Monday, June 29, 2009

POWER PLAYER: Keith Kennedy pt.1

T.J.’s D.J.’s is one of hip hop’s leading record pools. Their influence is heard everyday through radio, internet and seen every quarter through The Tastemakers Music Conference. You can not count the amount of records they’ve broke or the amount of artist they’ve help introduce to the masses, but just to name a few, they’ve worked with B.O.B., Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Blood Raw, T-Pain, Mike Jones etc. We caught up with T.J.’s D.J.’s Vice President, Keith Kennedy to talk music, marketing, branding and he gave us a powerful insight into the current music industry.
Keith Kennedy’s resume is a testament to his diverse skill set as a music industry executive, consultant and writer. Some of his current positions include Music Director of Tastemakers Music Conference, Vice President of T.J.’s D.J.’s, where he runs day to day operations, Author of The Money Manual as well as consulting a host of music clients. Starting as an intern at T.J.’s D.J.’s, Keith has risen through the ranks through his consistent grind. Today he uses that experience to guide many young artists and he holds back nothing when describing mistakes that artists are making and the opportunities that lie ahead.
“I think the microwave mentality that artists use to have is gone. Fan’s recognize bullshit artist and they are thirsty for music full of hunger that is from the soul.” More than just the mentality of artists, the whole industry has seen a drastic change. Unfortunately many artists have been slow to adapt to these changes and those who aren’t savvy have been left behind. Though we consistently hear about how record sales are down, Kennedy disagrees with the view that the music industry itself is struggling. “Yeah, record sales are down but today’s artist have so many opportunities to create streams of income that record sales aren’t affecting there earning potential. When record sales were up, those artists didn’t have the opportunity to get ringtones, licensing and placements in film and television. Now you have rap stars touring with rock stars. This is really just the evolution of hip hop; the change has been for the better. Artists are really just now learning how to make money.” One artist that exemplifies his viewpoint is B.O.B a.k.a Bobby Ray, an artist that Kennedy has worked closely with. Though B.O.B. is yet to put out an album, he has appeared on billboards in Times Square and Atlanta, is currently doing a tour with Reebok and will be performing at The ESPY Awards. B.O.B. is an example of the new age artist, one who doesn’t just sell music but sells a brand and ultimately becomes an ambassador for the things he represents. This power yielded then becomes leverage for companies that want to reach the followers of that brand. Not much different than the model used for major athletes such as Lebron James or Derrick Jeter. What does differ is the speed and visibility required to create that brand. Whereas these opportunities are reserved for only the elite most visible athletes, artists have the opportunity to utilize many of these opportunities on there way to the top. Imagine a minor league baseball player, who plays for The Rhode Island Panthers, doing a major marketing campaign with Gatorade. That is similar to the opportunities available right now for artists. In the name of full disclosure, I must state that B.O.B. is an extreme example. He has a stellar management team who work extremely hard to create opportunities for him, and I’d be willing to bet that he did not personally seek, solicit or negotiate the opportunities listed above. However, many independents artist are using those same techniques on a grassroots level and Kennedy stresses that artist take advantage of this. “Approach a local store and talk to them about doing a sponsored mixtape that they can distribute to their customers. You have to embrace the fact that your music is a commodity, a product that is made and you really have to find creative ways to market that product if you want to be successful today.”
We will be continuing our conversation with Keith Kennedy in our upcoming entries. He can be contacted at 850-877-6090 or

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


I've been doin some reading and reflecting today and I've come up with my own Art Life Proverbs....Check them out and let me know what you think. Feel free to add some

1. Always remind yourself of why your an artist- sometimes our purpose can get lost in the matrix. For me, lately I've had to do alot of paper work, administrative work, proposals etc for my upcoming tour. It can get overwelming but through the struggle I have to remember that I decided to be an artist for a reason bigger than myself.....

2. Give yourself some Me Time- this is so important, I've seen so many artist lose their passion for their craft because they let it encompass their whole lives, then they got burned out. As much as I love Art Life, I refuse to let Art Life become my life. Art is a part of me, a big part but it is one of many parts of me. (I'm also a pretty sick Scrabble Player!!! And my Culinary Art Skills Are CRazy!!!!)

3. Invest time into building friendships- this is so important, not only does it help artistically but spiritually as well. Make it a point to continously build friendships on your journey

4. Be your best friend- As artist many times we are such perfectionist that we constantly critique, criticize and focus on improvements that we need to make. But ask yourself a question, if someone besides yourself treated you the way you treat yourself would you consider them a friend? Make sure that you are your biggest supporter, that you encourage yourself and that you love yourself, as is.

5. Go Hard- Dreams are not something to be played with. If your gonna step out there and try to do something extraordinary you better go hard or go home.

6. Take it one step at a time- when setting your goals, use the ladder approach. Start with simple feasible goals that lead you in the right direction. For example if I were to say, I want to sign to a major label, win a grammy and sell a million records within the next 3 years. That is a valid goal, but it gives me no benchmarks that I can hit on the way. I think a better set of goals would be, I want 25,000 myspace views, coverage in one publication monthly, radio play on at least 5 college stations, and I want to perform 3 times a month by July 2009. I still have my purpose of selling millions insight, I'm just giving myself benchmarks so that I know I'm on the right way.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice- as artist many times we forget to practice. Not just when your in the studio recording, or producing or auditioning. Practice your craft, sometimes I write verses with no intention of ever recording them, sometimes I freestyle and try to use only a certain type of word. This is just practice so that when showtime comes I'm prepared. Practice

8. Live like the professionals- Emulate the lifestyle of the people that have reached the success that you are trying to reach. For me, I look at Wayne, 50, Jay, I look at how they work and I try to emulate that in my life. Because I can't compete with them with money, buzz, or management. The only thing that I do share with them is 24 hours in each day. So in order for me to reach their level I have to work like them.

