If you’re going to get advice about what you should want out of a record deal, then look no further than Kevin Liles, CEO of 300 Entertainment and music industry legend. For the fourth installment of P&P Pro Tips, a nine-part series where executives, artists and producers share their war stories and offer advice based on their respective experiences, the Maryland native digs into his own personal past as an artist to offer some words of wisdom for fresh talent.
“It’s funny when people talk about first record deals—a lot of people don’t know I was a former artist,” he says. “My first record deal was signed when I was 16 years old. I did an album with the Numarx for $10,000 and it was at that point that I realized I gave away my rights at 16 that I didn’t want to be in the music business anymore—I wanted to be in the business of music.”
His resume backs his ambition. Liles has held posts as president or EVP of companies including Warner Music Group, Def Jam and Island Def Jam, helping transform musicians like JAY-Z and Kanye West into business moguls beyond their artistic endeavors. Today, he runs indie label 300 Ent. that counts Young Thug and Migos as signees, and manages D’Angelo and Trey Songz through his KWL Management shingle.
For those first starting out their career and looking to sign, Liles suggests putting your needs first. “You gotta figure out what you want out of it, what’s your vision when you go into a partnership,” he says. “But it’s business to me. It’s marriage. You have figure out what you’re getting out of it, what they’re getting out of it, what the value proposition of having a partner. As an artist, I would say make sure you’re not being sold a dream and you’re able to hold people accountable for what people said the partnership would be.”
And even then, there are numerous ways to get put on. “People don’t have clarity most of the time and they go into a situation where they think one thing but really it’s another thing,” he continues. “I’ve seen artists do all kinds of deals, so it’s not one way today. But if I have to give any advice to any artist, it’s know what you’re signing and don’t take one person’s opinion for it. Do your due diligence.”
Watch the fourth installment of P&P Pro Tips above.