My Milestone Music Industry Anniversary – 30 Years of Reflections

DestinyChild WhitneyAs I put pen to paper for this particular edition of Music Industry Quarterly, I’m quite gratified to announce that this marks my 30th consecutive year in the music business. I say consecutive because there have been no breaks in between years for me since I arrived upon the scene on January 6, 1986;  when I started my first industry job working for the Wherehouse Records chain. My desire was to be a recording artist along the lines of a Stevie Wonder or a Lionel Richie who were very hot then. Logically, I thought I’d meet some forward-thinking record executive that would sign me. Wishful thinking!

Within six months, I was appointed the coveted Product Manager position at the Wherehouse store in Torrance, California that was in the Top 5 for sales within the chain. I remember in 1986, important recordings such as Anita Baker’s Rapture , Janet Jackson’s Control, Prince’s Parade, The Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, Run DMC’s Raising Hell and Madonna’s True Blue . By the end of 1986, I was promoted to Product Manager at the number two Wherehouse store in nearby Lakewood.

Aaliyah_MeA year later, I was tapped to be Product Manager at the very venerable store No. 502 on La Brea & Rodeo, which was the number one store for Black music, probably in the country. Being there raised my profile inside the industry exponentially. So many artists came through that store and the label executives nearly camped out.  Mind you, this was pre-Soundscan and BDS, so my sales numbers greatly influenced chart positioning. Unfortunately, 1992 marked the demise of the newly-remodeled store by looting and fire due to the civil unrest that occurred after the announcement of the Rodney King verdict.

That historic milestone led to my hiring at Urban Network Magazine in 1993 where, within six months, I was named Managing Editor. From 1993-2009, I probably interviewed nearly a 1,000 plus record executives, radio professionals, recording artists, publishing execs, songwriters, producers and the like. For ten of my years there, we were a weekly magazine in direct competition with Billboard Monitor, Radio & Records, Black Radio Exclusive, and others. And did we work hard! In between those weekly late night magazine deadlines, we had to coordinate the annual music industry “Powerjam” conferences (LAX, Palm Springs, Newport Beach). I’d assist in producing the many panel/workshops, getting sponsors and corralling artists, all while meeting and greeting dozens of the biggest artists at the time like R. Kelly, Aaliyah, LL Cool J, Jody Watley, Montell Jordan… Gosh, the list is too long to remember.

Jay_ZUrban Network hit the proverbial wall in mid-2009, but I knew I acquired some skill sets to launch my own publication. The name of my management & media coaching company was the Amalgam Group, so at the time it seemed kosher to call the magazine Amalgamation: An Industry Quarterly. We produced 16 quarterly issues, and continued to attract top artists for our cover stories and interviews such as Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, Rodney Jerkins, Mary Mary and more.

In 2014, after a five year hiatus, we brought back the Music-Entertainment Conference, under the Urban Network Digital banner in San Diego, where I became a full partner in the annual event. After five years of Amalgamation Mag, I thought it was time to go with a simpler name, modifying our sub-title to Music Industry Quarterly (MIQ). We’re also producing our third annual San Diego Conference in June 2016.

Miller_CharlesSo many wonderful people gave me opportunities over these 30 years from Violet Brown (Wherehouse Records), to my mentors and bosses at Urban Network from Carole Carper and Miller London, to the late Jerry Boulding and the late Graham Armstrong. I always have to cite Jon Platt, now Chairman & CEO of Warner Chappell Music Publishing, who sponsored my first ad and front cover for Amalgamation, and now Music Industry Quarterly. I also have to shout out Arthur Mitchell, A. Scott Galloway and Vera Paras who I continue to work with.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure to do in-depth interviews with some of the greatest artists from Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, John Legend, Brian McKnight, Jimmy Jam, DJ Mustard and Kendrick Lamar to seeing more than 500 concerts the likes of Michael, Prince, Janet, Madonna, Luther, Whitney, MC Hammer, to late legendary Jazz icons including Miles Davis, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Joe Sample and others….to interviewing top music executives like L.A. Reid, Sylvia Rhone, Cathy Hughes, Neil Portnow, Zach Katz, Debra Lee and Jody Gerson – all in these last 30 years.

The music business has changed a lot since 1986. What have I learned? Time waits for no one; to embrace change and technology; to strike a balance between work and play; and that there’s a great deal of value in ownership. I’m still a relatively young guy but admittedly no spring chicken nor yet a dinosaur. Having a frame of reference is a wonderful thing but it’s vital that I stay on top of today’s music, today’s Pop culture and continue to network with both our established and young executive talent. I like to surround myself with young, spirited minds.

My hope is that you will continue to support me, Music Industry Quarterly, the Music-Entertainment Conference and my other ventures. It’s been a wonderful train ride so far and I’m not ready to give up my seat just yet!

Thanks for allowing me to tell your stories.

David Mitchell, Publisher, Music Industry Quarterly