Music industry executives Chris Lighty and Michael “Blue” Williams understand there’s strength in numbers. As the respective heads of two of urban music’s most respected management companies—Violator Management and Family Tree Entertainment—the pair have helped some of hip-hop and R&B’s biggest stars (50 Cent, Mariah Carey, OutKast, Queen Latifah) become household names.
Recently Lighty and Williams joined forces with record business veteran Larry Mestel, CEO of Primary Wave Music, to create Primary/Violator, a new full-service management, publishing and marketing firm. BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Lighty and Williams about the new venture and why it behooves an artist to have a competent management team in his or her corner. Here’s what the music moguls had to say…
Why did you guys decide to join forces now?
Williams: For many years, Chris and myself have been able to run our companies and maintain a certain quality of management and services but in today’s game we have to provide more services to our clients. Merging and consolidating power just makes sense.
Lighty: It’s all about growth. As an African America, the reality still is… I don’t know how to say it without sounding crazy, but it’s a world that definitely reminds me everyday that I’m African American. So to have a partner that can also break those barriers down at times and maybe stop me from having to walk five extra steps will speed up the process of getting deals down and actually expanding our business and doing well for the client. Building more of a publishing asset is one of the things that are very interesting. The digital company that is already inside Primary Wave [BrightShop], having in-house publicity is great and that will be a plus and, again, when you have three other minds pushing you’re able to find and think better, faster and create a lot of different trailblazing opportunities.
When did you first get the idea?
Williams: Larry Mestel and I joined [forces] about 18 months ago. And Chris and I were speaking and he asked how it had been working for me [at Primary Wave] and I told him it was great. I knew exactly how he felt a lot of the times, trying to do it all himself, just carrying it all. I told him what I found is that my partnership with Primary Wave had taken a lot of the weight off my back. And I’m put in a room of other smart people and I’m enjoying that atmosphere. It’s helping me grow and making it fun for me again.
Blue, how does your job duties with primary Wave differ from what Chris will be doing?
Williams: Before Chris came in I was really just focused on building Primary Wave’s talent management. And now with Chris here, I’m an ambassador along with him for Primary Wave. Who we are and what we’ve done should speak for itself. Now our job is to get out there and let artists know, let lawyers know, let business managers know, let people know what Primary Wave can do for their clients or for them. I’m the cheerleader. I can manage in my sleep, that’s what I do. So that’s my job now, especially now that I’m on the West Coast a lot more with Cee-Lo doing The Voice and other TV opportunities and taking advantage of the energy and opportunities that are out in California. Chris is primarily based in New York.