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Music & Money

Mr. Del, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and Al Kapone have all been perfecting their craft over the years and speak from a place of experience.
Carlee McCullough

For this week’s conversation on Music & Money, we sought the opinions of individuals that have successfully made a living in the music industry. Mr. Del, Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell and Al Kapone have all been perfecting their craft over the years and speak from a place of experience. They’re making their contributions to keep Memphis Music pushing forward.

Mr. Del, as one of the creators of a subgenre of music called “Holy Hip Hop,” is an artist as well as a businessman. Tpe President of his own label, Dedicated Music Group distributed by Universal, he controls his own career and the careers of others.

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell was indoctrinated into the Memphis music business at an early age. The son of the late Willie Mitchell of Royal Recording Studios, Boo has worked with his father and some of the greatest talents in the business including: Al Green, John Mayer, Rod Stewart and Solomon Burke. Since the passing of his father, he has been tasked with carrying on the legendary spirit, torch and sound of Royal Recording Studios.

Al Kapone has long been considered a mainstay of the underground Memphis hip hop scene, with collaborations with E-40, Mike Jones, Too Short and Lil’ Jon. Kapone has also achieved mainstream success from his role on the soundtrack to the film “Hustle & Flow” and placement of a song featured in the film, “Stomp the Yard.” His songs have also been featured in the popular sports video game “NBA 2K10.”

Carlee McCullough: Today major artists are diversifying their business investments outside of the music industry in substantial ways. When did the trend start? And do you see this trend continuing?

Mr. Del
Mr. Del

Mr. Del:
The trend has to continue because the music has been devalued. Being that the music is not as big of an asset as it was, the artist has to diversify to make up for the money they are losing in record sales.

Al Kapone: Diversifying your business interests is the smartest thing any artist or producer can do. Barry Gordy did it early on by producing movies such as “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Mahogany,” “The Jacksons,” and the “Last Dragon.” If an opportunity arises to invest in other things and leverage the popularity of your music to elevate the investment, then that is hands down the best investment you could ever make. (Artists) 50 Cent with water, Ludacris with liquor, and Jay-Z with the clubs and sports teams have creatively found ways to make money off of their brands. All artists should be paying attention.

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell: It has always been around. Years ago artists had famous restaurants. But it has become more popular in the past 10 or 15 years with artists launching clothing lines and perfumes. Artists have received some good investment advice. In the cases of Jay-Z and Puffy, their outside investments have made them more than their music. I absolutely see it continuing. It will penetrate other areas of business aside from clothing, perfumes, etc.

Carlee McCullough: What are your thoughts about the 360 deals and major labels?

Mr. Del: It depends on the artists and their careers. What is good for my house may not be good for your house. I may like soul food but you may like health food. So it is a matter of what nutritious works for you.

Al Kapone
Al Kapone

Al Kapone:
The old model of music is not really selling music. So the major label’s 360 deal is being done out of necessity to survive. I can see the perspective from a label, if they are going to invest in the artist to make them a superstar. However, I know people that signed to a major label and still have to do it on their own without label support. They may as well have remained independent and not have to share the revenues. On the artist side, in the past the label only recouped from record sales. But now with the 360 deal most revenues are available for recoupment. The artist could still make money from touring and merchandising. Now the artist has to give up so much. Most artists want the fame and the popularity and are willing to sign those deals even though they are not great for them.

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell: It depends on if the label is actually going to go out and do what it takes to make the project successful. Madonna and Jay-Z have 360 deals with Live Nation. But Live Nation is one of the largest bookers of live entertainment in the world.

Carlee McCullough: What are your thoughts about the 360 deals and independent labels?

Mr. Del: I don’t understand why an independent label would have a 360 deal because they cannot do what a major label can do.

Al Kapone: A 360 deal offered by an independent is worst than when offered by a major because an independent does not have the same level of resources as a major label.

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell:
A 360 deal may not be a good idea if the independent label doesn’t have the resources to make the deal work for the artist. They may obtain the rights but haven’t done anything to justify obtaining the rights. The independent label has to have a great track record and history for a 360 deal to even be considered.

Carlee McCullough: How has the addition of the digital downloads affected the artist and the money stream?

Mr. Del: I would rather you get something on the music than giving it away for free. The economy is different now. So the consumer has to make choices. For example, do I want to buy your CD or put gas in my car? Now the fan is being reasonable by at least buying one song.

Al Kapone: Digital downloads have almost brought the industry to their knees but not quite. The beautiful part of downloads is that the artist can put their music out on their own and allow the consumer to purchase it.

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell: In the beginning, it hurt the music industry as a whole due to a lot of pirating. But the positive side, it has allowed more independent artists to get out there without the support of a major distributor or label. You have independents with music on ITunes, which is a major retailer. So it has helped independents more than anybody.

Carlee McCullough: Major v. independent labels, how does the money differ short and long term?

Mr. Del: Independent you get the money quicker because you are in control of everything. Depending upon how much money the major label has put into your career, you could get little to no money waiting to recoup. So I have chosen to be independent.

Al Kapone: Independent or major doesn’t really matter if you do not have the right stock in the right thing. If an artist is writing or producing and participating in the ownership of the independent label, the money will be way better because the artist will be able to negotiate more than just an artist deal. Since most independent labels tend to specialize with a particular genre of music they are better connected with the fans. But when the genre begins to suffer, the independent label may also suffer. The major labels look for independent labels or artists to tap into the successful genre of the day. They do not do the groundwork and are looking to try to take it to the next level.

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell: You have to weigh the pros and cons. Sometimes 20 percent with a major can be more than 50 percent with an independent because of the exposure. But all things have to be considered. Do you want 100 percent of nothing or 20 percent of something?

Carlee McCullough: How do you see the artists’ revenues changing over the next 10 years?

Mr. Del: As long as artists are with the labels they will not make money. The artists that own their labels are making the money. You have to own it!

Al Kapone: It is hard to predict based on how fast the industry is changing. If I knew how artists would make money in the future, you would be talking to a Hip Hop Bill Gates because I would have patented it by now.

Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell: The revenue streams will broaden. There will be more avenues for the artists to make more money. You may see artists revenues from concerts coming directly through the Internet.

UP NEXT: The Evolution of Memphis Music.

(Contact our participants at the following: Mr. Del: myspace.com /mrdelholysouth; Al Kapone: ­Facebook.com/alkaponememphis or Twitter.com/alkaponememphis; Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell: www.RoyalStudios.com.)

(Please send your questions to Carlee McCullough, Esq., Contract Compliance Officer, City of Memphis-Office of Contract Compliance, 125 N. Main St., Suite 546, Memphis, TN 38103 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)


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