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Record label CEO Dee-1 explains why some artists are getting bad deals

Dee-1 (Photo provided)

David Augustine Jr., better known as Dee-1, has made a name for himself not only as an artist, but as CEO of his independent label, Mission Vision Music. He started out as a rapper signed to RCA Records. Eventually, he left RCA Records in 2019 and started his label.

During the virtual RIDE Con 2020, he shared advice and talked about ways to improve in the industry.

Rolling out spoke with Dee-1 during the panel titled “The B-side: Understanding the Business Behind the Brand,” about why artists get bad deals in the industry, and the changes he is making as CEO of his independent label.

Why are so many artists getting bad deals? 

So many artists are seeking validation from these big companies and big labels, so they sign whatever is thrown at them. Once the newness wears off,  they look at what they have actually signed. Then they realize what they signed and regret it. Many artists sign because [of] the allure of the advance. The allure is a check upfront from the company or label trying to get you to sign with them. Seeing something like $50K for some artists is the most money they have seen in their entire life. They think it’s a quick fix. 

What will your label do differently? 

Number one, [Mission Vision will spend] money on marketing. One thing [that] perplexed me in the deal I was in is they were willing to spend a lot of money [on] flights and fancy hotels. I was like I’m willing to sit in coach [if] it means being able to spend that money to market my music. Once I started seeing there was a problem when I wanted to put money into marketing my music, that’s when I realized their priorities were screwed up.

I started by experimenting with myself. Also, I don’t believe the ego belongs in a world-class organization. I believe in 5-star leadership. The leader should understand how this is being created to ensure success in the long run. With my brand, Mission Vision Music, I am able to give [the] time and attention to detail to that is needed for projects.

What book would you recommend to people wanting to start a record label?

I recommend Everything You Need to Know About the Music Industry by Donald Passman. I have read that book [from] front to back.