Monday, May 2, 2016

Lessons From Prince: Own Your Art

I don’t know about you, but Uncle Prince was an integral part of my childhood. My aunt was convinced they’d be married some time in the 80’s. Time and time again we sang many of his infamous, yet inappropriate lyrics. Upon hearing the news of his untimely death I began to reflect on what I knew about him. He was a music mogul, producer, actor, an advocate, visionary, film director, trailblazer, and philanthropist as well as creative mastermind. I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with business and entrepreneurship: stick with the kid and you’ll see where I’m going with this in just a bit.

I personally consider musicians to be entrepreneurs. Many have turned creative ideas into some of the most popular and memorable songs in each generation. Unfortunately, the creative minds do not have the discipline to do the “hard things” like learn the business to protect their creative intellectual properties. Queue the entrance of 360 deals in the modern music world. These deals are where a music company will front the artist finances to be used for promotions, marketing, touring, studio fees, video recordings, etc. in exchange for these services and any financial advances the artist receives the artist yields a hefty percentage of all artist streams of income including, but not limited to: music sales/downloads, live performances, YouTube views, publishing, merchandising, and more depending on the contract specifics...Uncle Prince would not approve.

I’m reminded of when he changed his name from Prince to The Artist Formally Known As Prince. As a 3rd grader (don’t judge me) I didn’t understand the significance of this name change for him as an artist, entrepreneur, and fellow rebel. Today, I understand he was laying a blueprint for future artists/entrepreneurs to follow. He changed his name so that his record label, Warner Brothers would no longer own his business (stage) name along with his music.

He was such an advocate for owning your art, that he re-recorded his old Warner Brother’s albums to create a catalogue only he would own. Warner Brother’s would not let him obtain ownership of the master recordings and publishing of his previous work. 17 albums were redone just so he could own his art. In doing this, he would cut out the middle man, selling directly to his fan base and ultimately earn more money for what was his intellectual property to begin with.

To further substantiate the fact that Uncle Prince was about that life when it came to owning his are, in 2015, he took his music off of all streaming channels including YouTube, Pandora, Apple Music, and Spotify. He did later allow Tidal to stream. I am convinced owner Jay Z said some moving things in that meeting. (Side note: The primary reason Jay Z acquired Tidal was to ensure artists could own their art. That had to resonate with Prince.) Spotify pays an artist between $0.006 and $0.0084 per song stream to the artist. Many artists are not making minimum wage in the amount of plays based on current plays per song based on chart fees below:

Streaming Service
Per Play

Signed Artist
Unsigned Artist
Google Play
Reference: Knowledge Is Beautiful by David McCandless

The moral of the story is: Own your art! Uncle Prince paved the way for other entrepreneurial kings like Master P, Jay Z, and Damon Dash. These men learned the importance of having a boss mentality. These men sign the front of their checks...pretty bossy.

How can you apply this to your art?

1.  Own Your Art
It’s your intellectual property: make sure you own it. Don’t let the things that come from your mind be the thing that someone else makes a profit from. The music industry especially profits from creative artists ignorance concerning the importance of owning your art.

2.    Learn The Business Side of Your Industry
If you’re going to play the game, it’s probably best that you learn the rules. Being a creative mastermind is one thing. Cashing in on that creativity is another. Unfortunately, many artist/celebrities only earn around $30,000 to $40,000 annually with bogus contracts like 360 deals. (Thanks for the information Master P.) What you don’t want to be is a disgruntled artist angry like TLC because they’ve sold millions of albums; the world knows your name, yet they drive off from an awards show in a Toyota. You can’t afford not to learn the game if you want to avoid being tomorrow’s barista at Starbucks.

3.    Know Your Worth & Add Tax
Know exactly what it is you bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to pass up a business deal that is not a good fit for you. Don’t be so desperate for fame/money that you cheat yourself in the end. All entrepreneurs must learn the art of negotiation. Remember, Uncle Prince wrote, “slave” on his face at a major awards show? “If you don’t own your masters (intellectual property), your master owns you!” – Prince Rodger Nelson.

4.    Consult The Experts
I specifically remember Rev Run coaching his son Jo Jo on the best record contract to sign. It was better to sign and independent deal and sell fewer records, but make more money than to sign a major deal with less ownership, but more album sales. The same principle remains true in any business deal. When Master P was up and coming he consulted Michael Jackson’s lawyer for sound business advice. Beyonce even received game changing advice from Uncle Prince. They’ve paid for the knowledge through experience and education; don’t be afraid to ask (and pay for) good advice.

5.    The Independent Route Is Harder, But More Gratifying

Independence causes you to be more involved through the entire process. Freedom isn’t necessarily free. There’s a price we entrepreneurs pay for that coveted freedom. Jay Z is working double time to cultivate an environment for artists to receive the most for their intellectual properties they’ve created! Being independent allows you to be in control of your art. In our generation, we have business savvy artists like Beyonce and Romeo Miller that stand for creative freedom and demand to be compensated fairly for their contribution to the industry they work in. Pure artistry is a labor of love, but don’t get it twisted, it can still be very lucrative if you are willing to do the work the right way. 

Thank you Uncle Prince. If no one else was listening, I was. Your fight was not in vain.

