What’s on my Zite? Featuring Wendy Day

Wendy_DayWendy Day has done some of the best deals in the urban music industry, and gone on to set up successful indie labels and write affordable how-to books for artists! Follow her at @RapCoalition.

Let’s start with the basics. How did you get into the music industry?

I came to the music industry as a rap music fan first, which is kinda funny since I’m a white, suburban female – certainly not the stereotype of a rap music fan. Or am I!? (Day laughs) I started listening to rap in 1980. I was attracted by the energy and passion in the music. By 1992, I’d learned how unfairly artists were treated by those who feel they deserve the lion’s share of the money, so I left corporate America to start Rap Coalition, an artists’ advocacy organization to help educate, unify, and inform artists, and to help those who were being unfairly oppressed by breaking their contracts. I was just crazy enough to offer my services for free, a price point that was affordable for rappers. After seeing and breaking a ton of bad contracts, I decided to start negotiating great deals for artists, which meant I had to help them build leverage to get them into good contracts. I proved to artists, labels, and the industry that when both the artists and the labels make great money, everyone is happy! I was able to do some pretty amazing deals such as Twista’s joint venture, Eminem’s deal, Master P’s No Limit deal, David Banner’s deal, and the amazing $30 million Cash Money distribution deal.

That’s quite the portfolio! If you had to pick, who was your favorite musician to work with and why?

That’s such a difficult question because many stick out in my mind. I love working with Slick Rick – he’s so down to earth and genuine. Eminem was loyal to everyone around him, which is a rare trait in any person. Young Buck is the strongest person mentally that I’ve ever met. C-Murder is kind, thoughtful, and took extreme chances to benefit his career. David Banner is exceptionally intelligent. I have fond memories of most of the folks I’ve worked with – a handful are bad human beings, but most are awesome people. I guess if I had to choose just one, I’d pick Tupac Shakur. He was really funny, needed and accepted my help, and applied what I (and others) taught him in order to excel in his career. It’s sad that we never got to see where his plan led. It was an amazing plan; I helped write it, so I might be biased. Don’t get it twisted, he was the brazen guy you saw in the media, but he was also very caring, thoughtful, introspective, intelligent, and gave back constantly to his community: all races, all creeds, all people. He was an inspiration.

What do you think Tupac would say about hip hop these days? 

Pac would be both disgusted and amused, I think. We’ve gotten away from talent in hip hop lately and it’s become a lot about just making money. Although Tupac felt that hip hop should be judged by what sells best – giving the people what they want, I doubt he’d have enjoyed the level of extreme materialism, drug abuse (Molly and syrup references), and basic wordplay that exists in a lot of rap today. But he’d have loved the Internet and loved the access it has given artists to excel without the backing of a major label. And he would have loved all of the different genres that have splintered off from rap as he knew it. It has really infiltrated everything in life. And… he would have really loved Zite. Just like me, he was a knowledge junky. He loved information, knowledge, and interesting articles. Wow, I really miss Pac.

Tupac will definitely be remembered for his influence in the Hip Hop world. Thinking back to your start in this business, who was the first record deal that you ever signed?

The first record I ever put out was Po Pimp by Do or Die in Chicago. I didn’t negotiate their deal, however. I was negotiating with Jive and Atlantic for them when the group went to Houston for a weekend and came home signed to RapALot Records. I’m not sure what their deal paid them, but the offers we were getting from the NY major labels for Do or Die, at the time, were over a million dollars in advances, and the offers were still coming in and going up daily. The group’s buzz was huge and the major labels really wanted them. So we spun off Twista (he was a solo artist featured on Do or Die’s hit record) and put out his record, and I got to negotiate an amazing joint venture for him with Atlantic Records a few months later.

You are credited for bringing Eminem to the attention of Dr. Dre & Interscope at RapOlympics. What is the first thing you tell people when they come to you seeking advice on how to ‘get discovered’?

I explain how incredibly competitive and over saturated the music business is, and the importance of building a buzz to increase leverage in attracting labels (or sales) to the artist. To get a deal today, you have to have a fan base already in place, both regionally and on the Internet. To sell music or attract fans to your shows, you have to do the same thing – build a fan base, a following. In rap, you must have a strong buzz to attract attention and stand out from the plethora of other artists. This is a business first and foremost, and it is not built on talent primarily. It’s built on having the proper funding to market and promote yourself as an artist, and on out-working every other artist! And it all starts with great music. Not good, but great music! Thanks for mentioning RapOlympics. I loved coordinating that event; it was one of the most important things I did in my career. It showed the world that great lyrics mattered at a time when artists were getting away from that. I think we need another one….

