Itâ€™s no secret that the music industry is hemorrhaging money, and has been for some time.
An antiquated system struggling to stave off rampant file-sharing and compete with Internet-driven single-versus-album sales, record labels are scrambling to keep up.
But Violator Management and Brand Assets Group CEO Chris Lighty has a found a million ways to stop the bleeding.
The highly sought-after music manager–who has long guided the careers of megastars like 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, Busta Rhymes and Diddy–says the secret to survival is diversification.
â€śFrom my point of view you have to be a mult-tasker and know every aspect of the entertainment business,â€ť says Lighty, whose marketing firm has inked deals with Adidas, Coca Cola, Sprite, Reebok and Motions Hair products and others. â€śBack in the day you could get away with focusing on one thing, like A&R. Now whether its digital, marketing, A & R, radio, whatever–you have to know how to get your artist from A to Z, even if you need help pulling it all off.â€ť
A high school graduate who went on to help his client, 50, secure a 10% stake in water company GlacĂ©au and net a reported $100 million when the company sold for $4.1 billion to Coca Cola, Lighty has long demonstrated heâ€™s capable of doing just that. An industry hustler who began his career carrying crates of vinyl for legendary Kool DJ Red Alert, Lighty–also responsible for helping 50 get his G-Unit clothing line in major department stores like Macyâ€™s–says holding executive positions under fellow entrepreneur Russell Simmons at Def Jam and Rush Management helped show him what was possible.
â€śI learned that you are only as strong as the people around you,â€ť he says. â€śYouâ€™ve got to build a good team–from your accountant to your right-hand man to employees–the whole nine yards,â€ť he says. â€śI also learned you can have a plan [for what you want your business to look like], but you need to know when to deviate from it. You have to be able to bend and sway with the moment,â€ť he advises.
Lightyâ€™s latest venture, launched in May, is an effort to help wannabe rap stars, singers, producers and songwriters keep pace with the changing times. Itâ€™s a web site called Please Listen to My Demo–inspired by a phrase borrowed from his once-aspiring artist 50 (and from old-school rap group EPMD, for those who remember)–that allows new artists to submit their music for $10 in exchange for A&R advice and other feedback from-top tier music industry executives. The idea, Lighty says, is to discover new talent and help position them to get signed.
â€śWe decided to change our approach,â€ť says the Bronx native, who came up with the idea three years ago when he noticed wannabe stars were flocking to American Idol and YouTube to be discovered. â€śThe record companies of today are behind the eight ball because they refuse to change… They donâ€™t like to accept unsolicited demos and A&Rs are still going to the club to find artists even though [the artists] are all online. So we thought weâ€™d create this new opportunity for them.â€ť
So far business at Violatorâ€™s new pay-per-listen program has been brisk, Lighty reports. Although he wonâ€™t reveal in detail how much money its brought in, he will say he and his staffers have identified several aspiring stars theyâ€™re potentially interested in grooming for the big leagues.
â€śWeâ€™ve already found seven people that have at least one good song,â€ť he says. â€śIf we can help build them up we can find the next Justin Bieber or 50 Cent.â€ť
And to the wannabes heâ€™s hoping to sign, Lighty has this advice: â€śPersistence overcomes resistance,â€ť he says. â€śI can think of 100 artists that would have fallen off the map if they didnâ€™t have that drive. If 50 wasnâ€™t persistent he wouldnâ€™t be who he is today, and neither would [my other clients] Foxy Brown and LL Cool J,â€ť he says. â€śUse every means of marketing thatâ€™s out there, especially the Internet. Google is your friend. If you donâ€™t know the answer to the question look it up. And surround yourself with people who are likeminded but not cheerleaders. Those things will get you far.â€ť