I had the pleasure of visiting Austin, TX for the 25th anniversary celebration of the SXSW conference. While at the conference, I was able to attend several very informative panels.
On Thursday March 17, I attended the BET sponsored “Baby Im A Star!” The panel featured several industry leaders including Stephen Hill (President of Music programming at BET), Troy Carter (Lady Gaga’s manager), L. Londell McMillan (Prominent entertainment lawyer and publisher of The Source Magazine) and artists Melanie Fiona and J. Cole. The panel, moderated by Kelly Griffin (BET Networks), was an interactive discussion of how to get major exposure in a multi-platform music environment.
After the panel I was able to talk to a couple of the panelists about negotiating in the current music industry climate. Here’s what they had to say:
On the topic of affiliation, McMillan says Relationships matter. In order to negotiate a position as a star, you must understand the value of relationships. The prevalence of search engine tools on the Internet means that the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. Forming key relationships will ensure that the product is reaching the target audience.
When asked about her role in the industry Melanie Fiona explained that she has had to deal with stereotypes and issues concerning her image in the industry. She was often prompted to use her sexuality to enhance her career but she remained true to herself. She cited Sade as an example of being sexy without being sexually overt. This is also closely related to the issue of autonomy. She had to negotiate a position where her thoughts and ideas were respected. This is why she was able to make her own decisions with regard to her image and her career.
Troy Carter had some interesting things to say about leverage. He explained that he doesn’t listen to anything and by the time someone surfaces on his radar, they have gained the approval of many fans and industry executives. Artists are far better off perfecting their crafts and developing their talents to the point where they are ready to be presented to the public. “Fortunately Gaga came to me with the fishnet stockings and hit singles in hand.” Troy said. Being a complete artist gives leverage in negotiations between artist and company.
J. Cole also advised that artists not wait for big companies to notice them and make them stars. Instead he suggests that they should build up their presence until the companies are forced to come talk to you. It is possible to create interest and a healthy buzz without the backing of a major company.