Interview with GREG CALLOWAY, manager for producers with credits inc 50 Cent, Petey Pablo - Mar 20, 2006
ďHave three songs on your demo. Make sure each one of those songs is different. If youíre an R&B artist, donít put three upbeat songs on it. Give people diversity,ĒÖsays 24 year old Greg Calloway, who just recently won his own record label at Warner Bros. It happened in an online reality show called The Biz.
He also manages producers with credits from 50 Cent, Petey Pablo and more. Read about how he plans to fill a new record label with aspiring artists, what heís looking for in them, how he finds them and whether or not they should be represented by a management.
Congratulations for winning The Biz contest! How did that all happen?
I was on the Internet one day and my brother was telling me about The Biz Online Reality Show. I sent in my application and the next thing I knew theyíd called me. I did all the auditions and they told me that Iíd made the show. I went to New York and competed in it.
I applied for the opportunity to work with these great record executives Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles. I thought it was a great way to get my foot in the door even more.
Youíd run your own management company before?
I started a management company in 2002 called Titanium Productions, managing artists. What I learned was that the artists I was managing werenít that much different from artists already out there, so I started managing producers. I shopped tracks to artistsí managers and A&Rs. We were lucky to have some of our songs picked up by big artists.
We placed a track with Petey Pablo. We did two big remixes with DJ Whoo Kid. Most recently I placed a track that went on the ĎGet Rich or Die Tryiníí soundtrack for 50 Cent.
Youíve now got the chance to run your own label through Warner Music Group. Whatís your vision for your label?
My vision is to find and produce great artists. Artists that are real special, who can release multiple albums and wonít be one-hit-wonders.
I donít want to do something thatís already been done with the artists that Iím working with and the artists that I want to work with. I donít want to come out with a group thatís already out there right now. I donít want to blend in. I want to come out with something thatís going to stand out and make deep and meaningful music.
You want to work on building career artists. How are you going to change whatís going on musically?
I listen to many demos and I hear people doing whatís already been done. I think that what makes a great artist is when you have someone who is a great character. If youíre watching a movie, you look at the person playing the lead role and you fall in love with that person. When theyíre good musician or artists theyíre going to make great music thatís never been done before.
When you listen to Notorious B.I.G.ís first album, the first line of one of his songs is: ďWho the fuck is this?Ē Thatís never been done before. He wasnít trying to copy everybody else. Iím going to work with artists who are being themselves and not trying to copy what everyone else is doing.
What does it take to set up a label?
It takes a lot of knowledge, hard work and organization. Iím thankful Iíve always had a recording studio. I created an efficient assembly-line type operation where I can bring artists in, hook them up with different producers, record them, and get their music out the way they want. On the marketing and promotion side it takes a lot. Iím still learning. Iím new to the record label end of the business.
My priorities right now are finding new talent and finding procducers for the talent that Iím already working with.
Where did you get your employees from?
I keep relationships open with everybody. The staff Iím working with are people who have been with me for the last couple of years. They were working with me before we did anything major. That way I know itís genuine.
After winning The Biz Iíve had a lot of people approach me who I havenít had good relationships with in the past. That shows me that now they believe in me because Iíve succeeded, but itís hard to work with someone who didnít believe in me before. Now I have more of the upper hand. I think that when youíre assembling your team itís important to work with people who have always believed in you, and with people who work well with your personality.
How did you learn the business side of things?
At first I wanted to be an artist. I tried to be a rapper, but it just wasnít right.
I started reading about Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen and Master P. In their interviews they would tell how they did it. I thought, ĎIím a hard worker, I can do that tooí. I started studying the business, going to bookstores buying books. I didnít go to college - I went to Borders.
The first time I found out about HitQuarters, I went: ďWow! This site is awesome!Ē You have all these industry contacts, emails of managers, and amazing interviews. I actually print out the interviews from other A&Rs and managers from HitQuarters, and I have my team read them.
Where did you learn your expertise as a bold salesman?
Straight out of high school I started working in financial sales. I had a great mentor who taught me how to be a great prospector. I didnít have any customers. I had to go out and get on them. I used to call people, go door to door. I was with my mentor everyday soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
How will you bring in new artists?
I go to open mics locally and look forward to going to them Ė any of them, and anywhereÖ I get a lot of emails. I go to various internet websites and listen to music all day. Every time I meet somebody I tell them what I do and they refer talent to me.
Today I was on the Internet and one of my buddies told me about an artist. He didnít have his phone number. He told me where the artist worked. I called up information to get his work number and called his job.
I use aggressive tactics. Thereís no shame in my game. If Iím in the grocery store and I see someone reading a music magazine Iíll ask him: ďHey, do you know any hot artists?Ē You find some of the best talent through word-of-mouth.
Do you accept unsolicited material?
Yes, but I prefer getting CDs. When people send me mp3s it takes me time having to download them. I like to listen to everything in the studio and in my car. I donít like to make a decision immediately when I hear an artist for the first time. I like to listen to it again and again. When you listen to the radio you might not like a song the first time you hear it. When you keep hearing it the song may grow on you.
How should these new artists present themselves to you?
Have three songs on your demo. Make sure each one of those songs is different. If youíre an r&b artist, donít put three upbeat songs on it. Give people diversity. Think about presenting your singles to radio. Try and reach different markets; have an upbeat record, a ballad, and a mid tempo.
If you have any live footage of you performing, I recommend you send that in your package. DVD, photos. If youíve done anything major let people know immediately. There are just so many artists out there who are trying to get their music heard. The key is to stand out.
If you do what everyone else does, youíre going to get what everyone else gets. If you do what other people donít, you get what others wonít. I recommend; be different.
Can someone just send in his or her vocals and you will find the tracks for them?
