On this episode, we speak with Dan Runcie, founder of the Hip-Hop business media company Trapital. Launched in early 2018, Trapital began as a subscription-based newsletter but now features a podcast and free weekly memo focusing on Hip-Hop business strategy. Runcie covers topics from Beyoncé’s streaming strategy to how Hip-Hop’s indie community has taken off and how Tyler, The Creator built a cult-like following. Trapital’s readers are music executives, media moguls, and venture capitalists, with clientele like Translation CEO Steve Stoute and SoundCloud CEO Mike Weissman. Trapital also offers advisory and speaking services.
Prior to running Trapital full-time, the San Francisco-based Runcie worked in tech, performing market analysis, risk management, and price modeling. He also spent several years as a freelance writer for WIRED and Complex. He graduated Cum Laude in Marketing and Finance at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and earned an MBA from the University of Michigan.
Becoming the Pied Piper of Hip-Hop Business Strategy
Runcie's love for Hip-Hop started blooming in the Hartford, Connecticut, area where he grew up. At some point, the business side started to grab his attention more than his favorite Nickelodeon programs. It was LL Cool J's "Doin It" (1995) that made him finally pay closer attention:
And that was really my first exposure.... These people are doing their thing and I'm now at an age where I'm just understanding culture ... but seeing what's also happening on MTV.... That is when it really started to stick out to me ... seeing [East Coast rappers] lead to following Bad Boy [Records] when they were getting more and more popular.... Wow, these guys are cool, what are they doing, I know this cartoon stuff is all right .. .but these guys are cool, and that just started me down a rabbit hole from there.
Silicon Valley Needs Hip-Hop, Too
Now located in the San Francisco Bay area, Runcie's business strategy experience in edtech, fintech, and a major commercial airline is classic Silicon Valley. Yet, seeing a different kind of business school case study at the University of Michigan sparked a connection between his passions and business acumen:
You would see in all these newer industries emerging that we're also getting the same type of deep rich analysis.... And I remember one time when I was in business school, there was a case study that came out from Harvard Business School about Beyoncé and her surprise album drop that she had done in 2013, and the headline had made waves everywhere.... One, it was a great lesson in the power of marketing ... but also made headlines because you didn't see something like that frequently ... making the same moves and giving her the same level of analysis that they would give to a Coca-Cola case study.... And when I saw that, it was a reminder to me to say, "Hey, there's something here and people are interested in this...."
Finding Personal Meaning in the Business World
Through all of the business talk, what really drives Runcie is something beyond the company valuation line charts and lucrative deals made by superstars. Though he could easily move into corporate finance or venture capital, his work always seems to highlight what Hip-Hop culture means to the world:
And for me, I chose music and I chose Hip-Hop specifically because this was something that meant a lot to me personally because I had grown up in many ways idolizing and looking up to the Hip-Hop stars and how they were making moves, how they were making a name for themselves in an industry that didn't necessarily respect them and in a broader society that didn't respect them either.... And seeing the heights and the success that they've been able to achieve in my lifetime, it's been pretty remarkable and so fascinating to see now what was once looked down upon is now become the dominant culture and influences so much in so many different ways.... So by being able to cover this space it was an opportunity to really highlight and break down a lot of the stories in the same type of ways.
Listen to Hip-Hop Business Strategy With Trapital Founder Dan Runcie on your favorite podcast listening platform here.
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