A little over 12 years ago, I met this young man eager to make it in the music industry.
One day, a motley entourage of Black men, pushing some blond dreadlocked artist, walked into my office looking for an entertainment attorney.
At the center of this mass of Black men was an R&B singer named Don Conner.
In addition to Don, there was a ‘manager’ whose name escapes me (but claimed he was behind numerous successful boy groups), and a ‘money guy’ named Isaac Morgan.
A few other non-descript hanger-onners rounded out the posse and filled up my (then) small office.
And the very back of the office, sat Chris.
Mr. Manager started jabbering about how talented Don was, and how he was the next Jaheim.
Money Morgan talked about the distribution agreement they were ‘just about’ to sign, and the need to make sure that they had all their ‘paperwork’ in order.
Don said he simply wanted to sing and to ensure that his people were ‘taken care of.’
Their mouths moved a lot during that meeting, but very little was actually said.
The person who spoke the loudest to me, never opened his mouth.
That was Chris.
The entire meeting, he sat in the back of the room, listening, clearly taking it all in.
When the talking heads stopped, Mr. Manager-whose-name-I-can’t-remember got up and assured me that we were ‘going to do business.’
Mr. Money promised to follow up, once they had ‘things in place.’
The various hangers-onners gave pounds, head nods or blank stares as the entourage filed out of the room.
Chris politely shook my hand, and joined the large moving mass of Black men making their way out of my Montclair office.
Needless to say, nothing ever became of Don Conner.
Turns out he was already being managed, under a production contract with a distribution agreement in place to deliver six records.
A few years later, who should walk into my office, but Chris.
There was no motley entourage or talking heads.
Just Chris, solo.
This time, he came to ask for my advice on the best way to make it in the music industry.
Since that day he visited my office those many years ago, he remembered our initial meeting.
I impressed him as someone who shot straight, even if I said things that you didn’t want to hear.
We spoke at length about all the things he had done to this date, including working in Whitney Houston’s camp, promoting independent artists and hosting parties, along with waiting tables and going to school.
He told me that he had a passion for music and felt that God had given him the gift of an ‘ear.’
He could hear a hit instantly. We’ll talk about this platinum ear in at length in another post.
Although I felt his ‘ear’ was immaterial at the time, he impressed me as an individual with singular purpose and drive.
It was clear that he had experience in production, management, and promotion.
And had a hustler’s get-it-done-at-all-costs mentality, which was impressive for someone so young.
I told him that he was on the right path, because he was seeking out knowledge and advice from people in the industry.
The only thing I felt he was missing from his repertoire, was an understanding of the business side of the industry.
The music industry is a business, first and foremost.
And without the ability to understand the rights, liabilities and obligations of the respective parties to transactions, you were simply spinning your wheels.
So I gave him an internship.
A few years later, we started a management company.
Got our first publishing deal.
Fast forward to 2010, and Chris is one of the youngest and most successful A&R’s in the music industry.
After a three year stint as Senior A&R pop at Virgin/Capitol Records, he is now Sylvia Rhone‘s most recent executive acquisition at Universal/Motown, charged with giving the label a pop presence.
For the guy who A&R’d Joss Stone, found Katy Perry, Stacie Orrico (and many more) he’s up to the task.
Check out Christian TV.
I’ve skipped over some of the juicy bits of Chris’ rise to fame.
But that’s for another time.