Want to learn how to break into the music industry without the machine?
Join us on Thursday, June 30th at 7pm/EST for our Indy Life Panel at The Music Meeting – a virtual discussion about the business behind the music presented by Radio One.
Get to know our panelist and moderator below who will provide valuable insight for free during this panel!
Craig Davis was born in New Jersey and has been in LOVE with music since the age of seven (7). This love for music has led Craig to have over 300 #1 records in his career. The first taste of music came from his Aunt who lived in the Bronx. “I can remember hearing James Brown for the first time, I couldn’t get enough of his sound and I was totally hooked on music”. Craig fed his need for music by playing in the band throughout school, earning money DJing in HighSchool and college, plus working at the college’s radio station. This opportunity lead Craig Davis into the music industry, where he established one on one relationships with record companies. “Being a hot club DJ plus working at a college station gave me access to all of the newest music first, from every label in New York City which was about 35 companies back then. I used to go from label to label and talk about music every week”.
Craig incorporated his “Music Business” sense and started the Delaware Valley Record Pool. This was one of the first record pools for top club DJ’s in the area and had 30 members that reported to Craig. “We broke a lot of records in the clubs back then; music came from the clubs not radio”. During this time Craig landed his first commercial radio job, at WUSL’s Power 99 in Philadelphia. He was the station’s first “Super mixer” and worked endlessly to give Power 99 a unique sound. While working at WUSL, Craig met many label representatives and was hired to do record promotions at Universal Distributors by industry veteran Allan Lott. Craig’s first single he promoted was Divine Beings “What People Do For Money” in 1983. That first year in the music industry led him to do many first’s including taking RUN/DMC on their first promotional tour outside New York City, road managing The Fat Boys and establishing “Street Promotions”. With Craig’s connections with club & radio DJs and working retail record stores with Universal Distributors, this brand of promoting music was born. “I worked all the independent labels and that meant I worked this new form of music called rap. Rap was in the clubs and the streets”. During this period Craig began working with a newly formed company called Def Jam, working at Russell Simmons’ loft. Along with rap, Craig promoted and worked with New Edition, Force MD’s and Fonda Rae. In 1984 Craig worked his first single “Roxanne’s Revenge” by Roxanne Shante at radio nationally. This led Craig with Troy Shelton and Daryl Musgrove to start a promotion company named “XPERTZ PROMOTION”. XPERTZ PROMOTION was the leading promotional company in the Rap Industry, working with Def Jam, Profile, Cold Chillin, Pop Art, Select, 4th & Broadway, Jive, Rap A Lot and many other labels. Craig Davis along with Troy and Daryl put together the initial
marketing and promotional plan to launch Uptown Records with Andre Harrell under MCA Records. He worked with all of the Uptown roster including Heavy D, Guy, Mary J Blige, Jodeci, Father MC, Soul For Real, Monifah, Anthony Hamilton and Lost Boyz. Sean “Diddy” Combs’ first job at Uptown Records while in college was working for Craig.
In 1989, Arista Records came calling for Craig Davis’s marketing and promotional services to help start their hip hop department. From that start, Craig stayed with Arista records until Clive Davis left in 2000. “Working at Arista Records in the 1990’s was the most intense music experience I had ever been a part of. Between having new releases every week and sometimes twice & three times a week to having #1 records week after week, we never stopped.” Thisincredible roster included Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Babyface, Carlos Santana, Kenny G, Monica, Usher, TLC, Pink, Toni Braxton, Outkast, Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy, Boyz II Men, 112, Deborah Cox, Next, Angie Stone, Q-Tip, Faith Evans, Carl Thomas, Goodie Mob, Total, Mase, Naughty By Nature, Donnell Jones and many other acts. Craig joined Priority-Capitol Records as the National Director of Promotion and Marketing and worked with Snoop Dogg, Master P, Ice Cube, Lil Romeo, Silk The Shocker and BeBe & CeCe Winans. Craig moved to Jive Records in 2001 and become the Vice President of Urban Promotions. At Jive Records, Craig Davis helped break Chris Brown, Ciara, Charlie Wilson, Raheem DeVaughn and T Pain while keeping R Kelly, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Outkast, Kirk Franklin, Anthony Hamilton, Britney Spears, Nick Cannon, Donnie McClurkin, Clipse, Too Short, Jordin Sparks and Petey Pablo HOT.
