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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wendy Day: The Rap Coalition Founder and Avid Fan of Hip Hop

     In the past 21 years Wendy Day has been a prime example of how someone can claim a prominent role in a cut-throat industry without selling their soul and giving up their core of decency as a human being.  She’s comes from a family that struggled to make ends meet, but still provided the best options feasible. Wendy knows what it’s like to be the outsider with good intentions and a greater heart. Accomplished and humble is her demeanor, but if you look at her resume you’ll notice a string of careers she’s affected in a positive way; a way that her humility won’t allow her to appreciate fully.  Not yet at least.  Greatness sometimes takes years to sink in before it hits you like a Mack truck.  Wendy Day has seen the world from the eyes of the more fortunate to those of the have nots, so it’s easier for her to accept critical acclaim whereas for others it’s not so simple.  She has the caring, giving, optimistic persona that thrives off knowing she’s played an intricate role in the success of those artists she’s reached out to and touched. If you’re a big name in the music business, chances are you’ve crossed paths with the one, the only Wendy Day.  A true ambassador for the rappers and the Hip Hop side of the music business, even though as the years have passed her musical tastes have varied.  Just as the currents of the ocean and the winds change, so do the ways to make a dollar with a strong entrepreneurial spirit.  That spirit pushes Wendy every day and all those close to her know she has the faith to see things through.      
Everybody who’s somebody in the music business knows who you are, but only a few know the roots of your being.  Give people a better idea as to where you grew up and what it was like for you.
I grew up in the 1970’s in suburban Philadelphia.  My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but they made sure my sister and I were placed in the best schools due to them knowing the importance of a solid education. I kind of felt like an outsider, because we didn’t have much money.  This played to my advantage because as life progressed this gave me the chance to get comfortable fitting in where I didn’t fit in.  For example, I’ve always been comfortable being a white female in a black male dominated Hip Hop scene.

You mentioned education, so I ask what is your opinion of America’s educational system and what would you do to improve the overall scheme of things?
The problem I see with the educational system is that it’s built off memory.  You give me “facts” as a teacher and I’m supposed to remember it all for a test.  It’s not based on learning, but more so recall and respond.  If I ran the educational system, which I don’t want to, but if I did then it would be more about teaching real world problem solving and life skills that apply to every day and not so much memorizing what year a war started.  I had a discussion with my sister about this and as children we were never taught how to balance a check book or invest money properly to turn it from 10k into 20k.  My sister and I have the entrepreneurial spirit and don’t work a 9 to 5. We realize that the educational system was designed to prepare you to find a job making someone else money.  The economy’s terrible and it’s hard to survive under that type of structure, so there are more entrepreneurs around today. 

Who were your biggest influences aside from family while growing up?
Even though I was a TV baby raised sitting in front of the TV watching sitcoms, I had a group a good friends to surround myself with. It wasn’t until I reached college age when I embraced other personal influences because in high school I never really studied.  When I was in college I took school seriously and I had this amazing professor of Western Civilization who for the first week of class had us take notes on all these “facts” she told us.  The next Monday, we came into class and she had a pop quiz for us on the information she gave us the week prior.  Before we got the tests results back, she admitted to us that all the “facts” she told us before was all bullshit. She noticed and told us that not one of us raised our hand and questioned what was being taught.  Her lesson in doing that was to always question authority.  Even if it’s someone with the title of teacher you should still research what’s being taught and make sure the things going into your head are the seeds of true knowledge and not just someone’s perception of what really happened.  This lesson was so eye opening to me at a young age and it let me know it was ok to question authority.
You’ve been a music business consultant for some of the biggest names in the industry, so what’s some of the best advice as a consultant that you would give to an indie artist coming up in the game?
Learn the business inside and out.  This music business has a very low barrier when it comes to entry, meaning you don’t have to have an education or a degree.  Pretty much anyone that wants a career in the music business can get in, but it’s about longevity.  It’s important to realize that all the stuff you see on BET, MTV and WorldStarHipHop aren’t needed to get into the spotlight.  Sometimes the labels sweeten up the story.  It’s an industry that takes a lot of work and isn’t based on talent and luck.  Some artists as they grow up are under the assumption that if they have a gift for rapping and/or singing, that somehow it automatically qualifies them for a shot in the music business.  The industry doesn’t work that way, because it’s almost like 10% talent and 90% grind and work ethic.  Learn everything that goes into the music business and find out early on if you’re really willing to invest all the time and money.  What I see is that most artists are broke and it’s like a cruel joke when you come into the industry with no money and it takes money to record and market your product and image.  The industry is a very unforgiving entity and it can be very tough for some of these artists without a budget or investor behind them.

