When you are a Grammy-award winning producer/songwriter/keyboardist/remixer and your credits include the likes of Michael Jackson, TLC, Monica, Madonna, Will Smith, Brandy, Rihanna, Kanye West, Gwen Stefani, and many others, you might be satisfied with these accomplishments. Not so. Dallas Austin wants more and has recently relaunched the label that allowed him to be successful within the music industry. Rowdy Records is making a return that will have past and current industry heads watching.
The Business of Hip Hop was able to speak to the Atlanta legend about his foray into education and how he aims to continue adding to the legacy of Rowdy Records.
You’re relaunching Rowdy Records after so many years, what motivated you to do so and what can we anticipate this time around?
I wanted to be back in control of my brand and the music and after going inside and being a senior VP at Island Def Jam a few years ago, I could see where the footprint of Atlanta music was heading from a corporate standpoint and how disconnected it was to what was really happening in the culture of music from the start. This time you can expect the brand to be the difference in music and in culture.
We are in a totally different era due to advances in technology and with the capacity of artists to reach out directly to their audience. How do these changes alter the way you do business?
It changed the way we do business drastically, but it still boils down to having a gut feeling about the music and the artist. As a producer, the advancements have been amazing because you have way more options. From a songwriter’s side, it hasn’t been so amazing because of the way digital deals are structured. As a label owner and having a new distribution company, I am excited to combine the knowledge of before with the digital platform, as this will be the first time I have had a digital distribution company.
You’re doing a collaboration with Georgia State University. What are the specifics of the partnership and how did it come about?
One day I was speaking to a marketing class at Georgia State and they were using imitation projects instead of real ones for their class assignments. Georgia State had just opened the new media center and through Dr. Kay Beck and Linda Cannon, a business partner of mine, we all came up with a program that allowed the students to work on projects that were really coming out into the marketplace and get credited on their resumes for their work whether it be in marketing, digital, promotions, etc. This is all a spinoff of the Dallas Austin Foundation for music in schools where we put recording studios in inner-city schools and give kids the opportunity to develop that trade. So far, we have done 10 schools and we are looking to expand into the curriculum next school year. We have been working with the Urban League Atlanta and the Entertainment Caucus in developing these programs.
You’ve been involved in the industry for over 30 years, how do you separate the artistic side of Dallas Austin and the business aspect? How has your approach changed over the years?
When I was younger it was more difficult because the creativity always overrode the business decisions and that can be detrimental to your bottom line. As we have grown, we have learned that we are still dealing with a product. Even though you should have an emotional attachment to it, it still has to be sold, marketed, and promoted in the hopes of it being successful not just creatively, but also financially.
To what do you attribute your longevity in the game and what advice would you give someone who wants to have an extensive and purposeful career like you have?
I attribute it to my ability to always admire and find inspiration in things and people around me. My dream was to always be as great as Quincy Jones. If you want longevity, it is not about the sprint. You always [have to] ask yourself “Where do you want to be five years from now?’ and stay focused working on that goal. If you are excited and passionate about it, you will work on it 24/7; the day never ends until you feel the feeling of accomplishment.