Producers, artists, studio owners, publishers, managers andsongwriters crowded into the Beverly Garland Theater in Los Angeles onMay 10, 2004, to hear The Underdogs, Damon Thomas and Harvey Mason Jr.,discuss what it takes to succeed in the music business today. Theprogram was sponsored by the National Association of Record IndustryProfessionals (NARIP, www.narip.com) and drew attendees from as far away asArizona, San Diego, and San Francisco.
The capacity audience was eager and bursting with questions, and nowonder: The Underdogs have written and produced hits for JustinTimberlake, Tyrese, Ruben Studdard, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Toni Braxton,Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Luther Vandross, Brian McKnight andmore.
In just a few years, they have worked on more than 50 Gold, Platinumand multi-Platinum singles/albums. In addition, they have formed theirown label, Underdog Entertainment, in partnership with J Records, partof the Clive Davis-led BMG organization.
“When the marketplace responds and makes your creative worksuccessful, it’s the best reward and the best indicator of the abilityto sustain a career over time,” said Tess Taylor, president of NARIPand panel moderator, introducing the pair. “Damon and Harvey are abright part of the present and future of our industry, and we thoughtit would be a good time to talk to them about how they are flourishingoutside the major label model, and how they have managed their businessto success and profitability.”
Over the course of the program, The Underdogs offered their take onthe industry’s current state. Said Damon Thomas, “I’m optimisticabout the future. I think there’s better music in all genres right now,and sales are up for the first time in a long time.” His partner HarveyMason Jr. echoed that sentiment, saying, “This is a great time to be inmusic. And the best way to act is to just be grateful if you can be inthe music business. This is just such a dream.”
In a spirited Q&A segment, The Underdogs answered what topproducers in the record business look for in an artist: “What helpsmake great artists is a story in their songs,” said Damon Thomas. “[Ilook for] someone who can sing in a way that is convincing,” addedHarvey Mason Jr, “They need to deliver from the heart, so that whenthey sing, you believe them. It’s not always something you can say,it’s something you can feel.”
The discussion centered on music’s future, technology andgear, artist development, producing and owning a record label, andmore. For more information on NARIP, got their Website, at www.narip.com.