When Issa Rae and Benoni Tagoe launched Raedio in 2019, they knew they didn’t want their company to be just another record label. They wanted to launch a company that could create and place audio via podcasts, in film and on television shows, on airplanes, in cars ― everywhere, really. The limit doesn’t exist for them.
“We call it Raedio, an audio everywhere company, because we want to exist wherever audio exists,” Tagoe said.
Tagoe, the company’s president, said that, as he noticed more companies pivoting to focusing on video, putting an emphasis on audio in a similar fashion was a no-brainer. “I feel audio in a lot of cases sometimes may travel faster and further.”
Thus came into being a home for a record label, publishing company, music supervision, music library and events (like Hoorae’s recent Kennedy Center takeover). It currently has several artists signed, including TeaMarr, NCognita and Josh Levi. It also brought on The Read as its first podcast and has done music supervision for TV and film productions, including “P-Valley,” “Woke” and “Power.”
But the road to Raedio started at least a decade ago. Tagoe had just left his role on the Jonas Brothers’ management team when he started working with Rae on her critically acclaimed web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” Initially his role was to help get as many eyes on the show as possible. As the show became more established and drew more attention, Tagoe and Rae began thinking about ways they could expand. Talks about merch and even cookies and candy came into the picture, but music was the idea that really stuck. Original earworms (à la Booty Shawts by the Doublemint Twins) and music from up-and-coming artists at the time became a part of the show’s DNA.
The soul of that transcended the web series when Rae struck a deal with HBO for her debut network show, “Insecure.” Out of the gate, music was an integral part of the show. It notably became a main character of the show, featuring familiar favorites and putting fans onto new artists and tunes. They even began getting approached for music opportunities, thus creating an open lane for Raedio to form.
Tagoe and Rae believed Raedio was important for several reasons. One being how ragged the music industry can be for artists. In a 2021 interview for the Los Angeles Times, Rae said music was an “abusive industry” and that it needed to “start over.”
“And finding out how artists were treated at other labels… Being a creator myself and knowing what I want in terms of a relationship with a production company or a producer, I’d like to think that we’re more artist-friendly than a lot of other labels and companies out there. I want to revamp things,” she told the L.A. Times.
Though Raedio’s mission isn’t explicitly to fix issues that exist within the music industry, a lot of the company’s decisions aim to do a better job than most. It works with its signed artists, a majority of whom are women, to market, promote and place their music in as many places as possible to increase exposure. Its entire leadership board is made up of women and people of color. And it just announced the finalists for its Google-sponsored creators program in which four women (Jae Stephens, Dri Jack, Suzi Analogue and Caroline Ho) will receive funding, resources and mentorship to align them with opportunities in the music industry.
“Keeping an eye out for women, keeping an eye out for underrepresented communities is just part of our brand makeup,” Tagoe said. He considers Raedio a disruptor.
“The thing about Raedio is we always ask the question why. There’s a lot of things that happen in the industry that’s just status quo, and that’s fine, but I always ask the question why,” the company president said. “And so asking that question why and finding opportunities to change how things have been done have really worked well for us.”
Tagoe added, “A lot of times when an artist is coming up and they’re looking for a deal or they’re looking for a partnership, we’re a viable option because we’re able to be creative in how we do our deal stuff, is where we’re able to be creative and how we work with artists. And although we have a label and we have a publishing company, we have music supervision, we came into music being a resource. We didn’t come into music to be a competition to everyone.”
The company is still new, so there is still a lot to learn, he said. Its goal right now is to create best-in-class content while it looks to work with other companies and more to create the sounds you hear when a car is started, the beeps hospital equipment makes, and more in the long term.
Raedio has a lot on the docket this year. In January, the company signed a podcast development deal with Audible. (Raedio just won a Webby for the scripted “Insecure” spinoff podcast, “We Stay Looking.”) The company will also head music supervision for Rae’s forthcoming HBO show, “Rap Shit,” which is a musical ― a project very different from other productions it has worked on. And, of course, it’s looking to push their artists NCognita, Josh Levi and TeaMarrr as they release new music this year.
“When it’s all said and done, I hope that we have the same legacy as some of the places that I looked up to before,” Tagoe said. “I want to have a legacy like Def Jam, where they stood for something. And when they came onto the scene, they had impact, and there’s things that we still talk about today that was based off of their impact. Or even like Rock A Fella or Murder Inc. and Bad Boy. At the end of day, I want people to say that Raedio contributed to an era or eras of music.”