Straight Outta Cambridge
A descendant of John Adams is making waves in the hip-hop industry. But is Sammy Adams in it for the music – or the money?
About 15 minutes into the interview, Adams’s entourage starts blaring songs from Boston’s Boy from the other room.
"Excuse me," he says.
He walks over to the kitchen, where he spots a roll of toilet paper. He hurls it at his buddies, who turn the music down. It’s hard not to notice what’s on the kitchen island: a paperback copy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by David McCullough, John Adams.
THOUGH MAJOR RECORD COMPANIES like Atlantic, Universal Motown, Interscope, and Sony have expressed interest in signing him, Adams says he isn’t committing to a label anytime soon. "I’m very much satisfied with being independent right now," he says. "People are sort of wondering, like, why are you doing music if you don’t sign a deal?" One reason is that Adams, like every recording artist today, no longer needs a big label to get his music to the masses. After an album is recorded and manufactured, there is little to no additional cost for distributing the music online. In other words, by sticking with his current independent label, 1st Round Records, he has more control over his music – and fewer people to share royalties with.
A good decision? "Genius," says Alexander. "Right now the music industry is hurting. At some point he’ll need a large campaign behind him, but now isn’t the right time."
Adams agrees. "Eventually signing a deal wouldn’t be bad, but right now with these existing [tracks], why would we sign a deal?" he says. "I need to get me, myself, out as a product before I can, you know, sign myself away."
Adams has already proven to be remarkably savvy about making himself a brand. His number of Facebook fans has grown exponentially since he released the album. In fact, at his current rate, Adams gains an average of 965 fans every day. What’s more, he’s chosen to launch his career in the Hub not only because he’s "Boston’s Boy," but also because he knows there’s no better place to peddle frat-party music. "Most people [overlook] how much of a college atmosphere this entire city is," he says. "We’re marketing to one of the biggest college cities in the United States."
Adams would love to remix some songs associated with Boston, like "Sweet Caroline" and "Dirty Water." "Especially with the college scene around, I think that is something that would be amazing," he says. "They’ll be like anthems for the bars." Playing off the city’s sense of nostalgia could be a very smart tactic – but it might also make Adams seem like a novelty act. For now, though, his strategy is paying off. Last month, he headlined at the House of Blues on Lansdowne. The month before that, he opened up for rap stars Drake and Ludacris in front of 20,000 screaming fans at a sold-out Comcast Center show.
For Adams, this success is just the beginning, as a musician – and as a marketer. "We don’t even have merchandise yet," he says. "I can’t even imagine what would happen if we had that."