Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One-on-one with Mathew Knowles (BLACK ENTERPRISE

In one of his first interviews since the big announcement, the Music World CEO talks about his next move, the business of music and why splitting with daughter Beyonce was all about strategy

Mathew Knowles and Beyonce are no longer in business together

Music World CEO Mathew Knowles says parting with Beyonce was all about strategy (Image: Getty)

Mathew Knowles is a tour de force. Twenty years ago, the passion for music from the founder, CEO and President of Music World Entertainment (which includes labels Music World, Music World Gospel, Music World Country/Comprade and Music World Kids) planted the seeds for his vision and success for the best selling R&B group of all time, Destiny’s Child, and eventually for the No. 1 female R&B solo artist, Beyonce. Although often exalted for his accomplishments with his daughter’s superstar career, Knowles has a proven track record of more than 200 million worldwide records sales. Additionally, he serves as a professor at Texas Southern University, philanthropist (Knowles Rowland Temenos House), film producer (Obsessed), talent scout (R&B Live at House of Dereon Media Center) and investor (Music World Properties).

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Knowles to discuss his meager beginnings, his new commitment to the gospel community and life after Beyonce.

BlackEnterprise.com: You’re a film producer, songwriter, philanthropist, professor, label owner, artist manager and so much more. Is there anything left for Mathew Knowles to do?
(Laughs) Thank you for that acknowledgement. Most people don’t realize the depth of what I’ve been fortunate to accomplish. I’ve had a wonderful journey coming from Gadsen, Alabama, living on a dirt road, in a small house with an outdoor bathroom, and I plan to continue to grow.

You’ve set the blueprint for R&B girl groups with Destiny’s Child and R&B/pop phenoms with Beyonce, yet you’ve expressed interest in solely focusing on gospel/inspirational music. Why have you chosen to ditch secular music?
First of all, I never use the word “secular” because I believe there are just different genres of music. The reason I chose to focus on faith-based and inspirational music is because of the message and hope and it gives people. Folks, especially young people today, want hope. [Music World’s] goal is to get that message across to the masses. There’s tremendous growth potential for the faith-based inspirational community in digital, production, branding, endorsements and merchandising. I believe we can share 20 years of knowledge and successes to make that growth happen.

After 20 years working as a successful team, you and your No. 1 artist—daughter Beyonce—decided to part ways. As her father and manager, will not having her under your wing be a difficult transition for you?
Interesting enough, the transition started way before the official announcement. If you’re strategic, which we are, you don’t make a decision like that before you start dialogue. That dialogue started nine months ago. At the end of the day, I’m Beyonce’s father first and her manager second. Remember, this is 20 years I’ve been doing this. She’s almost 30 years old, and if she says, "I want to run my business," I think she’s smart enough that she will get the right team. Beyonce is smart enough to know what she knows and what she doesn’t know, and that takes an even smarter person to admit that. And she knows she can call me anytime. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of staff to run the business of Beyonce. (Laughs)

How has Beyonce’s departure affected Music World’s momentum and relevance?
To give that comparison I evaluate my email activity, which has gone up 100 emails today. Now I’m really focused and I have activated myself in such a way to embrace new opportunities. I’m so grateful and blessed to have had so many successes. I pinch myself sometimes to think of this country boy who has accomplished so much—my career at Xerox [as] the No. 1 sales rep, having talented daughters and a wife, the creation of Destiny’s Child, a No. 1 female artist. And I don’t know if folks know this but of all the artists in the world in a decade, Destiny’s Child and Beyonce are on that Top 10 list. I’ve achieved and accomplished more that I could have ever imagined.

Mathew along with Beyonce and her mother, Tina Knowles in 2005 (Image: Getty)

What advice do you give people starting out in the music business?
My number one piece of advice for any of my artists is that your reason for doing music has to be passion. If it isn’t, you won’t be successful because passion rules this industry. After passion, you must have an incredible work ethic because there will be a lot of rejection. I still have some of the rejection letters for Destiny’s Child. I’d say almost every major label rejected them until they got a production deal with Elektra and were eventually dropped. But rejection shouldn’t discourage you because a “no” only means you didn’t present something the right way or you really need to go and get better.

What do you tell those talents who think they don’t need improvement?
Essentially, I’ve never heard a songwriter say his song was average or an artist say, "This is an average song and it’s a hit!" (Laughs) How do you know it’s a hit? Every artist says, "I’m the bomb and we gonna make a lot of money!" The first thing I educate them about is the numbers. According to the statistics, less than one percent of artists worldwide are successful. This is why record labels have to have a 360 deal, because it can’t survive on record sales alone nowadays. Some people think it’s unfair; but why should I take a risk investing a million dollars in an artist to make him successful and not benefit in the revenue streams?

