[Interview] Talk with VP of A&R at Epic Records Malik Rasheed
The A&R Report was granted the pleasure of getting to know Vice President of A&R at Epic Records, Malik Rasheed. We were granted the opportunity to interact with the humble executive in his LA Office, gaining some insight on his new journey at Epic Records; in addition, to his future goals and aspirations at the label.
How do you feel about the direction of Epic Records going in to 2013?
I look forward to building these new acts with L.A from the ground up. It’s a challenging, yet exciting time to be at Epic right now. I feel like a college coach, and we have a lot of 5 star recruits. A lot of people may not know what we have on our roster, but we know what we have and I’m excited to share this talent with the world. We have L.A Reid as our leader, Tricky Stewart who is one of the great producers and songwriters of our time, not to mention Sylvia Rhone who is one of the most decorated female executives as well. So with the great leadership, talent, and progressive staff that we have over here at Epic, we’re destined for great things this year.
What current projects are you most excited about over at Epic Records?
I have no favourites; everything here at Epic Records is a passion project and labor of love, everything! Look out for Ginny Blackmore, Quadron, Watch the Duck, Nylo, Future and Wallpaper. I’m excited everyday- coming over here at Epic Records working for L.A. Reid and Tricky & Mark Stewart. I’ve been given a lot of responsibility as of late, and I welcome it.
What’s your approach in finding new talent?
I identify with talent in a variety of ways. The three C’s have to be in place for me; Cultural, Compelling, and Critically Acclaimed;
there are many layers. Also, having established relationships with managers, producers, and songwriters have always helped with putting me on to new talent.
I ensure that I check out the artist’s show, whether it’s 40 people in the building or 400. It’s all about the artist being able to captivate the people and put on a good show. Lastly, it really comes down to the music resonating with me. I don’t care if I find online that the artist only has 200 views. It’s all about the music. My job as an A&R is to get people to hear it.
I’m always looking for someone able to identify to me, not by hype or by someone telling me; but by me seeing and understanding when taking in the music; as well as someone with their own voice and unique way of telling stories.
Has it always been your dream to have a career in the music business?
There was never really a Plan B for me. I’m really proud to be at Epic. Working with Mike Flynn, L.A Reid, and Tricky Stewart and Mark Stewart, I’m currently sitting where I’ve always dreamt to be. I’m excited because we are real music people here.
To be a facilitator for an artist to achieve their dreams is a great feeling. I got bit by the bug a long time ago, and I’m a lifer in this music business. I want to be mentioned amongst the greats, Ahmet Ertegun, Clive Davis, L.A. Reid.
I must also mention that it’s all about teamwork first. If Epic wins, I win. Individually, I’d love to make an impact in this business. I want us all to be the best. Everyday I’m trying to identify things that I’m not strong suited in. Ideally, I strive on closing the gap and making weaknesses turn into strengths.
What skills and characteristics of yours have helped you on building and maintaining your career?
I’ve always been great at maintaining good relationships and doing well by people. In addition, I’ve always had my hand on the pulse of culture. I’ve always been early when it comes to finding new talent.
I’ve been lucky to have great mentors such as Cameron Strang, (CEO at Warner Music Group), Tricky and Mark Stewart, and L.A Reid. Really, I’m about the work. I come everyday into the office with the thought that I will not disappoint them, because they bet on me. So the way I show and prove my respect to this business, and to them, is by working hard. L.A has always told me that “there’s no real magic in this business, just’ hard work.”
How do you feel about the industry being digitally driven in regards to sales?
I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I believe at the end of the day if fans are really ‘true’ fans of yours, they will download, buy the physical album, go to the shows and purchase merchandise. If you give the people good music they’ll buy.
As an artist, you just need to be a brand people trust.
Name 3 things that helped you get you to where you are now at Epic Records?
First of all, passion. Second, I truly love this. Every act I sign here is a true ‘passion project’. Lastly, I’m very ‘hands’ on. I don’t like to pass the ball. If I sign an artist, I’m going to be a part of developing the marketing strategy, the album, and everything else that comes with the project – reason being, because, I know the artist. I make sure I always spend time getting to know the artist, so that I can put them out the best way possible.
What are your personal goals for the next 5 years at Epic Records?
I want to ensure that every artist I sign, I ‘break’ and embark on a journey and strong relationship with each act. I’d like to stay healthy and emotionally engaged and attached to the music. I just want to make sure I stay refreshed and excited about the new music coming out.
What suggestions do you have for an aspiring A&R looking to obtain a career in the music business?
Find something of your own and develop it. Build something, and build a brand. As opposed to going in to a label and becoming a general intern, try and do as much as you can for yourself.
Don’t expect any handouts. When you build your own connections and partnerships, you’re able to identify the skill sets needed to succeed on your own and at a label. Find mentors. Find people that are advocates of yours. Treat people with the utmost respect. Return phone calls. Assume that everyone has a gift to give. I try to listen to everything. .
Being a part of an artist’s livelihood, I’ve taken it upon myself to treat this business with the utmost respect. I wake up everyday doing something that I love to do, so I have to honor that.
Any last words for A&R Report?
I’ve learned that regardless of any adversities to stay positive, so that when you’re winning they’re cheering for you, and when you’re not winning they’re cheering for you. Great leaders know how to develop other great leaders. I live, breath and eat music.
This is what I do. I’ve never chased money; I’ve just chased the opportunity to make history.
Connect to Malik Rasheed on Twitter @MaliksDreams
Curated by Michael Asante