We as music fans praise artists for their genius and performance abilities. Rarely is any thought given to the movers and shakers behind the scenes. SouTrain.com has compiled a list of 2013’s top executives in R&B music.
Warryn Campbell, CEO, My Block Records
The last few years have been good for producer/songwriter Warryn Campbell. Coming off a successful 3rd season of Mary Mary’s self-titled hit reality series, Campbell announced a new distribution deal with eOne music for his My Block Record Label. Under the My Block umbrella comes the solo album by Mary Mary singer Erica Campbell, soul singer Joistarr, and Grammy nominated singer Musiq Soulchild. Campbell also has projects by Dave Hollister, and Kelly Price in the works.
TV One’s ‘Unsung’
For the longest, there was only one platform for black artists to be heard. The more successful ones were celebrated, and the least were left by the waste side. Then came Unsung. Easily one of TV One’s most popular shows, Unsung walked us back through the artists long forgotten, even though they made major contributions. Some of Unsung’s alumni have enjoyed a wonderful resurgence to their touring careers because of TV One’s mirror to the past.
Many see Vincent Herbert on Braxton Family Values and Tamar And Vince and think that he’s just Tamar’s husband. What they do not realize is that not only does he produce both of the aforementioned shows, he is also the founder of Streamline Records. Streamline’s roster consists of his wife Tamar, hit boy band Mindless Behavior, rapper T.I’s female R&B group The OMG Girlz, and pop monster Lady Gaga.
No disrespect to traditional magazines, but music blogs and websites are the media for the future. Such is the case with music website SoulTracks.com. Between its thought provoking editorial and brutally honest album reviews, readers can take comfort in knowing that they will get “the real.” SoulTracks.com also host the annual “SoulTracks Reader’s Choice Awards,” where unlike a lot of award shows, the winners are determined by the people who matter the most: the fans.
George Littlejohn And Russell Johnson, Purpose Music Group
Many cannot adapt to the ever-changing model of the music business. However, George Littlejohn and Russell Johnson of Brooklyn, NY-based Purpose Music Group have continued to stay current with the times. The soul music label released the highly-anticipated comeback album from Bilal, A Love Surreal, in addition to securing television placements on Fox’s The Mindy Project and CBS’ Criminal Minds. With albums looming in 2014 from Angela Johnson, Eric Roberson, Algebra, and more, PMG is sure to add to this list next year.
Ethiopia Habtermariam, EVP, Motown Records
When the news hit that the legendary Motown Records would reopen, questions arose on who would run it’s day to day. Enter Ethiopia Habtermariam to serve as Executive Vice President. In 2013, with Habtermariam at the helm, Motown released projects from Chrisette Michele, singer/songwriter Stacy Barthe, a Christmas album by Kem, and the hit single “Hurt You” by Toni Braxton And Babyface. The year 2014 looks to be even brighter with releases from Habtermariam’s newest signings B. Smyth and BJ The Chicago Kid.
There aren’t that many outlets on network or cable television anymore. Gone are the days of Video Soul, Cita’s World, and Caribbean Rhythms. One of the major exceptions to the case is Centric TV. Keeping a good balance between sitcoms and music video content, Centric truly shows us “What’s good.”
L.A. Reid, CEO, Epic Records
Antonio “L.A.” Reid’s story is one of legend, and his resume speaks for itself. In late 2012, Reid left his post as judge for reality show The X-Factor to concentrate on his position as CEO of Epic Records. The result of his concentration came in the form of hit releases by Fifth Harmony, Tamar Braxton, Ciara, Marcus Canty, and the 20th anniversary album by TLC. In addition to his duties at Epic Records, Reid has also re-launched the historic R&B label LaFace.
People say R&B is dead, but this writer begs to differ. R&B isn’t dead, it just went independent. The indie juggernaut Entertainment One had a banner year with releases from Ron Isley, Donell Jones, Brian McKnight, and others. In addition, the television division enjoyed success with hit reality series Mary Mary’s 3rd season, and a new reality series on the horizon for veteran R&B group SWV.
‘R&B Divas’ Executive Producers Leslie Grief, Adam Reed, Adam Freeman, Phil Thornton, Paul Allen, Aaron Fishman, David St. John, Faith Evans, & Nicci Gilbert
This highly successful TV One franchise has given new life to the careers of some of its cast members such as Syleena Johnson, Keke Wyatt, and Chante Moore. After a record breaking first season, a second season for the Atlanta cast was ordered, in addition to R&B Divas: LA being set into motion. With the recent additions of Chrisette Michele, Leela James, LaTavia Roberson, and Kameelah Wiliams to the franchises, it’s safe to say the magic won’t be stopping anytime soon.