Monday, January 5, 2015

What's Your Word?

I got a text from a good friend the other day about her new year's resolution. She called it her "one-word resolution." Instantly, I laughed because she and I don't talk often, but I do the same thing. I call my word my "theme" for the year. I know, it's not as fancy as the "one-word resolution," but it gets the job done for me.

If you are associated with me, being productive is a mandatory prerequisite to gaining access to my inner court friendships. everyone around me has to be purpose driven. There's no time to walk around aimlessly. Those who lack discipline should probably stop reading this blog now. Unless   discipline is your word for the year,

"Why is having a word for the year so important," one might ask? In a nutshell, here's why:

  • 1 word helps to keep you focused
    • Around here, we like to focus on one goal at a time. 
  • It helps you prioritize. 
    • Having one word helps you determine what is most important. Do you really have time to watch television for hours? Or can you use that time to be more productive?
  • It improves your decision making skills
    • You will be forced to make a decision concerning that impromptu lunch date or research session. 
  • Helps you avoid inconsistent behaviors 
    • If it doesn't revolve around that one word (for the most part) you probably want to avoid doing it. 
  • Provides clarity for your vision
    • If you don't have a vision statement for your life/business, stay tuned next Monday for that blog!
I know, I know, one word is hard to choose, but it is necessary to succeed as a leader in life as well as operating a successful business. Here's some reflection points to help choose the best word to improve your year: 
  • Where are you in your life/business? 
  • Where do you want to be? Short-term? Long-term? 
  • What word will help you work toward that goal? 

My friend shared her word with me for accountability. I use my word as an anchor. No matter where this year takes me, my word will help keep me focused concerning this year's personal and professional goals. So what's your word? Discuss with your mentors, associates, co-workers, and friends. Make sure you come back and share your word with us in the comments! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Role Model VS Real Model

often hear people say that celebrities are role models. I then hear those performers say, "that's not really me." Or they say, "I'm not really like that at home." Role models are actors in essence. I don't depend on artists on the radio or television to influence my childrenThey are far from real. I prefer the term real model.

Real people do real thingsBelievers have emotionsWe get smacked in the face and want to fight back tooWe make mistakesWe fallWe (hopefullyget back up. There is no mask. There is no facade. You get to see flaws and all of an actual modelYou may see an errorbut more than likely you get to see a recovery.

If you call yourself a CHRISTian, I pray that you aren't acting as a role modelNo one is asking you to be perfectBut no one is expecting you to stay where you are. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimoniesNo disrespectbut role models aren't saying or doing anything real. I challenge you to be realFlaws and allBe a REAL model.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vault Relationships

No sibling is perfect. Neither are your friends. The value of covenant relationships has depreciated tremendously. Relationships are not valued as they should be. Often times we focus on offenses and flaws the other party has. 

The most important factor to your relationship with anyone is being Holy Spirit led. Am I my sister's keeper? Absolutely. Are boundaries necessary? Absolutely. It is your duty as a covenant sister to be vulnerable, honest, and protective. 

Know your role. It's easy to step out of bounds if the relationship has not been defined. I know we can be some emotional creatures! Often times our relationships are filled with cattiness, gossip, and other harmful tactics meant to divide us. But that does not have to be so! There are two types of sisters you have: a vault & a trash can.

A vault is a secured place built within, where we store our valuables. We are careful to put our most important information, possessions, and valuables there. It also protects one from unauthorized use with a tightly closed door and more importantly an intricate lock code system. A vault sister is that safe place. Not only can she be a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen, she will pray with you. She prays for you. She may even help you carry a burden. But do not get too comfortable with her. Becoming so familiar may cause you to devalue her and your relationship. You may get so common with her that you began to dump all of your baggage and trash into her. 

The trash can holds unimportant, broken, invaluable items. These items have depreciated or have began to decompose. When you treat a covenant sister like a trash can, you fill her ears with meaningless words, eat up her time, and distract her from her purpose. 

Before you step into a relationship, be objective. A friendship or covenant relationship should not be taken lightly. She may seem fun now, but I promise you seasons do change. And there is nothing wrong with change, but please know that the commitment and work still remains. 

She will get on your nerves. She will fall and need your prayers. She will talk too much. She will make mistakes. She will get offended. She will request apologies. She will need your grace. She will need your mercy. She will stumble and need your correction. She will get dull and need your sharpening. She will earn your trust. She will require forgiveness. She will need your assistance to reach her destiny. And you probably thought friendships were all about fun, shopping, or talking about your favorite television show. HA! Covenants require getting your hands dirty. You don't get to walk away when things get tough. 

Love covers a multitude of sins. It's important to cover your sister, not expose her. 
Are you a vault or a trash can? Can you be trusted? Can God trust you with His daughter? Will you protect her vulnerability? Will you talk about her with others? A good rule of thumb that will save many relationships is, if it's not your story to tell, don't tell it. You don't need another person on your level to pray with you about it. 

As a covenant girl, each sister should be a vault. Treat her as such. Value her time as you would value someone important. Value the God in her. Never forget she is human just like you. Value her concerns, prayers, insecurities, and secrets just as you would your own. 

                                                                                                                   -Ask TPJ