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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Arrow Records, General Manager - Cappriccieo “Capp” Scates.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up partly in Chicago and also Los Angeles.  I’d go to school in L.A. where my mother was and then in the summer time I’d stay with my grandmother in Chicago.  My family is spread out between the two cities.  I claim both cities as my home because I’ve spent a great deal of time in both places.

Which one do you enjoy most?
It depends on what I want to do.  If I’m looking for the family friendly environment then obviously Chicago because I have more family there.  If I’m hanging out trying to have fun, and especially related to the music industry, in L.A. there’s far more activity than in Chicago.

After spending a good portion of your life in Chicago, what’s your perspective on the Chicago hip hop scene?
I can’t say that I know a whole lot about the Chicago music scene, but from what I gather from the people I know in Chicago, I get the impression that people don’t really work together on good terms with a network.  I’m speaking on Atlanta right now.  This is really a great place for Southern hospitality, as it’s definitely STILL in effect here in Atlanta.  It’s one of the biggest advantages to Atlanta as it relates to how the music community works together.  They really embrace each other.  If you’re good at what you do and you are who you say you are then you’ll at least have the opportunity to prove that.  They’ll say “Hey, there’s the door, come on in, let’s see what you can do, oh, so you’re a new artist?  Let’s work together.”  It’s something about the atmosphere (referring to Chicago) where people don’t really collaborate well together. If they did then it would do a great deal of good for the city.  It would bring more of a music atmosphere to Chicago.  

To get to where you are now professionally, what person or moment pushed that button inside of you and made you think this path was the one you’d take?
You know what’s interesting?  I actually started out as a drummer.  I went on to doing independent promotions as far as radio, retail, club, street promotions, working for Sony, Universal, Tommy Boy, Atlantic, Death Row, Maverick and a bunch of labels in the Virginia, D.C., Baltimore area.  From there, I had the opportunity to work for Ruffhouse/Columbia where I did national radio promotions dealing with (now defunct hip hop group) Kriss Kross, the Fugees and Cypress Hill.  I don’t think there was one particular moment, but I can think back to high school.  My cousin, John Harris, who actually worked for Stevie Wonder for his writing company called “Wonderiction”, in the Writer’s Quarters studio.  I’d go there some days after school and on the weekends to hang out with my cousin.  I remember Denise Williams would be there and other songwriters too.  Stevie Wonder would come by from time to time.  I think it was the opportunity to be in that environment that put the battery in my back, for lack of better words.  The thing about the industry that’s always so amazing and unique is that you’re always one record or one opportunity away.  I think the closer you get and the more that starts to happen, the playing field seems to draw even and your window for success gets bigger. 

(Capp is eager to acknowledge that his career has been an accumulation of great things, not just one ground-breaking moment.  More so, he’s had the proper guidance prior to approaching his professional endeavors.)  Capp continues:

I’ve had great mentors.  Pic Conley from the group Surface.  Nat Martin who actually worked at Warner Brothers as a Regional representative.  Bryan Calhoun at Sound Exchange.  Trevor Gale at SESAC.  Ernie Singleton, the former President of Urban Music for MCA.  There are a lot of people that came around at the right time.  Teddy Riley.  I worked for him for about 4 years and learned a lot from him.  All those people along the way really added those little things here and there that became the things I cherish the most. Those were the things that kept me encouraged and looking forward to another day, so I could work on being more successful and make a name for myself.  Also, to do something great to make a change in music. That’s been my prayer.  To effect a change in music.  You know, I’ve had a chance to work with song-writers which is really the greatest opportunity to effect a change in music, because you’re actually touching the future of music when you sit and talk to those writers.

