I got a chance recently to sit down and have a chat with a real-life mogul in the making. Devon Brabham is the owner & CEO of American Monster Guild, a collective of artists with amazing talent. Devon has his ear constantly to the streets, but not in the way we recall the executives & A&Rs of old. Check him out.
Hip-Hop Forum: Mr. Brabham, American Monster Guild is steadily growing and gaining traction at a breakneck pace. How did you gain all the skills to develop an independent group with such major label appeal?
Devon Brabham: I learned these things while working in the business early in the 2000s as an A&R and executive. Also, I come from the Damon Dash school of thought - I don't believe in anyone "giving" me anything. I earn everything I have. I invest in my education in business. I pay to sit in the conferences and seminars, and listen to those that are great managers and professionals. I research, take notes, and learn.
My main objective is scouting and recruiting great managers to network & build with. I scout managers and professionals in this business. I look at what you're doing with an artist - I watch the artist's progress and motion over 3 months. I use the 3-month time span because that's long enough to show your habits. I watch the progress on your numbers - video clips, song streams, etc. I do this with both independent and major label professionals. I find out who the good managers are and I get in contact with these people and make connections.
Hip-Hop Forum: So, from Artist Management, Production, Publishing, Marketing, to Blogs & VLogs, how many people do you have behind the scenes? How many moving parts are involved?
Devon Brabham: I'll be honest - it's been all me, brother. I've had people who say they're interested in being my assistant. They want to be apart of the brand, to have their name attached to it, to catch on to the wave. I'm more interested in moving past this mindset - I want to establish a commodity. Apple is a brand, but the iPhone is a commodity. I want to build something so appealing that it goes viral in sales and streams the second it's released.
HHF: What are some of the things young & emerging artists need to look out for as they embark on the business?
DB: The kid practicing in his basement at 12 years old, the parents entering their kids in the talent showcases, the young professionals looking to break into the business...they don't know how much money a major label requires to break an artist into the game. From my experience, it takes a solid $200,000.00 to get the full treatment. At $200k, you could walk into a major label firm, and they'll give you access to their marketing team, place you into a number of DJ pools, and sign you to a 3-year deal. With that investment, you've basically paid for 25% of the one-artist budget at a major label. What they do is use your money, add their major label stamp to it, then capitalize on your hard work, while locking you into sometimes a deal as rough as 80%/20% deal in their favor. They potentially make millions from you, while you may make a few hundred thousand.
HHF: What are some of the challenges you face as an executive in this business?
DB: I don't have the pleasure of having major label money and resources, so I have to outwork you. My motivation is to outwork everybody, no matter who you are. I'm doing everything in my power to further my artists because I want them to see that I'm dedicated to their success and their loyalty. I make sure that everyone, including myself, work extra hard. If I can't Google search your name, or see you in a magazine yet, you aren't really "buzzing". I run into so many artists that are saying, "Everybody's rockin with it!" I don't go for that. Who is "everybody"? If it's as hot as you say, I should be able to run an email campaign and marketing blitz, and get some serious hits back.
HHF: You're a new father, along with having a business, along with having a job, along with so many things. How do you manage your time in being so successful with your business?
DB: OK. I'll give you a snapshot of my day and how I work. Everyday, I check into my post at my regular job. The first thing I do is check into Twitter & Facebook and make some posts and get my traffic going. I post 3-5 items to from my business page to both sites. I do those in the morning because that's the trend I've discovered. Twitter first, then Facebook. I check my personal page, then I check my business page to track my analytics. From that cycle, I create my daily task list. Artist emails, and potential business clients/associates. Them is time to hit my artist promotion. Posting, posting, posting. After that 1st round of promo with all my artists, I do a second round of promotion with special emphasis to my paid clients. Promo. Break. Promo. Break. I hit Instagram in the afternoon, as I've noticed that the traffic is better in the afternoon/early evening. Building each artist & business partnership, one buy one. Everyday.
Thank you so much for taking time to kick it with me, Mr Brabham. I wish you and American Monster Guild the utmost success we look forward to seeing more of you!
By Warnell Jones