9. Study Successful People- always be monitoring successful people. Study what they do that makes them successful, learn the attributes of success. Until you've experienced success you don't really know what it is. I haven't experienced major success yet so I look to others that have to learn about it.

10. Have Fun- Remember ART IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!!!!! If your not having the time of your life pursing your dream....Art Life may not be for you. Go to law school if you want to be miserable while making a living. (SHOUTS OUT TO THE LAWYERS!!!!!!!)

A good friend of mine, Juilan Bah, (Google him, he's one of the sickest skaters ever), once was giving some advice to some aspiring skaters who wanted to get sponsored. What he told them was brilliant yet simple. He simply said, "Go out and do your thing and everything will work itself out. If you don't make it, at least you had fun!!"

Speaking of Julian, One Final Proverb.

BE FEARLESS- to become great you have to conquer fear in all shapes or forms. The reason Micheal Jordan was able to make so many game winning shots is because he wasn't scarred to miss. The reason Jay-Z is one of the most successful selling artist is because wasn't afraid to start his own label. The reason Julian Bah (You really should google him) is able is able to jump off of three story apartments with some skates on is because he doesn't fear getting hurt. To conquer fear is to conquer yourself.

Rob Jay

Monday, June 8, 2009


Once upon a time d.j.'s were accessible and expressed themselves through the music that they played. They didn't play music because someone told them to, someone was paying them, or the artist had a major co-sign from somebody. They played records because they liked them (sounds crazy, doesn't it), those days are long gone. Now before I go any further, let me say that there are still many quality d.j.'s out there that do break new music just because they like it. There are still many d.j.'s who support hip hop to the fullest so this is not an attack on d.j.'s as a whole...........However the game has changed drastically and in my opinion the role of the d.j. has shifted from it's roots. As an artist I don't see many d.j.'s stepping out there and trying to break records. And when I do see it, it is usually rooted in a relationship that an associate of an artist has with the d.j.. I don't expect d.j.'s to listen to every artist on MySpace that sends them some music because I respect the fact that it can get overwhelming but there has to be a better way.

This leads me to my opinion that the blogger's are the new d.j.'s. I've sent music to many blogs sites that didn't know me, my associates, what I've done......all they had was my music..Their whole decision was based exclusively on my music (Imagine That) I've been in countless blogs where I can not even tell you the name of one person who's associated with it. Now, to be fair, a lot bloggers are corporate driven to, like one of my homeys says, "If your name doesn't end in eezy ie. (Weezy, Jeezy, Yeezy) don't expect much love from alot of the major blogs." But I can say as a whole that the blog community has kept the lines of communication with the artist open.

I'd love to hear the opinion of any d.j.'s or blogger's on this. Holla

written by Mr. Nightlife

What's A Dude Gotta Do To Get A Heineken Brew? Artist Spotlight THUROGOOD WORD-SMITH

Coming straight out of H-town, MC Thurogood Word-Smith is killing it right now. From lyrics to witty word play he definately is bringing a unique sound to the game. I met Thurogood at a show a few months back. His live show is crazy!!! Right now he's working on Jett-I-Masstyr with his group Joint Venture and he has another project in the works with James Kelly. Show him some love and stop by his page.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


As an artist I've had the opportunity to view the hip hop/indy scene in some of America's hottest cities. All of them have there pros and cons, in L.A. it's fairly easy to perform at a nice venue, but your going to have to bring every fan there. You can open up for a major artist.....just be prepared to sell $400 worth of tickets. In Houston your going to meet some really great people, probably the most genuine artists that you will ever meet. The hip hop scene will welcome you with open arms (if your spitting!!). The only problem is the hip hop scene really only consist of maybe 2,500 people out of a city of 4 million. You can get shows in Houston, but after 4-6 months you'll know everybody in the crowd that your performing in front of. (No disrespect). Tallahassee, Florida is cool, lots of young talent and people definitely support upcoming talent. But if your not doing mainstream hip hop......its gonna be tough....Your best bet out there is get in the Tastemakers Music Conference, kill that show and get FAMU and college radio to play you.

What makes Atlanta special right now is that they have found a way to combine so many different elements to create more of an experience than a music movement. While most indy hip hop shows consist of MC's spittin, freestyles etc. Atlanta is taking shows and putting there own spin on them. You may see a rock band headline a mixtape release party for a hip hop group. You may think your going to a live art event and be surprised with an impromptu performance. You may think your going to a live performance and be surprised with a live art instillation. I went to one party that Hollyweerd was performing at and when I walked in there were nude models receiving live body art paintings......WOW!! What this is doing is creating interest from people from so many different walks of life. Instead of a hip hop show being exclusively in front of backpackers, b-boys, hipsters, break dancers, d.j.'s and hip hop enthusiast their scene receives interest from socialites, women, college students, designers, artist, skaters, punk rockers etc. Lastly, the marketing out there is insane. Much of this is definitely due in part to MarkStarr Multimedia, the way they brand out there is insane. The art work is superb, you can see from the samples above, and they focus so much on product. I met an artist, Dreamer, out in Atlanta, within six months of knowing him he gave me four different cd's. All with amazing artwork and packaging. I can't remember the last show I went to in Atlanta without receiving something (shirt, ep, etc.) ..........for free that is. So to conclude, I'd like to salute Atlanta for the creativity that's been brought to the forefront of the hip hop scene out there!!!!!!