IAA: Can you introduce and tell us a little about yourself?
TONE CAPONE: My name is Tone Capone, I am currently the vice president of International EMI Music. I am also the executive producer of New York’s Hot 97 Street Soldiers radio show. I also do independent marketing for major and independent artist in the US and around the world. Originally I started my music career as a DJ at Stonybrook University. From there, I went to work for Sony Music Group. After Sony I went to work at Jive Records. At Jive Records I worked with New Kids On The Block, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and other pop artists. While at Jive, I also worked with hip hop artists such as Petey Pablo, Too Short, E-40, UGK.
After Jive, I went to work with Steve Gotlieb and helped him launch his label TVT Records. We signed Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twins, Pitbull and a whole slew of other artists. TVT Records eventually ended up being a half a billion dollar company. I left there and did a joint venture with Silvia Rhone and Steve Rifkind. The three of us launched a label out of Motown Records. It was a Latin music label, and we signed all the reggaeton artists that were coming out of Puerto Rico in 05′. The label turned into a multi-million dollar company, and after that success I left and went to take on the Vice President position at EMI Music.
IAA: What are some of the things an independent artist needs to be doing to grab the attention of an A&R?
TONE CAPONE: I think the most important thing artists need to do is look at the way rock and country artist work. Rock and country artists are very focused on touring and doing shows. I think a lot of urban artist are so creative, yet all they tend to do is stay in the studio, keep their music on their laptops or email blast it out. Artist need to get out there and brand themselves. Artists need to start doing shows and building awareness to themselves. They need to look at major artist like Wiz Khalifa, look at the things they did when they were independent. Look at where Wiz Khalifa came from, how independent he was, and how many shows he was doing.
There was another artist I discover back in 07, Arch Millie was actually out there with us at the New Music Seminar that I produced in Cleveland. There was an artist I brought out by the name of Machine Gun Kelly. He just recently signed with Bad Boy Entertainment at Interscope Records. He’s an example of a artist that didn’t have a hit single, but he had huge independent following. He had major underground support, and he kept creating a buzz for himself that eventually lead him to a major opportunity. Nobody is going to come knocking at your door, you have to go out there and get it. You have to create that awareness and momentum. Get out there and do shows, you can’t do successful from your bedroom or from your laptop studio.
IAA: What should an artist look for when scouting a manager.
TONE CAPONE: Its difficult, especially for a new artist. I wouldn’t even look for a manager. As a new artist, you have to be your own manager. It’s supply and demand. If no one is demanding for you, no one is going to want you. if it is no demand for you as a new artist, why would a manager want to work with you? You have to build some sort of demand for yourself. For example, you can’t just go over to Violator Management and say I need a manager. If you are making a name for yourself, creating a buzz, and people know who you are then its easier for you to go out there and get a manger. If you are not making yourself into a brand, a big time manager is not going to represent you. Now if you are going to get your cousin to manager you that does not make any sense either. Your cousin isn’t going to know what they are doing. 9 times out of ten, just build your brand and eventually people will come knocking on your door, trust that.
IAA: How do you feel about the digital age when it comes to music?
TONE CAPONE: Well you know the music industry is changing. The landscape of the music industry is different then what it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s . Back then, record companies were making a ton of money off of CDS. Their profit margins were higher because they were selling CDs. You could go to walmart and buy a cd for 15.99 and the record companies profit margin was $10 from that sale. Now they are just selling singles for 99 cents, and they have to split that with the artist and the distribution platform. It’s a whole different ball game and its more single driven now. Its not as easy as it was back in the day for artist to jump on a major label, because now you need that hit record. Record companies are not investing like they use too. They are not developing artist like they use to develop them. You have to be self contained these days.
You have to bring the heat to them and if they like it they will ball out of the park. If you give them the right record, they will push it out there and get it where it needs to be. They will get you featured on Itunes, Yahoo Music, AOL…etc. It’s not what it was back in the day. Today there is a more leveled playing field for new artists. You have to educate yourself on how the music business works. A lot of people are launching labels and management companies, but they don’t have any relationships. At the end of the day, the business is about relationships, not about I started my LLC or I Incorporated. You also need a team, you gotta have the right people around you and eventually that will lead to success.
IAA: Do you feel that if an artist believes in his own talent, he should invest in himself to further his career
TONE CAPONE: Yes I do. Lets go back and look at Kanye West, a guy that came from Chicago and didn’t have much. He relocated and lived in Newark NJ, in a one bedroom apartment with his mother trying to figure it out. He came out here to network, because New York is the music capital of the world. He hooked up with a lot of people such as Al Branch and Hip Hop since 1978, and started making the right contacts. He was already talented so he knew he had to build relationships. He then hooked up with Dame Dash. Dame Dash saw that he was an incredible producer and signed him with Rocafella Records. That gave Kanye the opportunity to meet more people. Besides him being a great producer, he wanted to get signed as an artist. He started shopping himself around and everybody and their grandmother rejected him. If you look at his first album, Dave Lighty, at Jive Records, who was one of my coworkers at the time, saw the talent in him, but the rest of the label didn’t. Now they are kicking themselves in the butt because he is a multi platinum superstar.
You gotta believe in yourself and believe in the music. A lot of people are chasing the glamour and the fame, when they should be focusing on the music. If you are chasing the glamour and fame then you are doing it for the wrong reason. You have to do it because you love it, and at the end of the day, it will pay off. It boils down to having the right music as well. It has to be good music, especially if you are trying to break that big obstacle, the radio. Getting on the radio is a huge obstacle especially if you don’t have the right budget, the resources and support to break that wall. It can be done, you just have to have the right music. I have seen a lot of artists that came from nowhere, had the right songs, and became instant successes. Create that good music and you will go far.
IAA: Do you recommend artist to have digital press kits and websites?
TONE CAPONE: You should always be prepared and have those tools. They can definitely bring some awareness to who you are. Have everything in one place such as, have a website along with your DPK, that includes bio, videos, photos and music. Its looks good, its presentable, its your business card and it’s your brand. You may have a meeting and you can say this is what I have, check it out! It makes it easier than trucking CDs all over the place that no one is going to listen too. A lot of the new discoveries that are out there today were discovered online. Definitely get your digital game up.
IAA: If you had one chance to impart some incredible pearl of wisdom to aspiring artists worldwide, what would you tell them?
TONE CAPONE: Well I always say this at all the events I speak at,”Your network equals your net worth.” It’s all about who you know, and that applies to anything in life, not just the music industry .Even working at McDonald, if you know the manager you might move up on the ladder a little faster. You know the guy at the door of the club, the probability is that he isn’t going to give you a hard time getting in. The same rules apply to the music industry. You have to build a network, you have to get to know people. When I go to different cities and I ask the local artists do they know the DJs that are making the most noise in there respective cities, I’m always shocked by their answers. Majority of the artist say, “I don’t know them and they don’t support me.” At the end of the day, you have to build those relationships. People aren’t going to support you if they don’t know about you or your music. You really have to get out there. This whole thing is about relationships, and if you have good relationships you will go far in life.