Rap Coalition

A HOW-TO RESOURCE FOR RAP ARTISTS, PRODUCERS, & DJs. Since knowledge is power, here is your best defense to succeed in the urban music industry...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Anatomy Of A Joint Venture (written 10/3/2005)

Well, by now you’ve probably heard… I did another one of those Wendy Day deals I seem to be famous for. This one was for a friend of Eminem’s out of Detroit—an OG who has been rapping for over 15 years and putting CDs out himself for the last 4 years. His name is Trick-Trick. He’s from the Ghetto (that’s one of his lyrics, not a socio-economic observation on my part). He has a business partner called Simen who is an awesome human being and together they make an unbeatable team of incredibly hard workers dedicated to success. Their entire team impressed me, and that is not easy to do.

After I did the Cash Money deal in 1998, I got too many phone calls from folks who had barely written a rhyme asking me to do a similar $30 Million deal for them. I got REAL tired of folks asking me to do for them what Cash Money had earned for themselves (they were incredible back then—they put out 31 CDs over a 6 year period, and were smart enough to listen to good advice from folks like me who understood how to succeed at a higher level than just regional sales in LA and TX). Let’s face it, Cash Money was good at what they did back then and smart enough to listen to good advice.

Since the Cash Money deal (which was finalized in March of 1998), I can count on one hand the number of folks out there who have been in a position where I felt I could actually get them a major deal worthy of doing. Most of them didn’t listen and ended up settling for bullshit deals (BG, and Trill Entertainment spring to mind). Some listened, and let me do what I am good at—and have gotten exceptional multi-million dollar deals (David Banner and Trick-Trick come to mind).

I have to give it up to Banner and Trick, for not being greedy or stupid, and for trusting the judgment of someone with experience--me. They have each experienced far more success because of their mindset and how they positively interact with others. They are the real deal. People help them succeed because they like them and want to see them succeed. While Trill allegedly have not paid their artists the hundreds of thousands of dollars they owe them from the royalties of their indie releases, nor is any of the original staff who built the label still down with them, WonderBoy Entertainment is the exact opposite. Trick-Trick is a partner in the label and has been paid every step of the way, and every team member who was working with WonderBoy at its inception, is still part of the company today—and paid. Doing business the right way and being trustworthy is the key to success in this business. At least the key to sustained success.

Because of Trick-Trick’s relationship, he was able to get Eminem to commit to doing a song with him. Marshall did not just hand Trick a hit single for nothing out of the blue. I am certain he watched what he was doing on the streets and realized that Trick had earned a helping hand. After numerous releases and mixed tapes, Trick was ready for the next step and Em gave him a helping hand in a single called “Welcome To Detroit City.” WonderBoy planned to put out the record themselves, not understanding the politics of major labels—Interscope would never allow an indie release featuring their #1 artist. Unfortunately, they did not discover this until after they had already spent a grip shooting a world class video for the single. The single leaked to radio, and Trick joined Em on the Anger Management Tour at his own expense, working the streets at every stop along the way.

This is where I entered the picture. In Atlanta, I came backstage to meet with Em and Trick-Trick to see what their plans were. If they were planning to use this hot single, those plans would have to include a major label for the release. I was so humbled by Trick-Trick’s personality that I arranged to meet his partner a few days later in Memphis. I was astounded. They both seemed too good to be true. And I had the proper ammunition to do my thing. I do NOT recommend anyone do this, but I felt so good about these guys that I never asked for a signed agreement—it was all done on our word and a handshake. My philosophy is that if I need a contract with you, we don’t need to be doing business together (unless you hire me to help set up and structure your label, in which case we will have a contract to get you into the habit of asking for everything in writing).

So while we met with attorneys to do the paperwork on the deal, I shopped the project to numerous labels. Some labels understood the value right away, others wouldn’t return my phone calls (ironically, the same ones who didn’t return my calls back when I was shopping Eminem’s deal in 1997. Hmmm….). There had been talk of a previous offer on the table from Universal for $350,000 and 18 points, but I knew that did not sound right for a project with a sales and radio track record, and a fucking Eminem single that was REALLY making Trick look dynamite (thank you Marshall, you are still as awesome as you were when I first met you, only now with more people pulling at you).

Without Trick or WonderBoy causing me any stress, we moved forward and worked out a joint venture deal (at Universal) for a share of profits and a little over $1 million for the first album. Universal is also forced to put out a second album for a similar advance provided the first one goes Gold (I don’t see any problem with that). Universal and WonderBoy will be partners in the Trick-Trick project and will make decisions together as they move forward. WonderBoy is willing to keep working as hard as they have been to date, only now they have the Uni pipeline (and bankroll) to help them achieve more, faster.

Why was Trick able to get such an outstanding deal? Well, I’d like to think he had a strong negotiator on his side (me) that understood what he was bringing to the table and expressed that clearly to the labels. But he also had a sales track record, some regional radio play on the single with Eminem, a history of radio play with two previous singles, a regional sales history, a world class video ready to go that was up to M-TV standards, and he had participated on the Anger Management Tour with Eminem, 50 Cent, and Lil Jon. He was able to catch my attention with more than just an Eminem single (I have turned down shopping many deals before that had a single by a multi-platinum artist, even Em). Trick-Trick had a package deal to offer: experience, sales, radio, regional awareness, and real hype. Everyone I know in Detroit knows who he is, and likes him (how rare is that?). But most importantly, he had a great attitude and a winning disposition. He was serious about himself and therefore easy for me to take seriously. He and his partner are extremely hard workers and did not slack for one minute even while I was shopping the deal. Everything I needed or the lawyer needed, they got us. I was an excellent shot, but WonderBoy supplied me great ammunition.

The last deal I shopped before Trick-Trick was an embarrassment for me. I shopped a deal for Trill Entertainment after hooking them up with a radio person who broke Webbie at radio (Gimme That, and Bad Chick—still to date the ONLY songs they have ever received radio spins on). After four months of having to watch my back because I did not trust either owner of the company (the artists are incredible—the label is not worthy of them) and explaining how things work in the industry over and over, I reluctantly had to walk away. Neither of them listened, and neither of them understood the industry even though I explained repeatedly. They were busting foul moves against the major labels, against their artists, against other artists and labels who featured their artists in hit songs, against their own lawyers, and against me. In my opinion, they were shadier than a forest.

The really sad part was that Trill Entertainment’s artists had done so much work on the streets that Lil Boosie and Webbie were the hottest things out there on the underground in the South! They were in a better position than Cash Money was when I met them and started shopping their deal: Trill had conquered a larger region, had sold more CDs, and were just beginning to get the radio play that is so important when landing a multi-million dollar deal with a major label. Sadly, they didn’t listen and took the first deal they were offered, signing for less money than they owe their artists in royalties from the previous releases (less than a million dollars), and a split that makes Trick’s deal stomp on them. They were not patient, smart, or likable. In fact, one could argue that they deserve what they got, as do most folks with short term vision.

I am not smarter than anyone else out there. I am not better at what I do. I am just committed, caring, and business minded. I look at deals from everyone’s perspective, because if a deal doesn’t benefit everyone and make both the label and the artist money, then there’s no point. I use my label connections to bring through exactly what the labels say they are looking for—reduced risk and projects that make money. My deals are structured so that the artist is a priority at the label and success is imminent. I believe that is why none of my deals have ever failed…in fairness, I have only done ten deals or so. But they are ten very happy and successful deals.

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