Vivian Scott Chew was eager to take a bite out of the entrepreneurial pie at a time when others would be content to rest on their corporate cushions. As head of Urban Artist & Repertoire (A&R) at Epic Records Group, a division of Sony Music Corp., Chew was responsible for introducing U.S. music buyers to reggae artists, Shabba Ranks and Patra.
In 1997, Chew decided to leave the corporate music world. Taking $50,000 of her own savings, she launched TimeZone International, an international music marketing company based in Teaneck, New Jersey. Her focus is on “helping American artists, particularly urban acts, take their products worldwide,” she says.
Founded without the benefit of a marketing plan or an office, TimeZone claimed Chew as its sole employee. “I had my computer, dining room table, phone and my rolodex. My largest initial expenditure, $16,000, was used for stationery and brochures. An additional $400 went for mailings to record company executives in the international departments,” she recalls.
Before going after any accounts, the savvy executive spent a full year “retraining” herself. “I didn’t want to be known for doing one particular thing,” explains Chew. “I wanted to prove that I could go from the creative side [of music] to marketing.”
Following this organizational period, Chew began pitching her ideas aggressively to music companies. Her first clients were Bad Boy Records and Motown Records. Chew’s contracts ranged from $5,000 to $20,000 a month depending on how established the artist was.
“We worked with Bad Boy [label] artists, Puffy, Faith Evans, Total, and 112 along with Motown [label] artists A+, Chico DeBarge, and Brian McKnight,” recalls Chew.
“That same kid in Brooklyn who listens to hip-hop and wears FUBU has his counterpart in Berlin. The main challenge is to get the record companies to understand the need to market internationally,” notes Chew.
In addition to its duties of marketing music, TimeZone provides orientation-training sessions to familiarize global artists with foreign protocol and new environments.
“When the artist understands the monetary gains involved [internationally], they want to do it,” says Chew. “They can actually make more overseas because of the different royalty opportunities.”
This eager entrepreneur rises at 5:30 a.m. each day to confer with overseas contacts. She supervises a staff of five with her right-hand man and partner, Sol Guy. Several years younger than Chew, Guy, a former record executive, helps bridge any generational gaps that clients might present.
TimeZone has freelance marketing teams in Canada, and countries throught Europe, Asia and Africa to make certain the company covers all events (i.e., concerts, clubs) as well as distribute posters, flyers and sample cassettes.
Despite the pride and satisfaction Chew derives from being her own boss, she understands the downside that goes along with this ‘paid-per-project’ business environment. “Gauging incoming receipts can be a problem,” Chew explains. “Late projects, such as record releases that get pushed back, unfortunately mean late payment.” To keep the business afloat, family and friends have become investors in TimeZone.
Chew intends to reach her goal of a 30% revenue increase this year, over