How did you get into doing independent promotions for those previously mentioned labels?
I had a friend, James Smith.  I was in the U.S. Army.  I spent 6 years in the military and by the time I was about to get out of the military I started my business.  I had a friend in Richmond, VA and I was in Newport News, VA.  He was doing independent promotions.  I was managing artists at the time and shopping deals.  That can become frustrating.  It’s a real hard grind when you shop deals and try to get artists signed.  James suggested that I should do independent promotions too and that there’s good money in it.  I’d go to retail stores, barbershops and just pass out free Cd’s.  My response was skeptical at first, kind of like ‘Really???’  I said, ‘Tell me how you do it.’  He sent me his proposal.  I took his proposal and reconstructed my own based off of his and began submitting my proposal to various record labels.  The first opportunity I got was with a guy named Darryl Linsey, who was with Atlantic at the time.  Another guy by the name of Jimmie gave me a chance, realizing I hadn’t done much with commercials, but he still let me prove myself. He said, ‘I’ll give you some pieces and if you’re effective with it, we’ll put you on’.  I started working for him for FREE.  Darryl got that reference because he put me on.  I got my first check doing independent promotions from Darryl.  I had a chance to call him up after finding his info in an entertainment magazine. He couldn’t believe I remembered who he was.  I just wanted him to know, he has NO idea that he really changed my life.  
(Capp pauses for a moment)  

If I can go back; even Craig Kallmen at Atlantic.  Craig doesn’t know this, but if I ever meet him, I just want to shake his hand and say ‘Thank you’.  I sent him a letter and he responded by telling me that I could send him material.  That was one of those things that happened along the way that kept me encouraged.  Pretty much nobody else responded, or took my calls.  Craig’s letter kept me motivated, thinking that I CAN get this music out there and an A&R guy WILL respond.  I was able to go to major labels and set up accounts with a reference like Darryl and Jimmie.  That’s how I ended up with 20-30 accounts.  It was a period in time when I really got to learn the industry, understand the sentiments of the artists, what it means to be on a promotional tour, how important the retail people are and shaking hands with them.  All those things were lessons.

You mentioned working for Death Row Records and I was wondering if you, at any point, met and had a personal rapport with Suge Knight?
Actually, I did.  There was an event at Hampton University many years ago, probably 95-96, and I had to take Suge around when he was in Hampton,VA.  He was a really cool guy.  I remember passing out all these turkeys and t-shirts one day for a community-based food and clothing drive.  (In a joking tone) I have NO idea how many turkeys were delivered to the Death Row office.  I recall the first time Suge got in trouble and went to jail, I wrote him a letter telling him to keep his head up.  Saying, I don’t know what your situation is, and you hear all sorts of rumors about people, but I wanted to tell him through it all he’s done a lot of good.  He helped me keep my lights on many days.  With Death Row, I never had a problem.  The checks always came on time. You hear crazy stuff from people, but my experience was that Suge is an upstanding, good guy.

Have you ever developed personal rapports with any of the artists you’ve promoted?
At the end of the day, artists are just like regular people.  A lot of times, people treat the artist differently and that furthers the divide between the fan and the artist.  When the common person tries to relate to everyday things with an artist, that’s when it becomes an easy shift.  I’ve befriended many artists just by being like a regular person and treating them as such.  It’s really about having simple conversations with them, and not to be so much about ‘you’re this person and I’m that person’.  I’ve been around artists to the point where you forget who they are as a celebrity because you develop that sort of relationship. Until you go out with them to a restaurant and people start asking for autographs.  People often forget that at the end of the day they’re really humans just like us.

What do you do to step away from your everyday professional life?
That’s a real interesting question and I don’t have an answer for it.  Truth be told, I’m really focused on being successful and overall it’s been my prayer.  You know, effecting a change in music requires a lot of commitment and effort.  Ultimately, I’d like to retire at the age of 55.  Right now, I just work as much as I can at being the best I can be and when I get to that point where I can sit on the beach and do nothing, then I’ll do that.  For now, my focus is on music, educating myself, networking with more experienced people and being around that experience and knowledge is where I’m at.  I don’t feel like I have time for those moments to take those breaks, because I feel like I’m in a place that I want to be in.  I’m very happy doing things related to the music business.  I know it was what I was called to do.  A lot of people in life don’t know what their calling is, but when you discover what that is then it’s a whole new playing field.

