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Interview with MICHELE WILLIAMS, manager for 3LW (US platinum) - August 29, 2002

“It’s very important to have a strategy and a real view of what your art is about.”

picture Michele Williams manages pop/r&b girl group 3LW whose debut album “3LW” has sold Platinum in the US, and who are about to release their second album “A Girl Can Mack”. Michele previously managed Ce Ce Peniston and Joe.

How did you get started in the music business and what has been your route to become a manager?

I have a corporate background and previously worked at IBM. I’ve been a manager since 1988 and the first artist I managed was Ce Ce Peniston, that’s how I got started. I also managed Joe for eight years and secured his record deals with Mercury and Jive, and co-wrote six songs on his second album, (his first for Jive), “All That I Am” (released in 1997 it has sold Platinum in the US – Ed.). I also co-wrote his Grammy nominated song “I Wanna Know”. I am signed to EMI as a songwriter.

I have always been creative and I wanted to merge what I had learned at IBM with how the music industry runs, which is a more creative form of employment.

What experiences have been important to you in developing your skills as a manager?

Working with different artists and company executives has been very helpful in developing my skills as a manager.

How have 3LW developed since the first album?

They have developed quite a bit and their development is a reflection of the music they’ve been listening to in between their two albums, and also that they have become young women.

Regarding the new album, what were your thoughts about the songs and the productions when you started work on it?

The album will definitely give music listeners the opportunity to really understand 3LW and their growth into womanhood. We wanted it to show, and I think it does, that females can be in control, can be assertive and can reach any goal they set for themselves. I love every song on the album and I’m very happy with all the production as well.

Who have been the creative forces behind the new album, as far as the music?

Full Force, P. Diddy, Mario Winans, Beau Dozier, the legendary Lamont Dozier’s son from the Motown days, John John, who worked a lot with TLC, Montell Jordan, and Little Steve. 3LW selected the songs and the producers along with their production company Nine Lives, which is Tse Williams and me.

As a manager, do you have a strategy for 3LW in regards to what they should develop and how to strengthen their brand name?

The strategy I have is to let them be themselves, particularly on this album, and let them express themselves creatively as artists.

How important is it to have a strategy?

It’s very important to have a strategy and a real view of what your art is about. Every day there’s a new group coming out and you are considered as competition by some people.

Has the record company been active in any way in developing such a strategy?

David McPherson, Marvin Peart and Polly Anthony at Epic have been very instrumental in developing a strategy and helping to put together this album, by selecting songs, discussing image and all the number of things that it takes to put a project like this together.

What goals do you have for 3LW as a band and brand name?

Hopefully, 3LW will be remembered in the same way as the artists they admire are, groups like the Supremes, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, and TLC, solo artists like Janet Jackson, Patti LaBelle, and Luther Vandross, and earn their way to the status that those legendary artists have. I’m sure at some point they will all like to pursue separate music careers, but right now they’re focused on 3LW.

What artists are you currently managing and how did you find them?

I have a new male r&b trio called Best Man, who are signed to Epic Records and will release their first album in January, and Kiely and Adrienne from 3LW each have solo endeavours they are developing and managing.

Kiely has a group called Gigi, where some of the members are the older sisters of 3LW, and they are a cross between En Vogue, Apollonia 6 and Vanity 6.

Adrienne has a Latin division of Nine Lives, our production company, which is called Nueva Diva, and she has a Latin-American artist called Paul Llanos, who sings with 3LW in a Spanish translation of a song called “Do I Ever Make You Wonder”.

How do you find new talent?

We travel a lot, so new talent come to meet us wherever we are.

Do you accept unsolicited material?

Definitely. I get at least 10 songs per week, and I’m very impressed with the demos that producers send out to artists these days. They’re sending finished material that is very much worthy of airplay.

How useful is the Internet to you when it comes to finding new talent?

I only use the Internet occasionally, but it has been helpful. I’m right now going to participate in a chat which is part of a search looking for new artists. But for me, finding new talent usually has more to do with meeting people on my travels.

What do you look for in an artist?

Talent, confidence, drive, enthusiasm, personality, presence, dedication, and just hard work.

Do you think unsigned artists are knowledgeable about the music industry, or is it something they need to learn more about in order to stand a better chance?

Not as much as they should. When I meet new artists, I suggest they pick up a book called “This Business Of Music”, and just read through it to try to familiarize themselves with the different roles that people play in an artist’s career, as well as with contracts, so that they know enough to talk about it from a point of intelligence.

Do you think it’s fair that artists pay for promotional costs like for example video-clips and the making of the album?

I think it should be a shared cost, as it is today, because it’s an investment in the artist’s career.

Do you think recording artists royalties from record sales are adequate?

No, and I think that at some point contracts in their standard form should be reviewed and changed.

Do you think that the Internet will offer an alternative route for artists and that they could sell their music directly from their site?

Yes, definitely. You just need to put together a team in order to maintain such a distribution.

If you could dramatically change some aspect of the music industry, what would you do?

That music wasn’t categorized in urban, pop, etc. That artists were enjoyed for who they are, not the colour of their skin, not their nationality, but just for their music.

What has been the greatest moment of your music career?

When 3LW won three Lady Of Soul Awards in 2001.

What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?

Being less involved in the day-to-day business. Just running a label, still involved creatively but not to the extent that I am now. Spending more time with my family and friends that I miss desperately, because my work takes up most of my day.

To read the success story of 3LW, click here

Interviewed by Kimbel Bouwman

Read On ...