On the r&b side thatís a possibility because I do work with several producers. If youíre an r&b artist and youíve never worked with a producer you can send me an acapella. Iíll take that right into the studio and play it to some producers. If the producer starts jumping up and down that will drive me to call the artist and take it to the next step.
Should they have management?
They donít have to, but itís a lot easier to deal with an artist that has a manager. Sometimes itís easier to communicate with an artist who has a manager. The business is a whole other monster. But Iím willing to do whatever it takes. If an artist is that hot, I wonít let any problems get in the way.
How does your distribution work?
I have a situation with WMG where I can find and develop artists for future release.
Who does promotion?
Itís going to be a joint effort between my company and WMG.
Iíll do whatever it takes for that artist as well. Iíll go that extra mile to make sure that theyíre successful. If they have a manager Iíll talk to the manager and give them good ideas. If the artist doesnít have a manager and I believe in him, Iíll help that artist get the best manager possible, just because I want that artist to win.
What were the most important things youíve learnt from Lyor Cohen?
I always had a notepad with me. I wrote down everything he said. One of the most important things Iíve learned is that he says thereís a difference between being real good and being great. He says: being real good sucks, and only great changes lives. The way that I interpreted that itís when youíre real good that you blend in. But Great is being original.
If youíre a new bubblegum company, being real good would be tasting just like Big Red. But if youíre great, you have a flavor that has never been tasted before. Youíre great and have a different style about you that makes you totally different. When Eminem came out he was in a class of his own.
How will you help your artists shape their vision?
Make sure the artist knows their vision. Sit down with them, get to know them, their past, what makes them the person they are. Help them creatively as much as possible, constantly pitching ideas to them. I make sure they get in the studio with the right producers who have the same vision. I make sure that they have the best marketing.
How involved are you with the creative side of the productions?
I love music, but Iím not an artist. I canít tell you how to sing or rap. When I get to know an artist, sometimes Iíll try to be like an author. I sit down with them and study them and find out everything about them. And then I might get ideas and say: ďHey, why donít you write a song about this event in your life.Ē Or if I find some hot beats I say: ďListen to this beat. How does this beat make you feel? I think you should make a song about this.Ē If they do it I feel honoured, but if they donít I just keep it moving. I understand that this is a creative business.
How do you work in the studio?
I do whatever it takes. If the engineer is not there I press the buttons. If the artist needs some water or food Iíll go get it for them. I just try to make the experience as easy for the artist as possible, so they can make the best music as possible.
Whatís the secret of a successful production?
Each artist is different. I think itís very important for the artist to feel comfortable.
How much patience do you have for a project?
In the past I didnít have much patience. I gave so many artists chances. I got them in the studio with producers and most of them didnít deliver so I had to move on. I realized as well that some of them werenít stars. I wonít give up on a star so easily. One of the artists Iím working with right now is an incredible artist. He doesnít have much experience making songs but each song he makes is incredible. Heís in a class of his own. I will do anything it takes for an artist I believe in to succeed.
How do you go about the development process with an artist?
Everyday Iím learning from my experiences, trying to be a better A&R. I like to get to know the artists Iím working with; find out what type of sound they like and get them in the studio with the right producers, producers who share the same vision and passion for that artist, which will ensure success.
What mistakes do artists make when considering a career in the music biz?
Be yourself - donít try to sound like anybody else. A lot of times I can listen to a demo and know who that artistís favorite artist is. In my opinion, thatís not good. Be original. Donít be a fan. Donít dress a certain way because somebody else does. Be yourself 100%.
How do you build strategies to target the market with a finished product?
Shows, radio play, record pools, video play, internet, magazinesÖ It all boils down to that; exposure and getting exposed in the right market. Iíve been studying it for a long time.
Does it matter where youíre based, and where you work with artist?
Iím based down in Virginia. Itíll be easier to work with local artists. But if theyíre talented it doesnít matter where theyíre at. They could be in Europe. If theyíre hot then thereís no limit to what I would do to work with an artist I believe in.
Who would you like to work with?
NAS is one of my favorite artists. Heís a great songwriter. I remember the first time I heard his first album, ĎIllmaticí. Iíll never forget it. I think heís incredible.
How do you view the future for hiphop and r&b?
Right now, hiphop lacks a lot of heart. A lot of people are just making music for the club. Itís good to have club records, but youíve got to have substance.
The artists who excel are the artists who are being themselves. Theyíre not trying to do what everyone else is doing. Kanye West sells millions of records because he has no competition. He is himself. Thatís the key; to be yourself.
How can you stay yourself with so much media influence?
The best way to try to stay level is to do what you did before the fame.
Whatever you did to make you successful - continue to do that. Self-improve, try to be the best you can, never stop self-improving.
Why do you use ďJerry MaguireĒ as your alias?
One of the artists who I work with gave me the nickname ďJerry Maguire of hiphopĒ. Being in the entertainment business, a lot of people have nicknames. I liked it and it stuck.
The 1996 movie stated: value people over profit, quality over quantity. I definitely believe in that.
The Jerry Maguire moment is every day. Waking up every day, working as hard as I can, trying to build a company and trying to make great music. The never-ending search for talent, whether theyíre artists or producers.
Where did your love for music come from?
Every day I would come home from kindergarten and watch MTV until The Beastie Boys came on. At about 13, I used to hang out with my cousin who was a rapper, and I used to promote his music to all my friends. Then I started doing mixtapes and studying the business. Music has been in me the last ten to fifteen years. I couldnít tell you about politics or news. I can only tell you about music.
You have an exciting road ahead of you. What do you think this will all evolve into?
My goal is to build a successful brand and produce great artists with great albums.
I would like to see our artists being successful 5-10 years from now, building careers.
Iím willing to expand in all genres. I love the entertainment business. Itís my life.
Interview by Kimbel Bouwman
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