What do you consider to be a “fair” record deal now verses the early 90’s when you started?
I think today’s typical record deal is a 360 deal which I’m not a big fan of.  The 360 deal is when the label gets a percentage of all your avenues for revenue.  That includes show money, sales money, endorsements, your film and TV endeavors, merchandising rates, your publishing to name a few.  It’s almost like the record label partners up with the artist and takes a share of all the artist’s income streams.  The problem I have with that is the major label doesn’t invest enough in money and resources to warrant that outrageous cut. They can take anywhere from 15-50% of your show money, but they don’t help you book and promote your shows and I don’t like that. I don’t see why an artist can’t just do it on their own with a loyal team, because there are enough people out there to work with or to hire for promotions.  There are videographers, studios, street teams that excel and are affordable, so in the end there’s really no reason for an indie artist to stress about getting signed to major label.  It’ll get to a point where major labels will be close to extinct because more artists will learn how to do all the necessary things to be successful; all the things a major label would’ve done for them 20 years ago.
What does it feel like being a strong and influential woman in the music business?
First of all, I love ya for that!  That felt great for my ego!  I don’t really look at myself like that unless someone tells me I am.  There are so many things I want to accomplish in the music business that I haven’t even touched on yet and I tend to focus on the things going on and not so much what I’ve already achieved. Thank you for the compliment, but I truly feel like I’ve only accomplished 10% of what I’ve set out to do.  I think educating a couple generations of artists in the music business has been my best achievement.  Prior to my involvement, artists seemed to take whatever deal was thrown at them.  Now they are more knowledgeable about what’s best for them.        

What’s some advice you’d have for the women in the world, not just in the music business?
Don’t ever accept being treated like a second class citizen.  Build your self-esteem and strength, and do what you know is right. Second piece of advice is, don’t fuck in the industry!  It’s an emotional and creative industry that isn’t set up to be a dating zone and sometimes young women in the industry get sucked into that where they think they’re building a relationship with someone, but they’re really not and they end up hurt.  To the women in the music business, learn all the aspects and not just what you specialize in. Definitely work towards being the best at what you do and become very skilled in your lane. One of the reasons why I’ve been able to stay relevant for so long is that I learned how all the jobs needed to be done from negotiating contracts like a lawyer, to managing artists, promoting artists like a street team would, to doing radio promotions and publicity to name a few skill sets.  You can learn as much as possible and not just stick to one lane.
Give me one situation where you felt overwhelmed, but overcame it to shine brighter.
The Cash Money Records situation was probably the most challenging, because I worked nine months for them for free and helped them go from a decent company to a great brand name.  I was in the process of shopping them a deal and we were about to finalize the deal with Universal.  Cash Money decided they could save money by not paying me for my services and the attorneys provided to negotiate the record deal.  We ended up suing them and the lawyers got their cut first because they were more necessary to the process than I was.  I remember feeling very helpless and frustrated because it took like 3 years to get it through the legal system, but I never gave up and stopped doing what I was doing in the music industry.  I did a lot of work for Cash Money and they didn’t see the value in me which was very hard for me to handle.  I finally received my settlement for 150k, which was what Cash Money was making to do a 2 hour show.  Believe, the irony wasn’t lost on me.
What’s one thing in life you’d like to do, but haven’t done yet?
I think it would be amazing being American and living in a foreign country.  I don’t know which place I’d go to first, maybe Africa, China, or somewhere in Europe.  I would have to wait until my mother passes away, because I wouldn’t want to be that far away from her until then.  The overall experience and cultural education would be priceless.  It’s a way to look at America through non-American eyes and to see how others view us.  It would be different because in America we’re so focused on what we possess.  When I lived in Montreal Quebec, they’re more focused on family, relationships and friendships as opposed to materialistic needs.  Going elsewhere like that would be the perfect reality check.

So you gave up everything to start the Rap Coalition and that’s a huge sacrifice to make for a higher purpose.  What else is it about you that makes you unique from the pack?
I like the fact you mentioned that I gave up everything!  I did and it was tough.  That was when I was 30 years old and I decided I would try it for a few years and if it didn’t work then I’d just find another job doing something else. Giving up everything never really crossed my mind.  It’s like being at a poker table and you put all your chips in the center of the table and call.  For me, that’s what it was like because I really believed in what I was doing.  Part of what sets me apart from the rest is that I’m about seeing other people around me do well and succeed when a lot of people are about “me, me, me”.  I share helpful information freely instead of keeping it from people who need it.  I have a share mentality, not a hoarder mentality.  I’m still able to do my best for clients even when there’s no real value in the situation for me.  If I’m negotiating a deal for an artist I manage and I know the deal on the table is atrocious, I’m not going to push the artist into signing the deal because I need a new car or need to pay a mortgage.  I do what’s best for the artist/client.  I don’t know too many people that think that way.  Too many people are all about their own needs and doing things to benefit themselves.  I worked with lawyers who would push me to get artists signed to bad deals and I’d argue with the lawyers about it.  Some lawyers would argue that they’ve worked 100 billable hours and that the artist better sign the deal, then I’ll look at the lawyer like you’ve got to be kidding me!  Are you serious?  That deal is terrible!  Some of them are more concerned about self than the artist possibly signing a deal that could destroy their dreams and livelihood.  

