When musician-entrepreneur Marcus Johnson met Robert Johnson at a Black Entertainment Television (BET) jazz festival in October 2001, he invited the network’s founder and CEO out to lunch. He ultimately snagged a multimillion-dollar investment for his business.
In April, Robert Johnson invested his own money into Marimelj Entertainment Group Inc., a recording company founded by 30-year-old Marcus Johnson. Though the sum of the investment was not disclosed, Marcus Johnson described it as “multiple millions of dollars.”
“I asked him out to lunch and he forwarded me to his assistant and thought that was a way of blowing me off,” says Marcus Johnson of his meeting with BET’s founder. “But that turned into him actually taking me out to lunch when he asked, ‘What do I need to do if I want to invest in you?’”
In exchange for his investment, Robert Johnson received a minority stake in Marimelj, with Marcus Johnson remaining the “vast majority owner,” as he puts it. No other specifics were given. Robert Johnson also provides guidance and helps map out the company’s long-term strategy.
Marimelj, now in its seventh year of operation, publishes, produces, distributes, and promotes adult, urban, contemporary, and jazz music. Revenues for the firm, which has 10 full-time employees and 30 to 45 contract employees, totaled roughly $500,000 last year.
Marcus Johnson plans to use the additional funding to expand operations, marketing, promotion, and hiring staff. “We’re building our headquarters and studio facility in Silver Spring, Maryland,” he points out. “It’ll have four recording rooms, two mixing rooms, and a couple of music-writing rooms.”
With this influx of new capital, one of Marcus Johnson’s challenges is monitoring expenditures. The company’s next releases won’t hit the shelves until September, so until those revenues are generated, cash flow will be tight. “I’m still cautious [of spending] because I look at some of the major companies that have spent millions and I am almost paranoid of our burn rate and want to make sure we control it.”
Marimelj also plans to form strategic partnerships with other recording, entertainment, and communications companies.