You brought up retiring at an early age.  If you could do so, where would you travel to?
I’d love to travel without luggage.  Wherever I show up, if I don’t have a place to stay or the necessities then I’d buy them when I get there.  Of course, I’d love to travel the world. I’ve been to Japan and Cancun, Mexico and Canada.  When I was in the military I was stationed in Alaska.  I’d like to go to Brazil and those exotic places you hear about and experience the world from a different perspective.  You hear the about 8th and 9thwonders of the world and I’d like an opportunity to take all of that in.  Even go to Egypt.  Just put a map up and throw a dart at it.  Wherever the dart lands, that’s where I’ll go.  Something like that.  That’s where I see myself 10 years from now.

If you could start over tomorrow with a clean slate, is there anything you would do differently?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past few years has been to create an order.  An order of God, family and work.  I spent the majority of my career not really knowing that.  There’s just a lot more to the music.  There’s families, wives, husbands, children, dogs and cats.  You could have a number one record on the radio, then get a toothache and can’t go to the dentist because you don’t have insurance. They aren’t focused on maintaining it, more so just focused on getting it (“it” being profit and fame).  Getting it is not the problem.  You can attain anything in the world.  Anything created, you can have it.  For example, you could have a wife, mansion and family.  If you don’t maintain it, you get a divorce and have to foreclose.  So I’d focus on God first and then it’s family and work.  I set out in the music industry about 20 years ago with 3 goals.  #1) Be able to take my kids to Disneyland anytime they want.  #2) I wanted a record company tour jacket.  #3) I wanted to be able to call a record label and have someone answer who knows my name.  As shallow as it may seem, those were my goals. About 3 to 4 years ago, I went to the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA) and did an entire presentation for SESAC.  I went to the hotel later and cried like a baby, because I made this decision, but I made it on my own.  I called my son and mentioned going to Disneyland.  He said he’s 20 years old and doesn’t want to go to Disneyland anymore. When I finally got to a place in my life where I could afford to take my kids there, my kids didn’t want to go anymore.  They had their own dreams and aspirations.  Guess what, when nothing else matters, when you have no records on the charts, no platinum albums, and you have nothing, at the end of the day you still have family.

Describe your biggest challenge in your career to date?
Getting writers and artists to see that there’s much more to music than what they see. They’re so focused.  Like every writer or artist I meet, they’re talking about, “I’m trying to get a tour going.  I’m trying to go platinum.  I want to make it on MTV.  I’m trying to get into the BET Awards”.  Listen, I worked with some of the greatest talent this world has ever seen or heard.  Anyone from Meatloaf to Michael Jackson.  I can tell you the 2 things they both possess.  Humility and consistency.  If you’re humble and consistent, you’re going to get that (referring to those previous accolades). If you’re good and have those qualities, you’ll get what you strive for.  I tell the artists that they need to articulate their position, understand where it is they want to go, how to get there, how to surround themselves with the right people on their team to help get them there and then just execute.  A lot of people confuse effort with results.  You need to be result oriented.  Unfortunately, most artists are romanticized by their own talent.  The biggest fundamental issue for artists is that they want to be famous.  In that case, they get trapped in the “show”.  It catches up to them because there’s a little word “show” and a huge word “business” and most artists are attracted to the “show”.  It’s as if they don’t even see, or know the “business”. 

What’s your alternative profession, or second passion in life if it wasn’t music?
I would be an attorney and still be involved in the music industry.  I don’t think I’d get into criminal law.  Probably just civil matters and trying to help people by doing some community organized stuff.  I’m in the process of getting back into school now.

