Brett Johnson

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

There is no worse feeling than looking a dear friend in the eye over dinner and knowing that you have to fire them.

There is never a good time. You think ‘Maybe I’ll do it before the main course comes…’ or ‘I’ll definitely do it during dessert and a Jameson.’ During your crisis of conscience, the night rolls on and soon you’re laughing it up about some funny incident that happened earlier and chatting about crushes, lovers and crazy ex’s. You’ve now forgotten why you invited them out in the first place.

The bill arrives and the conversation automatically becomes how much of a tip you should each leave. Then the customary goodnight hugs and ‘call me.’ On the cab ride home, you say ‘I’ll do it tomorrow, tonight wasn’t the right time.’ But, as the sun dawns on another business day and the issues that prompted your decision rare their ugly little heads you realize there is no perfect time to give someone you love the axe.

Behind every great artist there is a machine. A team of savvy, driven, ambitious mavericks and veterans that operate tirelessly behind the curtain to propel that artist into star stratosphere. Managers, publicists, producers, engineers, stylists, musical directors, radio promoters, DJs, lawyers, agents and more all ensure that your favorite artists stay in your face as much — or sometimes more than —  you can stand.

Simply put, the equation is as follows: focused artist x amazing team = inevitable success.

Even If you are the most talented human being on the planet and your team isn’t equally or more stellar, your chances of achieving a modicum of success is slim to none. In today’s marketplace every artist, from Queen Latifah to Lady Gaga, must be a brand. The team’s job is to ensure that, like any other successful brand, the artist is always relevant and enlarging their sphere of influence while maintaining high quality output. These guys keep you fly, fab and working by insuring you don’t release crap that would make your adoring fans un-follow and or un-friend that ass.

Every member of the team must passionately believe in the brand/artist, especially in the beginning when the grind is independent. They have to believe like Puff did with B.I.G., the way Dame did with Jay-Z, the way Akon did with Lady Gaga, Chaka Zulu with Ludacris. Without this tunnel vision, it’s almost impossible to break a new artist. Here, passion compensates for what is lacking in budget. After the artist breaks and the opportunities and money start rolling in, then the team must capitalize while creating new ones. This group of hard-working folks are the vehicle that take the artist to their desired destination so each member has to be strong. Like any other vehicle, if even the smallest part isn’t up to snuff, it adversely effects the efficiency of the machine.

As for the artist, you must always SHOW UP,  SHOW UP ON TIME READY TO WORK AND KEEP DOUCHINESS TO A MINIMUM! We must work the hardest and be the most focused because we set the tone of the group’s grind. Some artists, like myself, also play a very hands on role in steering their careers, so you must be on point as a creative as well as possess a crystal clear vision for your brand. I balance the two by separating me the person from Malene the personality, which is another post all by itself.

All this team talk brings me back to the ugly, not so friendly business of firing friends. It sucks! I have worked with my friends—some of my best friends— and it’s either the best or the absolute worst. They either give you their all or nothing at all. Their best, well, that’s like dying and going to heaven but the other leaves seeds of betrayal and resentment, all feelings I can do without.

With so much at stake, the only option for poor performance is to severe business ties with the badbusinesshomie with the agility of a samurai swordsman. Business breakups, like romance, truly test the moxie of a friendship. In some circumstances, the fired homie and I have remained buddies, but others have fallen off of the face of the earth, much to my dismay.

After going through a few businessbuddybreakups, I know those who remain staunch are the honest friends I want in my life. Both parties can admit their perspective truths and reach a middle ground without letting it taint their bond because let’s face it folks, shit happens. Others that can’t see past the ruin of an unevenly yolked partnership and harbor ill will, well,  no worries. As my granny in Trinidad always says “dry leaves fall off.”

image: Itaysha Jordan

Last 5 posts by Malene

  • It’s always a delicate balance to achieve and maintain the balance between personal feelings and success. You are correct in the need for the machine to be in place full of faith, skill, and drive to push an artist from just ok to the charts and beyond. It’s never easy to tell those that are close that they are taking advantage of your good fortune or are not performing to their potential within the unit. MC Hammer’s story is one of entourage excess, as the attempt to make everyone happy at personal expense will leave an artist broke.

    All the best in taking it further than your dreams, and continue Making it a Reality in the face of hard choices.

    -Kayaone Luminous Velocity 2010