in people’s success. Giving 110% everyday is important.
SSAP: Speaking of that change, the streaming services have come in and dethroned the blogs in terms of music discovery. How would you compare the blog era to the playlist era? Is it better or worse for fans?
AB: The blog era gave a voice to the people. It was unique, and it let people truly show off their taste and opinions. You really don’t get that with the DSPs. I do love the streaming era, but it’s a lot more robotic. Algorithms, math, etc. It’s the big machine, it’s big data.
The blog era was a different beast, because we did it at a time when there wasn’t much money in the business — at least not like there is now, or in the late 90s. Most of the bloggers were just fans with no intention of ever making any money. We had to be scrappy. We had to be creative. And we truly had to be out here with the people and in the clubs looking for the latest and greatest.
SSAP: In addition to being a journalist and running FSD, you’ve dived into other facets of the industry such as artist management, which led you to working with popular Chicago artist Valee. What inspired you to get into management? Do you enjoy it more than writing/blogging?
AB: I always said I wanted to try my hand at artist management, or doing a label. I was just looking for the right artist to work with. I heard Valee’s music and was just hooked. It was unlike anything else I’d heard at the time, and he is truly one of the most unique people I’ve ever met in my life. It was a good fit. We kinda took a chance on each other and it worked out.
SSAP: What’s some key advice you have for those who are looking to get into management, blogging, or any other behind-the-scenes job in this industry?
AB: Do the work, and don’t try to cheat the system — because you won’t win. There are no shortcuts. Be knowledgable and always keep your word. Be trustworthy, do good work and be kind to people. I always tell people it is a privilege to work in this business. People dream of doing this. So enjoy it, be nice to people and be grateful. Also establish connections and treat everyone equally — because you never know who will be who one day.
But also, take the time to learn the industry. Study the business. Ask questions. Become an expert. That way no one can take advantage of you.
And be patient. Great things aren’t built overnight. It takes time for these things to happen…but you have to stay at it.