Kevin Black: Bet on Black

When it comes to creating a marketing and promotions plan for a new or established artist the odds of success are a crap shoot. However, for Jimmy Iovine and Interscope Records, a bet on Black is usually a safe bet when it comes to innovation in marketing strategy. As Vice President of Interscope Rap Marketing and Promotions, Kevin Black is a maven in the world of marketing and promotions, boasting a client list that literally reads from the pages of Billboards top 100 list. Eminem, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Limp Bizkit, Pussy Cat Dolls, Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg, Skateboard P, Common, and Gwen Stefani are only a few of the names that adorn the plaques that Kevin Black has accumulated for his role in propelling the careers of some of music’s most elite talent.

The success of this self-proclaimed “new age executive” is a far cry from the Bronx native that began his career, straight out of the military, as a roadie for Run-DMC quickly working his way to tour manager. His career picked up steam as he made a name for himself as one of the hottest West Coast DJs, before he became a part of history as the National Promotions Director at Death Row Records. Black was the first promotion executive to utilize a street team to promote the company roster which introduced the streets to the infamous Death Row dynasty. With the streets on lock, it was time to go mainstream as he moved his hustle to the pop charts working with pop music royalty including; Prince and Janet Jackson. His career and the work that he’s done is a testament to his mantra “from the streets to the suites” and his ability to effectively navigate between the two worlds giving consumers what they want. Interscope’s marketing mouthpiece takes time to kick it to allhiphop.com about how he handles his business in the boardroom utilizing his “Four F” theory for success and what it takes to successfully promote an artist.

AllHipHop.com- How do you begin to tune into an artist to tailor a campaign that makes people want to buy a G-Unit record or any other artist on the label?

Kevin Black: First of all, I don’t have one promotional strategy. What I do is tune into the artist and I tune into the type of album he’s making and I find out what direction I think the album is going, then I put a campaign around the album that will better fit his creativity. Then I start thinking of ways to expose the album that will give it the biggest punch. I’m not a cookie-cutter promotions person. Just sending out vinyl, sending out CDs, no, I taper my programs to each artist because you can’t promote Dr. Dre like you do Eminem; or you can’t promote Eminem like you do the Pussy Cat Dolls, or Keisha Cole, ‘cause there’s a different look and flair and meaning for each one.

AllHipHop.com: How much of it is them being who they are and how much is you telling them who they should be as an artist?

Kevin Black: I never really tell my artists who they should be. I always tell them to be true to who they are and who they are will be true to them.

AllHipHop.com: No matter how good or bad that may be?

Kevin Black: No matter how good or bad, because there’s no such thing as bad press.

AllHipHop.com: What about when the results are bad?

Kevin Black: Well, with my artists, I don’t think we have bad results.

AllHipHop.com: There are countless indie label’s popping up trying to be the next G-Unit or Aftermath. What are the top five basic mistakes people make when getting in the game?

Kevin Black: 1. Not enough funding. 2. Trying to hang your hat where you can’t reach it. 3. Lack of information is what kills them and not knowing that every mistake costs. If you have the wrong address on a package that stamp cost you $1.35, and when it comes back you have to rewrap it and send it out again. In the music game every mistake costs money. 4. Promoting to your friends. Your friends will tell you anything e.g., “Oh, that s**t is hot!” then they don’t even want to buy it they want that s**t for free! 5. The final one I would say is mostly people start without a distribution deal and I think you need a distribution deal before you start. A distribution deal is someone who houses you product and puts it in stores for you.

AllHipHop.com: You don’t think it’s better to sell units first on your own?

Kevin Black: No, I think its better if you have distribution because you’re putting out fire-ass music you want someone to buy it and if you ain’t got a distribution deal sometimes the buzz can only last so long and you miss your window.

AllHipHop.com: Do you think labels are more focused on just making hits or is artist development making its way back into marketing plans?

Kevin Black: I think artist development still goes on, especially with Interscope. I mean Keisha Cole is a prime example. We were four singles deep in that album before she hit.

AllHipHop.com: How do you stay focused?

Kevin Black: First of all it’s called time management you gotta manage your time or your time will manage you. Primarily, I live by my “Four F” theory. 1. Be Friendly, you always gotta treat people friendly. 2. You have to Focus, but I don’t me just straight ahead, you gotta know your mission and always be open to see the big picture. 3. the third F is be Firm. Nobody likes a motherf**ker that just says yes to everything ‘cause then you’re a jellyfish cause like they say, if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything. And my last F is you gotta know when to say “F**k it.” Sometimes the mountain can’t be climbed, the elephant can’t get straddled, sometimes the lion don’t want to get fed, but it’s up to you to know what’s going on so that’s my Four F theory for the new age executive.

AllHipHop.com: How do you go about re-inventing a group like Mobb Deep with each release?

Kevin Black: First of all, they don’t need to be re-anything. I don’t have to reinvent them in anyway; I just put their music out and make sure people hear that beat [to “Put ‘Em in Their Place”]. I mean Mobb Deep is the New York core, so it’s not reinventing it’s letting the world learn what they got. We got a new kid named Jibbs from St. Louis, off the meat rack; these are new acts that are coming up that are killer. We got so many albums coming I can hardly name em all. We got new albums from Em, Dr. Dre, Nelly Furtado, Bone Thugs & Harmony! With all those acts I can’t be one dimensional I gotta let my light shine.

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