What was it like for you to become a published author back in October of 2004?
You know what man?  It didn’t even register with me at the time until a couple years ago when people wanted me to come speak at the Berkelee School of Music in Boston, or Georgia State School of Law.  From jump, I didn’t really recognize the accomplishment, but it was the idea of saying I’d sit down, do something and then complete it.  The only reason why I wrote a book was for selfish reasons in the beginning.  I wanted some of the accolades and wanted people to talk about me.  Now if I went to a restaurant, they wouldn’t pull out a table and make it for me, but if I show up with one of these artists I’ve worked with then they’ll create a table.  So I said, ‘you know what? I want some of this fame.’  I want someone to call me up and let me be a television analyst with them asking me what I think about the music industry and the Billboard charts, or call me from time to time for my perspective.  I was thinking, I’m going to write this book and it’ll be articulate, succinct and people will be surprised like, ‘you did all that???’ You’re the man!  I’d ask people to read the book and ask me questions. I thought they’d tell me how good it was, but they’d return telling me ‘Thank you’.  I wrote something that made them think differently about a situation they were in.  What I learned from writing that book, is that it has absolutely nothing to do with me.  It has everything to do with the gift I was given to give back to others willingly.  

So there’s a puddle on the ground.  I laid over it.  I let the artists walk over my chest, so they don’t get their feet wet.  When I stand up, nobody gives me a towel to dry off with.  I have to be cool with that.  I don’t need their towel.  When I humbled myself, everything I was trying to get from writing that book came to me.  Then I’d find myself sitting there, getting a phone call from Fox News saying they want me there.  They’d say ‘On in 10’ and I’m like, ‘Is this Live?  What do you mean?’  There’s a million plus viewers and you can’t retrace your steps if you say the wrong thing.  So I wondered if that was really what I wanted.  It’s not about me at all.  It’s about educating these songwriters and artists. When it comes to writing the book, it wasn’t what I thought it would be.  I’m focused on my order (God, family and work) and I’m glad now that I’ve been humbled to the point where now I get it.  I wrote the book with the wrong energy, but learned a great deal from the experience.  You can’t write a book without trying to help somebody else with your words.

At one point, you helped consult former Georgia Governor Sunny Purdue on the economic impact of music, film, entertainment, ect.  What was that like?
When you look at music and do the same with politics, you start to see how there’s so many different aspects that effect the bigger picture overall.  We were looking into getting incentives built around the television, music and film community, but there are so many components that are intricate.  You have the people on the set, the film crew, people flying into town, transportation from the airport, maybe somebody is sending flowers, there’s catering, ect...  You get a better view of the picture, realizing there’s a lot of moving parts.  It’s not only about ‘if Denzel Washington is in Atlanta’, but it’s about ‘if Denzel is in Atlanta, there’s a lot of stuff Denzel brings to Atlanta that adds value to the community.’  It’s a trickle-down effect where everyone benefits.  Something I was able to see was how the Governor and the Senators and House Representatives try to push their initiatives and position whatever they’re trying to usher through.  It makes sense if you can work with them in that capacity to get things done.  It’s a cool sort of marriage that way.  It doesn’t so much come down to whether you’re a Democrat, or Republican.  It really boils down to what your goals and interests are and how we can make things work for the betterment of all people involved.  I sincerely think that’s what most politicians are trying to do.  They’re trying to do something for the greater good of man.

Would you ever consider running for political office?
It’s been a thought of mine recently.  There are some things I’d like to get done.  I’m thinking along the lines of a local office.  As you get older mortality sets in and along with the fact that life doesn’t last forever. The only way to last forever is by touching the future. When I go to these schools and speak to the kids, I know if I can say something to a kid right now that impacts his/her life for the next 10 to 15 years, and it makes them want to teach their children what I told them, that’s the only way I’ll live forever.  There are certain things my grandmother taught me. Things I still think about now a days and though she passed away back in 1995, she still lives.  Through politics you can try to do things to change and add value to the community.  It wouldn’t be so bad to have a street named after me.