When you came up with the Rap Coalition why did you call it the Rap Coalition and not the Music Coalition?  What is it about Rap verses other genres?
I started listening to Rap in 1980 and I didn’t start working in the music business until 1992.  I looked at the Rap Coalition as a vehicle of appreciation for the pleasure that Rap artists had given me throughout the past years.  What attracted me to the music was the energy, passion and delivery of the artists. My passion for the music has been so strong that’s all I would listen to from my 20’s to my early 40’s.  It’s not so much like that anymore because I’ve changed and so has the music made.  When I started the Rap Coalition I didn’t consult only Rap artists as I’d also represent a couple Rock n Roll and Pop artists, and a few Country artists.  Rap was always number one to me.  I’m on my 21st year for the Rap Coalition and the primary focus is set on artists, DJ’s and producers.
Since Tupac was the first member of the Rap Coalition’s Board of Advisors, I was wondering why him?
Tupac was actually someone I met when I lived in New York and I really didn’t like him much.  He came across as an arrogant, opinionated asshole.  When I found out someone tried to kill him, at the time I had direct access to the Nation Of Islam due to working on a few projects for them.  I called the Minister’s son in Chicago and I asked him if he could send the Fruit of Islam to come and protect Tupac 24-7 until he went to prison because it was obvious someone tried to kill him when he was shot at the recording studio. Tupac wrote a letter to me thanking me for making that call.  I wrote him back with a bit of an attitude.  I didn’t really appreciate him. In my letter to him I said that a lot of the problems he has are brought upon by him. When he wrote me back I was assuming he’d insult the heck out of me, but he thanked me for my honesty.  He told me that a lot of people couldn’t understand him and tolerate his realness.  I was very impressed by his level of acceptance of responsibility for his actions. He told me where I was correct about him and where I was wrong instead of telling me off, and I respected that a lot.  That all made me want to get to know him better, so the whole time he was incarcerated in Clinton Correctional he and I were writing back and forth.  I was able to understand him as a person aside from the music.  It was like a complete 180 as he would win me over as a human being.  His advice to me as a young white woman in a black male dominated industry is that I was going to need to be co-signed by successful people.  If you want to be taken seriously, you can’t just win people over based on your accomplishments in a world where co-signees matter so much.  Tupac told me that he’d co-sign for me anytime and anywhere because he saw my heart and who I am as a human being; also I gave him some great advice on improving his career.  He knew I needed a Board of Advisors and told me to make him the first one.  Chuck D of Public Enemy was contacted soon after.  Once I had Tupac and Chuck D aboard in early 1996 that opened up so many doors for me.

What are your intentions and expectations with your endeavors such as A Scratchy Throat, and The Knowledge to Succeed series?
A Scratchy Throat is a social media marketing company that I started with my partner Tony Guidry in May 2012.  It was founded out of frustration built up from our clients going to other companies saying they’d provide those services at a high level, but fall through on their end of the deal.  Tony with all his incredible expertise in digital internet marketing combined with my skill sets will see A Scratchy Throat become the prominent site industry people refer to for their overall needs.  The Knowledge To Succeed is a series of nine books that I’m only one book into completing, so I have a lot of work to do on that.  Since everything is going digital and I don’t want to deal with warehousing and physical distribution, I’ve decided that series will be available primarily in digital form with the option to buy in-print. is a new site intended to provide a know-how in the music and entertainment industry for artists, musicians and entertainers to learn the ins and outs of their career choice.
How do you want to be remembered when the curtain closes?
I’d like to be remembered as someone who cared enough about Rap music and Hip Hop to the point where I actually gave back.  I’ve set the bar for people who want to work in the industry and not be fake.  I’ve shown that you can be a decent person in the music industry and still make a living within it.  It’s very hard to find someone who doesn’t like me based on a real premise.  There are many people out there that don’t like me, but haven’t met me and don’t know me.  Maybe they thought I should get them a record deal and I didn’t because I didn’t believe in their music. Nobody can honestly say I fucked them over and there are slim pickings in the music business where you can say that about them. I’m very proud of not having to be grimy to make a dollar in the industry.  

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