In 2008, Craig Davis moved to back to Capitol Records as the VP of Promotion. Craig created promotional and marketing strategies, set up and executed artist tours and oversaw radio promotions. Craig represented Tyrese, Anita Baker, Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry, Eric Benet, Lloyd Banks, Avant, Twista, Cali Swag District (“Teach Me How To Dougie”), Fat Joe, Corinne Bailey Rae, Tamia, LaToya, Robert Glasper, Bobby Valentino, Tinie Tempah, Emeli Sande and Smokie Norful. This position also included working with third party labels and distribution of their music. Currently, Craig is CEO of Music Matters Entertainment with a growing client base. Music Matters Entertainment is a multi functional company that includes Marketing & Promotion, Management and Distribution divisions. In 2018, Craig joined SRG/ILS as SVP and together with owner Claude Villani has helped built a new home for R&B music with great names as Brian McKnight, Raheem DeVaughn, Shawn Stockman, Avant, After 7, Ralph Tresvant, Vivian Green, Take 6, Mike Phillips, Kenny Lattimore, Ruff Endz, Gino Vannelli, UB40, Tito Jackson and new names like Lyrica Anderson, Elijah Thomas, Maya Johnson and Charlee. With
over 30 years of working in the Music Industry, Craig isn’t slowing down. “I’m so blessed to be doing what I love.”
Kerry Douglas was an outsider who became the ultimate gospel music insider and star maker as the founder and CEO of Black Smoke Music Worldwide.
Over the last 25 years, the Houston, Texas native has taken unknown artists and turned them into Billboard number one acts. The list is potent: Grammy® nominee, James Fortune; stratospheric crooner Earnest Pugh; Quartet Queen Evelyn Turrentine-Agee; breakout artist Pastor Mike, Jr. and the prodigious Zacardi Cortez.
Billboard Magazine recently announced that two of the dozens of songs Douglas has promoted – James Fortune’s “I Believe” and Earnest Pugh’s “I Need Your Glory” – are on the prestigious publication’s Hot Gospel Songs of the 2010s decade-end chart. Furthermore, one of the most viewed YouTube videos from a Gospel artist is from Black Smoke Music– Greg O’Quinn’s “I Told The Storm” has been viewed more than 50 million times. It is a testament to Douglas’ tenacity and creativity that he is able to consistently compete with major recording labels and give his artists top market presence.
Douglas has a drive for success that is rooted in his childhood. Raised by a single mother, he had to work hard for everything that he had. After a little time in college, Douglas began working as a car salesman. In order to attract more customers, he staged R&B and rap concerts in the parking lot. His sales doubled. Soon Douglas quit the dealership and began promoting R&B concerts fulltime. After a near death situation, he became a born-again Christian and decided to use his sales and marketing skills to build the careers of some of the Houston-based gospel artists he had met – and Black Smoke Music Worldwide was born.
The label’s first hit was the late Rev. E. Stewart’s “I Believe” project in 1997. From there Douglas signed Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson & the Spiritual Voices. They laid out a string of quartet-styled smashes including “Hide Behind the Mountain,” “Send A Revival,” and “Let Go and Let God Have His Way.” Douglas then dusted off Evelyn Turrentine-Agee’s 20-year old tune “God Did It,” remixed it and sent it out to radio. Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) cited it as the most played gospel song of 2000. Douglas has been breaking hits ever since.
Concurrently, Douglas created The Gospel Truth magazine which, at its height, had 250,000 regular readers and was an influential vehicle for launching the careers of independent gospel artists. Douglas later created another marketing masterpiece with Kerry Douglas Presents the Gospel Mix series of CDs that were the catalyst to breaking artists such as James Fortune & FIYA and Earnest Pugh. With nearly a dozen volumes produced, these sets have included now household names such as Tamela Mann, Le’Andria Johnson, and Jermaine Dolly.
