"Create Your Own Wave: Artist Empowerment Through Ownership"
By Steven Duarte
In today’s music market there is a multitude of ways that an artist can generate revenue for the works that they create. With the expansion of the internet as a shared market-space, artists now more than ever have the opportunity to have their music heard by fans in addition to potential sponsors and collaborators. The main challenge that an artist faces today when pushing their music is finding a viable and credible platform to release and sell their content in an effective and efficient manner. While there are numerous service providers for music distribution and placement in the game today, there are certain groups that possess a better understanding of what artists desire and require to reach success due to the past experience and insight of the people running the business. One group that fits into this mold of artistic empathy is Add Ventures Music which is headed by Chris Gotti who co-founded Murder Inc. Records with his brother Irv Gotti in the late 90’s. I had the chance to speak with Chris himself so he could kick game on how the industry has changed from when he first began his career and explain what he wanted to accomplish by starting Add Ventures Music.
When speaking about the changes of artist development Chris believes that record labels no longer have the same relevance as they did when he first started as a music exec. He stated- “Before the internet record labels would try to dictate who would become successful as an artist. Talent was always very important, but they would take that talent nurture it; use their relationships and resources to actually make it become independent enough to generate revenue and be successful…. Technology laid a paradigm shift where that business model is no longer relevant.”
The conversation continued and Chris began to break down the nuances in how distribution has also experienced significant change as a result of the internet being a market that is difficult for labels to regulate- “They cannot block the internet. They’re (Record Labels) trying to block things and they’re doing it (in some places). On iTunes they don’t allow you to just upload things anymore directly you have to meet a criterion, that’s record label business.”
With so many creatives having access to the internet, labels are not able to establish a deal with all of them due to the massive number of artists that are currently releasing music. However, one of the biggest elements that is lacking from most independent artists is an ENTIRE understanding of what it means to navigate and conquer the music business. Even as an emcee myself, when I heard Chris breakdown the whole process of what needs to happen for your artistry to take off; the information seemed a bit overwhelming to those like me who are pursuing music for the sake of longevity and sustainability. As a service Add Ventures Music’s goal per Chris’ words is to “Give you the harsh reality of what this music industry is about business wise.”
As we got deeper into this dialogue Chris made an interesting remark that helps to summarize what he meant by understanding the reality of the industry when he asked me the question- “How come Google can’t tell you what to do with your art (to be successful)?” The response he gave albeit simplistic was very profound, “There is no right or wrong answer, if you are an artist you have to figure out YOU and what resonates with your audience and grow it.”
One thing I found to be interesting during our talk was that Chris was on record stating that he does not like to speak to artists about business in the industry because their focus should be on making hit records. In spite of that apprehension Chris said that he gives the knowledge that he does because he wants his platform “To empower other artists and help artists”. Compared to other competitors like TuneCore who only provide distribution services and nothing else, Chris strives to provide not only distribution but also mixing services as well as DJ promotions and video production, while also equipping his members with the knowledge that is necessary to sustain them long after they sign with Add ventures. His hope for artists who are up and coming is that they learn to be comfortable at taking risks when creating content because you never know what will have a great impact on your audience.
Although Add ventures Music Chris’ main focus at this time, he is no stranger to navigating the industry due to his time in running Murder Inc. with Irv Gotti. As a fan of what they were in the 90’s and knowing about the history of the group as it relates to their success with hit artists and music, I asked Chris what he was able to learn and apply from his time being in his partnership with Universal and he said “Murder Inc was a joint venture with Universal. We were 50/50 on all proceeds and we made sure we had 100% control over our brand…. We did listen (to Universal) to their suggestions but we created our own way.” Based off the experience that he gained from the joint venture with Universal, Chris says that the dispersing of that specific knowledge is the premise that Add Ventures Music was built on.
After we wrapped up our talk I was thoroughly impressed, inspired, and motivated to internalize and take action on the many topics that were covered by Chris in the interview. Today more than ever it is incumbent upon the artist to firstly see and uphold the value in their creations. Even more than that artists must see that there is a great opportunity to create ownership over their own craft so they can receive proper compensation instead of taking lesser deals from big record labels. For any musician or emcee who is interested in expanding their platform to a new level, Add Ventures Music is a great group to get in touch with. With someone as knowledgeable and passionate as Chris Gotti at the helm the future for this service provider is very bright. In the end when asked what he wanted to ultimately gain from this endeavor Chris said with supreme confidence that his main goal with Add Ventures is To Educate The Independent Artist Empower The Independent Artist.personally hope that efforts like his become the norm in creative communities all over so we can finally receive our just due for our contributions to society and the culture all over the world.