Mass Appeal is a hip-hop, culture-focused brand that was born in the 1990s as a New York-based fanzine-style magazine, but CEO Peter Bittenbender is adapting for the future.
As choppy waters continue to batter the similarly situated Vice Media and other digital content endeavors in recent months, Bittenbender is looking toward diversification as a solution for today’s unstable digital environment.
Mass Appeal is riding the momentum at present from the success of its Showtime documentary series “Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men,” which exemplifies the company’s ability to produce high-end content all while handling marketing and branded content initiatives. Bittenbender details the company’s operations and strategy on the latest episode of “Strictly Business,” Variety‘s weekly podcasting featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment.
“We look at Mass Appeal as like an engine that creatives can plug into,” Bittenbender says. “Whether you’re a music artist, filmmaker, journalist, graphic designer — we are a place where you can come in, and we can help you realize your dreams.”
Mass Appeal had been dormant for some time when Bittenbender teamed with rapper Nas and director Sacha Jenkins to relaunch the brand in 2013. Now the company operates a music label in partnership with Universal Music. It also has a film and TV production arm, a brand consulting business and a creative advertising arm, the latter of which is a reliable “cash cow” for the company with clients that include Google. There’s also a ventures arm that is working on everything from a cannabis-related opportunity to content geared toward children of hip-hop generation parents.
Mass Appeal had put energy and resources into drawing visitors to a dedicated digital content hub. But Bittenbender switched gears to focusing on producing high-end fare for established buyers, a la the Showtime partnership on “Of Mics and Men.”
“We got out of that business at the right time to focus on what Mass Appeal is really great at — premium storytelling,” Bittenbender says.
“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.