Describe your experience at Averett University while pursuing your M.B.A.
I’ll tell you, that experience was similar to being in the military as it relates to understanding the power of the human spirit. Of course, we learned to work together as a cluster that was later divided up.  The thing I learned most was that it didn’t matter what your background was.  It didn’t matter if you were Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, none of that man!  When we came there we all wanted to do one thing and that was to graduate.  We all wanted the education and we worked together finding the strengths that different people possess.  Me, I was better at presentations.  They’d lean on me to be the guy to put it all together in the end.  I had a better ability to do so than some other people in the team/cluster.  We had this other guy, Randall, who was so smart and I’d lean on him.  If there was anything I didn’t understand, I’d go to him and he’d break it down until it made sense.  Laurie was good with the administrative responsibilities.  She had things organized and worded everything properly.  Everyone had a particular thing they brought to the table and it all revolved around the human spirit.  The biggest lesson I learned was that we’d work towards a common goal as a group and go at it as hard as we could, and we may never see each other again afterwards.  I might not even come from their side of town, but when we get into that room we work as one.  (Back to the military analogy)  You come together with these people from all over the world.  You have a common goal, you get it done and you go home.  The human spirit is amazing when people come together to accomplish something.

Any advice you would give artists who are trying to get into the mainstream?
Artists think they’re the best at what they do, so it’s like they’re waiting for someone to come along and wisp them away.  Some artists say, “I’m looking for management.”  Don’t look for management.  Deal with people effectively and become relevant and when you’re relevant people find you.  Some of the same people I faced 3 years ago will call me on my cell phone and sometimes I get to thinking, “You don’t even know that you wouldn’t take my calls 3 years ago.”  I’m not going to say who, because I’m appreciative and humbled by the opportunity.  The reason why those people weren’t accepting my phone calls is because I wasn’t relevant.  So, I’d advise artists to learn the business, understand the importance of your brand. This business is more about a plan and less about the music.  There was a time when the guy with the cigar in the mouth and the suit on would say things like, “Hey, I want to sign you, put you with this act, put you with those dancers, doll you up and we’ll put you out there.”  That time is gone now.  The industry is about what’s on the television screen, the computer monitor, and the phone apps involving social media.  You have to perfect yourself in all realms of the music business and figure out how to make yourself relevant. The people you’re looking for will eventually find you.  When they go and find you then you have the edge.  So, get a great team around you.  Know that your value is more than just in the music.  Your value is a brand now. 

You just recently left your position as Senior Director of Writer/Publisher Relations for SESAC and joined allegiance with Arrow Records as the label’s General Manager.  It sounds like a great opportunity!  What are your new responsibilities?
Pretty much everything dealing with the day to day operations of the label.  It could be anything from meeting with attorneys, accountants, artists, doing A&R, reconciliation of accounts.  Anything along those lines is what I’m involved in.  I’m also meeting with I.T., marketing staff and I’m pulling all of those aspects together.

Which major label is Arrow Records affiliated to?
Arrow Records is currently distributed through Universal.

Since changing your professional environment what seems to be your most notable obstacle now that you’re working with Arrow Records?
It’s getting everything balanced.  There are a lot of moving parts and we’re trying to keep things moving like a well-oiled machine.

How do you plan on overcoming that challenge?
Just by being consistent and identifying what areas need to improve.  Whatever areas are strong, we just need to take advantage of those strengths.  The label is a global brand with a local imprint.  The label is owned by Dr. Creflo Dollar and Pastor Taffi Dollar.  We have 2 distinct brands.  One is called Arrow Records which is more along the lines of spiritual, gospel and inspirational.  Then there’s Arrow Soul Records which is secular overseeing the hip hop, rhythm and blues.  I could sign almost any artist, but they have to properly reflect the brand.  For example, I could sign Boyz II Men, but I wouldn’t be able to sign Gucci Mane.  The artist has to be consistent with the brand.

