Monday, January 12, 2009
::Jermaine Dupri's 3 strikes::
It appears long-time music mogul Jermaine Dupri has just been handed his hat to him for the third time. According to sources, Dupri has just been axed from his position of president of Island Records Urban Division. Apparently, this is not a new experience for Dupri. In 2004, he exited Arista Records after one year to assume the position of president of urban music at Virgin Records. Following internal allegations of poor promotion of the label's urban releases and the lackluster success of Janet Jackson's final album for the label, 2006's 20 Y.O., Dupri exited the label. He sought refuge the following February at Island Def Jam, where the Island Records Urban Division was created with his leadership savvy and musical expertise in mind. But 2008 Island Def Jam releases by the label's biggest stars Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson underperformed, leading to this resolute, yet very precedented moment.
Damn, JD. A brotha just can't keep a job, huh. Not discounting his immaculate track record of hits and allegations that he's one of the wealthier purveyors of hip-hop, but his executive track record is akin to that of a merry-go-round. Nothing has lasted for this kat for longer than a year or two. But to his defense, I'm sure the changing of the climate of the music industry has more to do with this than his actual merit. The machine has put more emphasis on immediate returns now more than ever. In all truth, the corporate music industry structure of today does not allow room for growth potential. This goes double for artists, both new and established. Gone are the days when a successful artist can wait 3 to 4 years between albums and expect to be greeted with the same fanfare and sales as their previous effort. This can have a detrimental effect on the natural progression of an artist's work as well as the art form itself. Gone are the days when guys like Larkin Arnold, the late Jheryl Busby, and Cecil Holmes cut their teeth in the industry, landing long-term gigs as executives at major record labels and becoming walking treasures of contemporary Black music history in the process.
In all...I feel bad for JD and Jay-Z, who exited as CEO of Def Jam Records in 2007 after a three-year tenure. Did they get the opportunity to actualize their full potential as executives? It's hard to say from the outside looking in. But judging from my experience in the music industry, I would have to say no. It's hard to gage someone's worth in such a short window with so many other factors at play. Aside from the fact that they were expected to carry on with the day to day duties of president and CEO respectively, they were also expected to bring with them their individual musical talents, contributing to a portion of the label's output. In addition, there were also outside projects to fulfill (guest spots on albums, tours, endorsements, producing other artists apart from the label's own). Not so easy a feat as they may make it appear in the media. Speculation that their positions were merely a facade have run rampant in the press. Whether they were fake poster boy executives or not, the fact is that their potential to grow into these positions, exceed expectations and become true industry veterans was cut short.
So will JD get another shot? With recent history as a backdrop, I'd say yes. His name still carries weight in the industry along with his 19-year-old imprint So So Def Records. He's one of the few successful producers who has managed to bring a brand quality to his name via the producer-as-celebrity phenomenon of the last 15 years. But the game of musical chairs is getting dicey. With labels consolidating and merging at such a rapid pace, it's difficult to say what tomorrow will bring in the way of job opportunities across the board. And it goes without saying that thelargely Euro-American male dominated industry has been essentially unconcerned with the seemingly petty ebb and flow of Black executives. But one thing is certain: the term "The Music Industry" is changing shape as we speak. It's apparent that the old model is dying. Yet it just may be quite possible that jilted folks like JD will be the wiser of them all, building the new media driven industry of tomorrow with the tools from their old model experience and their new model visions.
More info here and here.