Sounds like you were an early pioneer in the industry. Did you have a mentor that showed you the ropes?

Nope, I forged ahead mentor-less. Unfortunately, there was no one doing what I do, so there weren’t really mentors to teach me. There still aren’t today. So I had to blaze my own path. I have however, mentored two decades of folks coming up behind me in the music business. I learned by doing and through many, many altruistic people willing to share knowledge and experiences with me when asked. I guess they were all kinda like micro-mentors who helped in situations, as needed: the lawyers who shared parts of contract law, the established artists who broke down their deals for me so I could top their deals for newer artists, and everyone who shared information on how to sell music – what works and what doesn’t. The knowledge and information built me, which is probably why I’m so forthcoming with knowledge and info for others. And this is probably why I’m addicted to Zite – I love knowledge. I fiend for it.

We love that you’re an avid Zite user and we’re curious, how did you first learn about Zite?

I don’t recall how I first learned of Zite, but I was a very early adopter. It was probably mentioned in one of the tech web mags, like Mashable. From the first time I loaded it on my iPad, it was love at first site. I hate to sound like the ultimate fan girl, but Zite is my favorite app. When Zite revamped and upgraded the design, I went into mourning. I feared Zite fixed something that wasn’t broken – but I adapted and it’s just as great. I use my Zite app multiple times every day. If you look at my Twitter feed, it’s often links to articles I found interesting or helpful on my Zite!! My 40 thousand followers also seem to love my links to cool articles. So thanks Zite for making me look good!!!

Glad to hear it! Do you have any topics in your Zite that do not pertain to music?

Gosh yes. I have business topics I follow such as entrepreneurial, branding, personal finance, wealth, personal branding, social media marketing and marketing. I also have tech topics like gadgets, and wearable tech. But the really cool articles come from ultra niche topics like street art (graffiti), war on drugs, prison, pole dance, Forex, travel deals, etc. Those niche topics are what bring up the most interesting articles. And then Zite recommends 19 articles every day that seem unrelated to any of my topics, which is really cool. It’s bonus knowledge. (Day laughs)

Yep, Zite is great that way (though we may be biased). Speaking of tech gadgets and apps, what are some of your favorites?

My iPad. I truly don’t leave home without it. And I’m a beta tester for Google Glass which is super fun and nerdy!! For apps, I rely on Echofon, Calendars+, Pages, NPR, Whisperings (a New Age music streaming service–yes, really!!), Mail, Gilt, Fab, the magazine apps for Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Wired, and I really can’t live without Zite. I wish I could pull up my Zite on my Google Glasses. Hint. Hint hint.

Funny you say that because we actually just launched an app for Google Glass. We’d love for you to take a look and let us know what you think. Enough about us though, you mentioned that you left corporate America to become the CEO and co-founder of RapCoalition. What was your inspiration?

It was born out of disgust for the way rap artists were treated by greedy record labels, overzealous production companies, weak managers, and assorted folks who took advantage of artists. We just want what’s fair for the artists. We are in our 22nd year of helping artists, mostly rappers.

Is your latest endeavor, A Scratchy Throat, meant to be an extension of RapCoalition?

A Scratchy Throat is a social network marketing company that helps artists and brands effectively utilize YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to build their fan bases and to make money with their music. Social media is not the only route to market and promote an artist, but it’s an important part of the marketing pie. Artists need to engage their fans and build their fan base one by one. I started A Scratchy Throat because I got tired of paying other companies for this service for my artists and getting no results. My team delivers results.

These are great organizations for helping artists build their careers in the music industry. Are you a musician, as well as an advocate?

I’m not a musician, but I am an artist – painting, sculpture, clay & pottery, glass art – when I have time to play. Although… I sing in the shower, does that count?

Definitely! If you hadn’t gone into the music industry, what direction might your life have taken?

Without music or some form of the arts? I probably would be a billionaire in the tech industry. I’m a geek at heart. But I can’t even imagine my life without helping artists. Hey, is there a Coders Coalition in the tech world?? Hmmmm….

If anyone could put it together, you could. We’ll be watching…

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