I started taking music seriously around the age of 19. I fell in love with it much earlier than that, but making the choice to pursue it as a career or make some serious money from it was something I aimed for pretty early. As I look back at how young I was I have to give myself some credit, I often look at my parents and question where I got my ambition from, definitely my Mom.
I had a rap group around that time and it was being received pretty well. We were doing local shows opening up for major artists at the Hard Rock Live, funding our own projects, writing and producing our own music, traveling a bit, and we even had a management company representing us.
I believe we were making a few hundred bucks from the shows as well (which I never saw) so we had it made! As we continued to make progress, we ended up forming a larger click, sort of like Outkast to the Dungeon Family and making more noise around the Orlando area.
This was before YouTube and Spotify so the only way to really take advantage of building an audience then was selling a CD or merchandise. To think of it, we never had the opportunity to do that.
As months went by, me and my partner began to go down different paths, he was interested in going to the Navy and I was interested in becoming a huge rapper. So when we split apart and he ended up going, I decided to pursue being a solo artist and try to take things to the next level.
Over that next year I wrote and recorded my own album, booked a photoshoot, created an indie record label, and pressed up 1,000 CDs to sell out of the trunk of my car. I was around 20 years old and super persistent, nothing was going to stop me.
Unfortunately, everything fell a part in that season. I had no more community because when our group ended, everyone that was connected to it walked away as well. No more management to represent me, it was a whole new beginning. Matter of fact, my previous management company didn’t like the new project, so there definitely wasn’t an opportunity to pick up where I left off.
This was a very difficult season for me, a time of pain and growth. The majority of my friends ended up going to school, but after visiting several colleges I realized that college wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn, read, write, connect and challenge myself, but not in that way.
So as I traveled through this dark season I grew spiritually, musically, read a ton of books and tried my best to promote the 1,000 CDs I had sitting in the back of my 1999 Ford Explorer.
As technology improved over the years I started to get involved with a company called IODA (which was purchased by The Orchard), and uploaded my whole solo project for global distribution. This was extremely exciting, I couldn’t believe that it was that easy to get your music in front of millions of listeners by the click of a button.
Working with IODA ended up being profitable and showed me that it was possible to make money from music. I started to research and read what I could about the music industry and where it was headed.
Social media was a new thing, so it became easy to connect with others around the globe who were having success at monetization. I got an opportunity around 2005 to get the music from my solo project pre-loaded into mp3 players from a company all the way in Japan, that was exciting!
There was one particular night (or morning, 3 am) I was kicking back playing Need for Speed on Gamecube. Then I noticed something in the video game and asked myself a question that made a complete shift in my journey. Who is creating the music in this video game?
The very next day I did a little research and ended up calling a few gaming companies asking to be connected to their music department. I was definitely intimidated, but I knew if I didn’t do it, there wouldn’t be any progress. The first company that actually transferred me to the right department was Konami.
The guy who headed the music department (at that time, I don’t know who is there now) was super nice and ended up giving me the opportunity to submit music for a project they were working on called “Dance Dance Revolution.” I prepared 10 tracks of dance music and submitted it to him.
Even though they didn’t accept the music, I wasn’t discouraged at all. This opened up a whole new world for me, so I took those same 10 tracks and started to make phone calls, send emails and submit them to various companies all over the place. They ended up landing with a company called Rumblefish out in Seattle, which was the first music licensing company I became associated with.
Over time I received small usages (or placements) through Rumblefish but the biggest one was through YouTube / Google. YouTube was just starting a new project that allowed users to access a library of music for their videos. Fortunately, they featured one of my tracks globally and to date it has generated hundreds of millions of views.
These were the biggest checks I had ever received from my music. Getting this placement gave me a boost of inspiration and some money in my pocket.
I started working with various music libraries and connecting with music supervisors around the United States. I recorded a new solo album around 2012 and knew exactly how to promote it and pitch it for licensing opportunities.
That album ended up being licensed with MTV, Nissan, VH1, FOX, ShowTime, E!, and other top global brands through a small company I formed around that time. Opportunities kept growing and connections spread globally that allowed me to work on some really cool projects over the years.
I realized while promoting my own music that I enjoyed all things business, sync licensing, and providing opportunities for others more than actually creating music and being an artist. So in 2017 I created a sync / production music company called MSCMKRS. We are a fresh, new music library distributed by BMG globally and excited about our future.
It’s been a long journey but the truth is I’m enjoying the path more than I ever have. I’m focused more on enjoying the journey and have let go of the belief that when I hit a certain milestone that means “I made it.”
If your aim is to have a career in the music industry, allow me to give you a few gems. Spend healthy time with family and friends, work hard, be patient, and have faith. Take care of yourself and don’t allow success to become your idol. Don’t focus on what others are doing, just keep doing what you’re doing.
It’s ok to shift or detour but never ever give up.
Most importantly be authentic, transparent, trustworthy and focused.
I’ve never seen anyone doing these things lack in progress.
List a few dreams or goals you’ve held on to over the years in the comments area. Have any setbacks or accomplishments you want to share as well?