“I think what's next for music period is that the color lines are going away. Working with Justin [Bieber] is a perfect example of that.”
——Chris Hicks
While Jesse’s Reveling in the Clips’ Huge Win Over the Heat, Erica and Tess Attend to the Business at Hand
Aggregated by Jesse Beer Dietz

This week’s Wheels is a very special one—I’ve decided to just be the aggregator and have turned the column over to a couple of special guest writers. Erica Ramon, my former partner in crime, interviewed Chris Hicks of Def Jam, and our new intern Tess Zaretsky tells us about a cool band from Nashville. Keep feedin' the inbox: [email protected]

The Beauty School Dropouts
(www.myspace.com/thebeautyschooldropouts): After a three-year hiatus, the veteran band returns with the new single “Let the World Know.” The four-piece—Josh Baker, Jimmy Chandler, Jeremy Mcneil and Nicholas Coleman—deftly creates a commercial sound with this one-listen track, embedding inspiring, relatable lyrics into a sleek, catchy melody. There’s no doubt you’ll be hearing this single on the soundtracks of TV shows in the near future. The band is currently doing a tour of the South; catch them at their next destination in Nashville. But be forewarned—this song will get stuck in your head. —Tess Zaretsky


Interviewed by Erica Ramon

When did you know that you wanted to work in the music business?

My parents started to really expose me to music when I was a toddler. Deciphering early James Brown and Stevie Wonder records is how I learned to read. I had a “jones" for it early. By my late teens, I knew it was what I wanted to do; I just needed to figure out how. College led me into promoting, where I almost lost everything. Atlanta was simultaneously building a thriving music scene that I ultimately settled into as a manager, production company and publisher.

What was your first industry job?
I was hired as VP of Urban A&R of Warner/Chappell by Rick Shoemaker in June 2004. I had a successful venture (Noontime) with Warner at the time. Warner was at a crossroads with regards to their involvement in urban music, and I wanted to learn the business from a cooperate perspective. We struck a deal that allowed me to come into the company as well maintain the venture. He gave me autonomy to create a plan that ultimately reestablished Warner in urban music. Shani Gonzales, who started out as my assistant, and I were the urban music department at Warner. During my four years running Warner Urban, we signed The-Dream, Danja, T.I., Lil Wayne and Bryan Cox, among several others, and charted over 100 Top 10 records. And I was fortunate to have tremendous support. Richard Blackstone was a great boss, Dave Johnson was a great boss and Kevin Liles, who worked in corporate, was always supportive, especially during the Timbaland catalog acquisition.

If you knew then what you know now, would you have done anything differently, and what would you say to others coming up now?
LEARN THE BUSINESS!!!! Looking back at it, the initial joint venture deal I structured with Warner was probably the worst deal I have EVER done. My ignorance could have resulted in never actually controlling or owning the assets I worked so hard to build. My success at the company gave me an opportunty to later right that mistake, but it could have easily had a different result.

Was there one artist or experience that inspired you to follow this path?
There are many. Puff, L.A., Lyor, Mary J, Jay-Z, Jimmy, Azoff, Benny Medina… I could go on. While they all have different styles, different skill sets, they all have one common denominator. They don't play "not to lose"; they play to "win." They don't follow a rulebook. They have already created the vision in their head and are simply relentless in pursuing it. If that doesn't motivate someone...nothing will.

What motto or mantra do you live by, and what do you tell your artists when you start working with them?
The are two that I swear by. One, this is a marathon, not a sprint. The same people you see on the way up, you see on the way down. Be humble and be considerate. Two, set goals. This is an industry that can easily distract you with fame and money. Don't put the cart before the horse. Set and meet your goals, and everything else will follow.

What’s next for urban music?
I think what's next for music period is that the color lines are going away. Working with Justin [Bieber] is a perfect example of that. He was a 14-year-old kid from Stratford who would have been stereotyped as pure pop. Yet his albums are a blend of melodic and rhythmic R&B that affords him the ability to touch a melting pot of consumers who can appreciate what he offers musically.

Last question: black licorice or red?

Are you free Wednesday afternoon? (11/12a)
How's that for a tease, Bieber Nation? (11/12a)
Not the same as the old bosses (11/12a)
This sure feels like her moment. (11/12a)
It's down to two bidders. (11/12a)
They'll soon be here, and then we can start obsessing about who'll win.
Forget Brexit--it's our yearly survey of doings in Blighty. And if you still can't forget Brexit, try drinking.
Who's going to land the hottest unsigned property in music?
That's what Hollywood smells like. Seriously. 24/7.

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