So as a label owner and manager, you support the 360 deal?
Yes, I do. True story: I invested a million dollars into The O’Jays, a group whose career had stalled, and while their album sales might not have been what we hoped, my investment helped to reactivate their touring career and increase public awareness of their latest project. So should I not try to recoup as much of my investment? From a management perspective, I agree with [Alicia Keys's manager] Jeff Robinson. If a label is not an active participant in securing other lucrative business deals, then they should not benefit 100%. Perhaps they would get a smaller percentage for their passive participation in [brokering] outside deals for the artists and a larger one when they have actively participated. There’s a difference between passive participation and active participation.

So after achieving Music World domination—literally and figuratively, what’s next?
(Laughs) One of the things this [decision] has allowed me to do is reduce my overhead and now personally focus on our gospel/inspirational label and to take some days off and some more relaxing time. Even more importantly, I can look at other opportunities. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we land another A-list R&B client or Destiny’s Child (whom we still manage) goes on tour or puts out a commemorative box set that includes everything about them that their lifelong fans want.

In parting, how do you wish to be remembered?
I hope people say, “Here is a man who was really there for his kids and who grew and learned from his failures, not his successes.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beyoncé to dance with 200 African dancers

Thu, 2011-04-07 15:47 — Tracy

Beyoncé is bringing 200 African dancers to Los Angeles today to ensure the dance sequences in her next video are like nothing fans have ever seen.

A source close to Beyoncé said the dancers will help Bey incorporate some of their native moves into her “Girl” music video.

Beyoncé may be having a hard time outdoing her past music video choreography for which she’s earned numerous awards and legions of adoring male fans, including Kanye West who infamously interrupted Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Award acceptance speech to praise Bey’s “Single Ladies” video.

When you want inspiration, where better to look than the Motherland?

Whatever Beyoncé has planned for her upcoming video, its success or failure is likely to fall squarely on her shoulders. The Grammy winner, whose upcoming album is due out in June, is now taking control of her own career, the source told S2S.

“She's interviewed hundreds of people and got a great company together and is doing her own label and some other stuff,” S2S was told.

“There’s no ill will between Beyoncé and her father. She just wants to have her own empire and Jay-Z has nothing to do with her management," the source said. “It’s about her evolution as a woman.”

-Tracy L. Scott

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rihanna Falls Flat, Underwood Steals Show At 46th Annual ACM Awards

Rihanna Falls Flat, Underwood Steals Show At 46th Annual ACM Awards

Posted Sun Apr 3, 2011 9:32pm PDT by Wendy Geller

Although the 46th annual Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday evening boasted an unusually rich list of interesting moments/personalities/collaborations, there were two performances that took up the majority of preshow chatter. One of these was non-country superstar Rihanna dueting with Sugarland frontwoman Jennifer Nettles. The other, Carrie Underwood with a tantalizingly unnamed "surprise" partner on stage.

Needless to say, only one performance lived up to the considerable hype.

I won't keep you in suspense. It wasn't Rihanna's. Unfortunately, the pop diva's duet with Nettles--a rendition of Rihanna's ballad "California King Bed"--felt leaden at worst, overwrought at best, leading mostly to a sense of wondering who on earth thought this would be a good idea.

Nettles has dueted out of her home genre before (most recently with artists as diverse as MC Lyte and Keri Hilson) to good effect. There's no apparent reason the broadly appealing Rihanna would not be able to match wits with a country artist or audience. The song wasn't even performed at the awards show proper; it was part of a new "fan jam" feature of which highlights were fed into the ACMs telecast.

And yet...thumbs down. Nothing much else to say except a shrug of the shoulders; likely the duet would have been better if they'd attempted Sugarland's bubbly "Stuck Like Glue"--a song that seems made for a pop artist to cavort with--instead.

What did work: Carrie Underwood's surprise, which consisted of her morphing into a pink-haired rock chick opposite none other than Steven Tyler. The pair wrangled it out, stamping their respective boots fiercely, on Underwood's "Undo It" and Aerosmith's "Walk This Way."

The result? The evening's unexpected and undisputed highest point. Underwood may have walked away empty-handed in terms of awards (after scoring big last year, winning the coveted Entertainer of the Year award)--but she hands-down stole the entire show anyway.

Saturday, April 2, 2011