Tone Capone: Strictly Business

There are several men using the name Tone Capone in Hip-Hop. One in particular has separated himself from the pack with a stack of accolades at radio, labels, and now online dating back to 1990. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Brentwood, Long Island, the college student wanted to work in the industry that was making neighborhood stars out of EPMD and Keith Murray. While at Stoney Brook University, Tone took to radio, and upon graduating, moved his outfit to Manhattan. In the decade-plus since, Tone’s executive wings grew in, first at Jive Records, working with Petey Pablo and Mobb Deep, before becoming Associate Urban Director at TVT, making stars out of Ying Yang Twins and Pitbull. Presently working as Executive Vice President of Universal/Motown’s Coalition Music Group, Tone also produces the Lisa Evans “Streets Soldiers Radio Show” on Hot 97. If he wasn’t busy enough, this jack-of-all-trades runs his own consulting company, plus has a groundbreaking and affordable online tool to unsigned talent in the works. Tone touches on his past, present, and future with, and speaks passionately about the burgeoning state of Latin music. It seems that over the years, there are like three or four “Tone Capones” in the industry, from two producers, to a writer, to an executive. For the readers, can you clarify the things that you have done?Tone Capone: I actually got started in the industry while I was attending college through the whole college radio game. I wanted to go to school for business, but I actually got bored. I knew there was something more creative that I could do. One day I was walking by a classroom, and saw these guys playing music; it was the college radio station. That’s how I was introduced. After that, I got my FCC license, and hosted a radio show at Stony Brook University, WUSB. Back in those days, like 1990, college radio was the go-to radio, because Hip-Hop still wasn’t embraced on mainstream radio. Hip-Hop radio was still trying to find a home. A lot of the record companies would use college radio as a breakthrough format. I started meeting promoters. I started traveling into the city and meeting more and more people. I thought I wanted an industry job. It seemed like such a fun world to be in, but nobody really gave me a chance, despite me sending my resume out to everybody. A radio station offered me a job 90.5 WPLJ, working in a promotions department. That was my foot in the Today, you’re still getting Hip-Hop dosage through your Hot 97 post, but from the label perspective…working in the Latin market, do you miss Hip-Hop?Tone Capone: I really don’t miss Hip-Hop. I do still get it [through Hot 97], but I also have my own Hip-Hop marketing company called Street Legal Marketing. We consult for record companies like Koch Records. We finished working the Joell Ortiz’ “Hip-Hop” record, we work Skyballa, an artist out of the West Coast. We’re an artist development/radio promotions company. We take on projects like Fight Klub, we do all their marketing. We do consulting for Def Jam and Koch. You look at a record like Joell Ortiz’ “Hip-Hop,” which people liked, but it still wasn’t getting much radio play. What kind of results are expected of your company when you work it?Tone Capone: I think a lot of what happened with Joell was real, it was organic, and it was something that the streets just loved. At the end of the day, radio plays a big part in equating to sales, but it’s not the end-all thing, because I see artists who get a lot of radio but no sales. I think with Joell, people accepted and loved him. So a lot of the work was already done for us, ‘cause he was out there, grindin’ hard. We went to the mix show DJs and said, “We’ve got this new record from Joell Ortiz,” and they said, “Joell? Cool.” He did a lot of the groundwork himself. The record did real well when it came to the mix show side. When it came to the programming side, there were some stations that embraced it – but very few that did. We knew what our goals were and what we’d be able to get it. At the end day, [Koch] was very happy with what we did. I know the album did very well; he sold over 10,000 copies in his first week, and probably much more by now. He accomplished something that very few new artists can, doing it themselves. With your own companies, plus several jobs with other companies, how do you juggle it all?Tone Capone: I can’t do everything myself, I’m gonna be real with you; I have a very good team behind me. At the end of the day, if you have a strong team, you can never go wrong. I have people I delegate things to that follow-up and make it happen. We have people that want to get paid, that have to earn a living. When you have the right people in the right places, you don’t have to stretch too much. For the most part, you can count on those It’s a crowded industry. You mention payment. Over the 17 years you’ve been around, do you think it’s getting easier or harder to get paid these days?Tone Capone: It’s actually getting easier, but you have to change with the times. The music industry is changing from a physical, retail industry to digital. So if you see where the industry is going, and see what the needs and demands are, you can definitely make some money. But if you’re still planning on releasing artists on CDs to retailers, five years from now, that might be obsolete. A lot of companies are changing their business models. They’re making bigger investments in the digital world. The online and new media strategy A lot of people on the Hip-Hop side are skeptical. Do you think that the future is bright for Reggaeton? I just interviewed N.O.R.E., and he’s vowed to never go down that road again, after being the crossover poster child for the Hip-Hop audience.Tone Capone: There’s always gonna be Latinos. Latinos aren’t going nowhere. The Latino Community is one of the fastest growing demographics in the US, so there’s companies changing their whole marketing strategies just to market to Hispanics. We’re not just limited to selling Reggaeton music to Puerto Rico; it’s a worldwide thing. Reggaeton was really hot two years ago. Everybody had a remix, every major star worked with a Reggaeton artist. It was a fad for a minute and now it’s retreating; it’s like that in every business. As soon as something goes wrong, everybody runs for cover. I think there’s a lot of profit to be made. At the end of the day, I think Reggaeton is going to be around for a long, long time. The buzz isn’t as big, and it’s not as popular as it was two years ago, but it’s still very Where do you see yourself in five years?Tone Capone: Right now I'm launching my own online company, it's called MusicIndustryOnline.Info . It's not live yet, but it should be in the next three months. It's a resource for artists and entrepenuers that want to be in the music business. I feel the problem for people breakin' in is connections. If you don't have the right connections then you're not gonna get too far. Some people lack that. Good talent that doesn't know who to talk to. I want to offer that. My website will be free and fee-based. Meaning: you're an artist that's looking for contacts at Hennessey for sponsorship for a new, emerging artists tour, you'll be able to download all the contacts to all the corporate sponsors in the US. That's what I'm offering. A radio list. Attorneys. So on and so forth. It's for all Don't you think the contacts will get angry getting hit by Joe Schmoe from the block?Tone Capone: I don't think so. That information is now available to everybody. If you do the research, you can get the information. [Laughs] It's not private information. No cell phones. You can go to and get an A&R directory. The difference between me and Billboard is Billboard charges you $150 for a directory. I have 15 databases, each costs $9.99. A lot of artists are on shoestring budgets. You can narrow it down a bit. Just 'cause you have their contact doesn't mean they're gonna sign you. It's just an edge.