In the entertainment industry, the manager is primarily responsible for providing advice and guidance as to the career and development of an artist. It takes a person with the patience of a saint to deal with the creative brains of talent.
When it comes to creativity and accomplishment in the industry, few can argue that DeAndre Cortez Way, better known as Soulja Boy, doesn't fit in the category. But it takes a village to make sure that Soulja Boy – the rapper, record producer, actor and entrepreneur – remains relevant and on top. Part of that village is Michael J. Sykes, who is better known as Miami Mike, the manager of Soulja Boy.
Well respected in the music industry, Miami Mike gets the credit for signing Soulja Boy to a major record deal. Also known as a philanthropist, Sykes, along with De'Shea Townsend of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has the Palm Tree Foundation, which supports low-income families, the homeless, as well abused wives and kids.
Carlee McCullough: Tell me about yourself?
Michael J. Sykes: I am from Panola County, Miss. and I've been in the business since 1994. Most people call me MIAMI ("Money. Isn't. A. Major. Issue") Mike. I started off in the business by promoting parties.
CM: As an entertainment guru, give us a little bit of your accomplishments in the business for those that may not know who you are?
MJS: I am the C.E.O. of Palm Tree Entertainment, which is my record label, and I am the president of S.O.D.M.G. I promote concerts nationally. I am a motivational speaker and (I have) a management company (Palm Tree Management).
Over the years we have worked with 50 Cent, Young Jeezy, T.I., Soulja Boy, Arab, Jbar, Gucci Mane, L.L. Cool J., New Edition, Bobby Brown, Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly, Trey Songz, Pleasure P., Twista, Juvenile,Yo-Goti,8-Ball & MJG, Franky Beverly & Maze, G-Unit, Skinny Pimp, Gangsta Boo, Yung Keyz, Dirty Dan (a music producer from Arizona), Julius Massalay (a music producer from Columbus, Ohio, Grayvee (Flava of Love 3), Miss Mississippi (Palm Tree Entertainment Model), DeShea Townsend (5x World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers), Pooh Bear (R&B singer from North Carolina), Erika Michelle (R&B singer from Memphis), Julius Francis (R&B singer from Seattle, Wash.), Honey Bunz (comedian from Atlanta, ) and a host of models, producers, R&B singers, comedians, and D.J.s.
CM: What does a manager do for the artist?
MJS: He's like an assistant and friend in some ways. But the manager tries to help the client get to the next level and believes in the client.
CM: What are the biggest challenges you face as a manager of an established artist? How do you overcome those challenges?
MJS: A lot of stuff goes on and when an artist makes millions of dollars they sometimes are not as focused as they are when they were broke. You have to keep the artist motivated and focused on the goal. I tell them to grind until you get signed and when you get signed, to grind like you are still unsigned.
CM: Are you familiar with Memphis music? If so, what do you feel about the state of Memphis music and the music business?
MJS: Yes, I am familiar with Memphis music. Memphis artists need to try to stick together. They should do mix tapes and albums together which in turn helps everyone other out. They need to get together and make the city shine brighter when they get a buzz for themselves because Memphis has a lot of talent!!
CM: Where are you seeing the money being made for an independent artist?
MJS: I-tunes, Google play, YouTube, merchandise, shows, and the Internet in general.
CM: What advice would you give an artist/producer that would like to make money in the industry rather than just the fame?
MJS: Producer, writers, and ghostwriters make money also. They can also do movie soundtracks and television sound tracks because there is a lot of money behind the scenes. There is more money behind the scenes than on camera. For example, if a song makes $100 million, the artist gets $1 million and the label gets the rest after retail.
CM: Parting words?
MJS: Your Net-Work increases your Net-Worth. Grind until you get signed and when you get signed, grind like you're still un-signed!