Marcus “DL” Siskind, CEO, Mass Appeal Entertainment
Producer Marcus “DL” Siskind gave us two classic gems in 2013. His Mass Appeal label released albums from two of the hottest free agents in R&B: Raheem DeVaughn and Lyfe Jennings. The Boston, MA label made great strides in 2013, including securing distribution with Ingrooves|Fontana. Look for new projects from Mass Appeal in 2014 including the new album from SWV.
Perhaps one of the most versatile R&B websites on the market right now, with an equal balance between mainstream acts and up and coming indies, ThisIsRNB.com’s readers are given a virtual buffet of content. Asserting a bit more opinion than most blogs makes for interesting reads, not to mention a few LOLs.
Phil Thornton, Ten 2 One Entertainment
One of the more versatile executives on this list, Phil Thornton has a plethora of achievements to justify his spot on this list. As one of the executive producers of R&B Divas, Thornton has had a record breaking year with both the Atlanta and Los Angeles seasons. He also enjoyed a great year with his artist Mack Wilds, who earned a Grammy nomination for his debut album, two months after its release. Currently, Thornton is working projects for Light Records/eOne, in addition to launching new reality shows for former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams and a hip-hop version of R&B Divas.
Randall Grass, CEO, Shanachie Entertainment
Shanachie Entertainment has positioned itself as a powerful weapon in the world of R&B/Soul. Under the helm of General Manager Randall Grass, Shanachie continues to make an impact not only in the indie soul movement, but the overall R&B landscape. Praised by his colleagues for being a hands-on GM, Grass is taking the necessary steps to make sure that the Shanachie brand expands its dominance going forward.
Fiona Bloom, CEO, The Bloom Effect
Publicist are often the unsung heroes of the music business. If not for them, many of your favorite artists would not be on the cover of magazines, on your favorite blog, or even as far as the red carpet of our favorite award shows. Fiona Bloom is that driving force for several high profile independent artists, including recent Grammy nominee Maysa. Her determination and networking skills make her a true gem for all of her clients.
WE TV is truly enjoying their R&B success over the last few years. They have enjoyed high ratings from their music reality shows Mary Mary, Braxton Family Values, and Tamar and Vince. The network is quickly becoming a warming home for African American viewers. In 2014 the network with debut new seasons of the aforementioned shows as well as new shows by SWV and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child.
RCA Music Group
One of the last major labels that has a major investment in R&B is RCA Music Group. This year alone saw award-winning releases from Fantasia, Miguel, Charlie Wilson, and Justin Timberlake. In the R&B categories of the upcoming Grammys, RCA boast 6 multiple nominees alone. With Clive Davis still taking an active role in the company, RCA looks to continue its R&B success in 2014.
Steve Harvey has transcended the ranks from standup comedian to full out media mogul/personality. His Steve Harvey Morning Show dominates the AM, and his daytime television show The Steve Harvey Show is making its way to the number one spot. Even with all of his accomplishments, he has never forgotten his roots. His morning show is responsible for breaking a number of R&B songs that may have not initially gotten a chance in the Urban AC format. In addition, he still gives up and coming singers a shot at stardom each week with his “New Star Project” (it should be noted that the writer of this article is a winner of the televised version of the “New Star Project”).
BET Music Matters
New artists have it hard these days, but thankfully there are still a few entities committed to the stars of tomorrow. The BET Music Matters program offers up and comers a chance at the spotlight via its various showcases throughout the year and its valued Music Matters Tour. The annual tour has produced such alumni as Miguel, Elle Varner, Estelle, and Marsha Ambrosius.
Gary Gentles, Adeniyi Omisore, and Deyior Dunbar created a website that has captured the hearts of R&B fans near and far. Thousands of R&B lovers flock to the site daily to get their soulful fill of the news, new music, and rumors sections. Singersroom’s acoustic series has also given us intimate moments from artists such as Joe, Kelly Price, and Tank.
Nick Eden is a singer/songwriter/R&B junkie based out of Atlanta, GA. He is a winner of the Steve Harvey New Star Project and appeared on Season 1 of BET/Centric’s Apollo Live. His new EP #FLIGHT1980 is available for FREE download HERE. Follow him on Twitter @nickeden and on Facebook.