James Fortune & FIYA would become the first contemporary gospel success story for Black Smoke Music Worldwide: the ensemble’s smash “I Will Trust You” spent 29 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart. That kicked off six number one hits for Fortune – including his current No. 1 hit, “I Am.” Douglas also discovered a retired military man who had tried to break into the music industry for years but never broke through a door until Douglas broke it down for him. That artist is Earnest Pugh, for whom Douglas muscled both “Rain on Us” and “I Need Your Glory” to the top of the charts for multiple weeks.
Continuing the hit making streak, Douglas’s signed new comer Pastor Mike Jr. debuting his album #1 on the Billboard charts in 2019 and having two consecutive hits, “Big” & “I Got It” that remained #1 on the Gospel Radio Charts for 4 weeks. Success did not stop there, Pastor Mike Jr. won 2020 New Artist of the Year Stellar award.
While Douglas formerly only promoted Black Smoke artists, over the last few years he’s taken on several artists for major labels. In 2018, Douglas gave gospel legend Bebe Winans the first No. 1 hit of his solo career with “He Promised Me.” Before that, he took Ricky Dillard & New G to the top of the charts for the first time with “Amazing” in 2014.
However, Douglas’ favorite thing is building an artist from scratch as he’s recently done with Birmingham’s Pastor Mike, Jr., New York’s Edwrin Sutton and also with the Indianapolis-based group, Demetrius West & the Jesus Promoters. This passion has led for him to have 8 ASCAP awards, 9 BMI awards, 1 BMI song writer award, and multiple Stellar Awards.
This passion lead Douglas to create another musical endeavor, Gospelmisradio.com & Spotlight Night with Kerry Douglas. Both ideas birthed during the COVID19 quarantine as an outline to help musicians and small business promote and advertise their upcoming projects via on an online radio format and social streaming. You name, Kerry creates a lane for promoting new artists in each fascist of the music industry.
Douglas loves his work. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been because I’m doing what I love,” he says. “Helping artists nurture their God-given talent and then helping them spread their musical ministries around the world is the best gift and I’m grateful that God has given me this mission in life.”
Houston, Texas-native, Lester Pace, is the Senior Vice President of Radio Promotions at Roc Nation. He began his career in the music industry as a disc jockey and radio personality at the local Houston radio stations, KTSU 90.9 and KBXX 97.9 The Box in the early 1990’s. Later, he met J. Prince, CEO and founder of Rap-A-Lot Records, who immediately hired Lester to the label where he worked his way up to the Southwest Promotions Manager. During his time at Rap-A-Lot, he helped break artists such as Geto Boys, Scarface, Hawk, Big Mike, and more.
After his tenure at Rap-A-Lot, Lester was given the Midsouth Regional Manager position with Interscope Records and later was promoted to the National Director of Promotions. Throughout his time at Interscope, Lester noticed that there was no support for independent artists to get the same radio and promotional opportunities as artists signed to big record companies. Thus, he started Setting the Pace Promotions in 1998 where he helped artists like Yo Gotti, D4L, Boosie, and others propel their careers. His success as an independent contractor led him to many record companies and labels beating on his door offering him a position. Though he had several options, he believed Roc Nation was more aligned with his purpose for Setting the Pace. Lester’s ongoing hunger, tenacity, grit, passion, and authenticity is why he has sustained a successful career in the industry where his name holds weight in any room.
Troy Marshall is President & CEO of Fire Marshall Entertainment (founded in 2012), and a longtime music executive. He has worked with a variety of major and independent labels and distributors over his 30+ year career: from MCA, and Universal-Motown, to Warner Bros., Global Music Group, Interscope, Empire, Hitco, and more. Marshall has become one of the go-to guys when labels or indie clients want to break an artist and a record. He has a vast knowledge along with a tireless hustle when it comes to navigating today’s music industry. Reinvention and maintaining relevance have been keys to his success.
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‘Indy Life: How To Break Without The Machine’ Panel at Radio One Presents The Music Meeting was originally published on blackamericaweb.com