How did you make the transition from SESAC to Arrow Records?
I sort of felt like God was asking for a favor, related to the music industry and it really came down to a question.  The question was, if God asked you for a favor, no matter what it was, would you do it?  If he’s asking me; this little cat trying to keep his lights on, for a favor then I think I better take on that challenge.  It’s a great opportunity to effect a change in music and see things from a different seat in the room.  If you want to be with the L.A. Reid’s and Clive Davis’ of the world, there’s really only one Billboard Chart.  It’s great, not from an adversarial competitive perspective, but more so from just being in the game and being acknowledged by your peers at the highest level.  The chance was too good to pass up on.  It’s the chance to oversee all of these label aspects and feel like every success is your success.  You see your Billboard chart position and you could be at #9 with a bullet and there are a bunch of people under you, so obviously you’re doing something great.  You could go to #5 and move up to #1.  (Capp continues)  I met this kid before I left SESAC and he asked me a question.  He asked, “What cuss words can I say in my song that’ll play on the radio?”  I looked at him and said, “Why don’t you try to write a song without cuss words in it?”  He looked at me like, “That’s a noble idea.”
As far as cuss words go, what’s your perspective on the rampant use of the “N-word” being used in hip hop?
I think folks use it as a term of endearment in some regards, but honestly, I think there’s a negative connotation and overtone that’s attached to that word.  Quite frankly, I’d say we’re under attack with the music.  We, being the younger generation of artists, and I don’t think they necessarily see it.  If you just listen to the urban radio station and you hear what they’re talking about concerning women, degrading women, misogynistic discussions, all that ‘throwing money in the air’, cars and jewelry, and there’s not really any substance there.  I don’t know if that’s by coincidence. When you listen to some of the other radio stations you hear content where the songs are actually talking about something.  Not that I’m going to change the world, but I’ll certainly give it a valiant effort.  We can all remember songs that we’ve heard and we know the exact thing we were doing when we heard that song.  Every time we hear that song, we go back to that very moment.  I want to really create an experience with the music, because music is really missing it.  With Arrow Records, we have the opportunity to bring the experience back to music.

Why do you feel it’s not a “coincidence” as to why music with substance doesn’t get the air-play other music gets?
There are some destructive forces out there that don’t necessarily mean well towards certain demographics and communities.  Some of that goes without saying.  I’m not trying to point any fingers, but I think we can do an overall better job in terms of what we allow into our community, what we tolerate.  All of that becomes questionable when you listen to daytime radio and the 12 o’clock news and you hear the stuff you hear.  Then you wonder, “What? What’s going on? Who made that ok?”  Somebody somewhere has to stand up and say that there’s something that needs to be done about it by a different means.  For the most part, people will adhere to that, but there are occasions I’ve witnessed nobody saying anything about it.  Once you say something then someone else comes around like “Yeh, I was thinking the same thing and I’m glad you said something!” (Frustrated vibe)  I think we need a time-out for a lot of nonsense.  There’s some out right buffoonery going on these days.  It could be me getting older and more mature where those things start to make a difference.  As you get older, you want to make a lasting impact and do something greater than yourself.  I could’ve stayed where I was at with SESAC, been selfish and made more money because I had a counter-offer.  If I can be a voice in the music business (not as a singer), this is what I do.  When you look at all the great leaders who came before us, the agitators, the people who changed communities and the world in various regards, they all had their own approach.  Music is what I do.  

Based on your rapport with Arrow Records, do you see yourself staying with the label, or is it more of a stepping stone to something bigger?
I couldn’t have predicted my departure from SESAC.  It’s a great company.  I love that company and I still have friends from SESAC to this very day, even my ex-boss Trevor Gale.  I just know that God called me to do something and I stepped up to the plate. When I looked at my career and everything I’ve done, it was in preparation for this opportunity.  When I did national radio promotions at Ruffhouse it gave me an understanding of radio.  When I did street promotions, I learned all about that and the retail scene.  When I managed artists.  When I did publishing at SESAC.  When I had my own recording studio.  All of these various things culminated into this very opportunity.  I’m pulling all my skill sets together into one time and location to do this job effectively.  I’ve done marketing and created marketing plans so we’re clicking on all cylinders in those meetings.  When I’m meeting with my guy from the radio station, I’m tuned in (no pun intended).  I’m well-rounded.  It is what it is as a result of my career and everything I’ve done.  At one point, I thought I had to go to Sony or Universal to work for a label.  I’m a 100% committed to what I’m doing here.  This is what I’ve set out to do.  I’m more focused on Arrow Records becoming a major player than I am about leaving to go elsewhere.

Written and edited by:  Bill Oxford




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