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Detavio Samuels is the new CEO of REVOLT, a hip-hop-focused media company founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs. In this episode, he talks about the opportunities and challenges that rose when the Black-owned company made a shift toward social justice. He reveals what it’s been like to run a cable network amid the explosion of online content, giving a sneak peek of the exciting things that the company is working on. Detavio also shares how he establishes himself as a leader with Diddy as the chairman.
If you work in media, entertainment, music, or in any of the related fields, here’s an interesting episode for you!
[03:08] Why Detavio jumped ship from his previous company to Revolt
[05:50] How REVOLT combines hip-hop culture with the Black Lives Matter movement
[12:08] The challenges of launching a cable network that offers black content
[17:32] On REVOLT’s digital content and most important metrics
[19:40] A preview of “The Crew League” Season 2 and the other projects that Revolt has planned for the rest of the year
[27:00] What Diddy and Combs Enterprises President Tarik Brooks are like as leaders
[29:55] The magic of being in the right place at the right time with the right people
[34:30] REVOLT aims to set a different standard for what already exists
[38:35] On the company’s plans to get into podcasts and the studio business
Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo.
Dan: Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. You’re about to listen to a conversation that I think is a must listen to for anyone that works in media, entertainment, music, or any of those connected fields. I talked to Detavio Samuels who is the CEO of Revolt. Detavio joined the company in 2020 and became the COO and then, a year later, was promoted to the CEO position. We talked about a number of topics. We broke down Revolt’s position as a black-owned media company and some of the opportunities that it has as a company but also some of the challenges too. Detavio brings us behind the scenes with some of that. We also talk about some of the pivots that Revolt made last year as well. For years, Revolt focused mostly on hip-hop content, but shortly after George Floyd’s murder and the uprisings that happened with the Black Lives Matter movement, there was much more focus on social justice so we talked about that decision from a business perspective but also from a platform perspective and how he’s led the effort in that area too. Revolt itself, though, as a business, is at a very interesting juncture. You have this rising digital content company that has some great shows and we talked about a number of those, including The Crew League, the upcoming show, Off Top, and more, but there’s also this cable side of the business that has had its struggles and Diddy himself has talked openly about that and Detavio brings us behind the scenes to talk about what it’s like to run a cable company in 2021 and some of the challenges they face there. We also talked about leadership and how Detavio himself has been able to establish himself as a leader at Revolt but also how it’s been navigating that landscape when there is this larger-than-life figure like Diddy that is the chairman and how he’s both been able to learn from him but able to establish his own place in the company too.
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Here’s my conversation with Revolt CEO, Detavio Samuels.
Dan: All right. So we got Detavio Samuels here who is the CEO of Revolt and I feel like I’m now hitting the trifecta with the Revolt-Combs Enterprises. Had Tarik Brooks on here last year, had Lynzie Riebling, so now we’re three for three.
Detavio: Yeah, man, that’s a good squad. We’ve got a good squad and it sounds like you’re talking to all the right people.
Dan: Definitely, definitely. Well, congrats to you. I mean, you had joined the company a little over a year ago, you were recently promoted to CEO, which is exciting just given all the momentum happening, but I’m curious of that decision to join Revolt, because you had a pretty good job at Interactive One, you were president there, leading things. What made you wanna jump ship?
Detavio: Yeah, it’s a good question. Let’s see, there’s probably two big drivers of why I ended up leaving. One, you know, in full transparency, I’ve become disheartened by black media. The more I was learning about the business model and understanding what we now will talk about is the systemic racism that exists in the machine, I was growing, every day, I was becoming increasingly disheartened about the chances for black-owned media to succeed and thrive and so part of this was this was kinda like my last shot at being in black media, to be honest. I personally fundamentally believe that the future of media is influencer, right? I believe that the world cares more about Puff and Cardi B and will.i.am than they do about ABC, CBS, and MTV and I believe that the followings that Puff, Cardi B, and will.i.am have are larger and more engaged than the followings you all see on those other networks that I named so, for me, I was seeing the future of media as influencer. The fact that Revolt has a global icon and one of the world’s biggest influencers in the world on it is what made me make this bet, right? One last bet with an influencer. If it can’t happen here, it can’t happen anywhere, right? So that was one big piece. The other big piece of it, to be honest, is my father passed in February of last year and really amazing dude, you know, I say all that just to say I’m sitting in his funeral and I’m watching how people talk about my father and, for the first time, I’m able to draw a straight line between his work, which was stepping into white-centered spaces and championing black people and black culture in the world of academia, I’m able to draw a direct line from that to what I do, which is walk into white spaces and champion black people and black culture in media. And at the time at iOne, I won’t say I was settling at all but I was definitely not like on the offensive, you know? Like you can tell the difference between how you’re moving and I definitely wasn’t on the offensive like I may have been when I first got there and seeing that the fact that my father did this fight all the way up until the end, I don’t think he retired until maybe 18 months before he passed, kind of lit a new fire inside of me like, “Why am I slowing down? Why am I being comfortable?” and so it also was just a phenomenal way to extend and carry on my father’s legacy, which is a new thing that’s important to me. So, all of those things brought me to Revolt and it’s been a heck of a ride so far.
Dan: That’s inspiring. No, that’s a great story and I just can see the passion and the connection for you with that. And in terms of that like fire and that momentum, what does that look like at Revolt? I know that you’ve been there, you were in the COO position, now you’re the CEO, but like how have you been able to carry that fire with you?
Detavio: Yeah, look, it’s literally the perfect storm. So, what I’ll say is like the fire is needed. Sometimes, you see an opportunity, like, “Oh, I need to light this on.” Sometimes, it’s like, no, we need fire here so you take the combination of our chairman and the energy he is on. Sean Combs wakes up every day trying to figure out how to make things better for black people. You take the moment that we’re in, post George Floyd, with the death of George Floyd, he absolutely changed the world and he changed the conversations that we’re having and now it feels like it could be some sort of like an inflection and a tipping point and then you take this really amazing brand that we have at Revolt, which sits at the intersection of hip-hop culture, which is absolutely driving global culture, as well as social justice and it’s, you know, I’m grateful every day that I got to walk into — God’s positioning and timing is so amazing and I’m grateful that I got to walk into it in this moment and so now, honestly, I didn’t do anything but be myself, all the things that I care about. Let’s go change the world for black people. Let’s go change the world for black creators. Let’s not just cover the news and cover the media but let’s be an active player in this fight for black liberation. All of those things are needed and we get to do all of them at Revolt and so, every day, it feels like you wake up with tremendous purpose. It feels like every day we wake up, we have a chance and an opportunity to move and shift culture and so the fire stays lit because the moment requires it, which is super dope.
Dan: And I think it was important for someone like you to be in that position when you came, right? Because a few months after you joined was when everything happened after George Floyd’s murder and I think, at that point, you had spoken about this in other interviews where the company did do a very focused shift towards, “We’re not just gonna cover hip-hop, we need to be more encompassing. We’re gonna expand our base, cover the social justice. We know that we might take a hit from some advertiser but this is what the work is that’s important,” and I think that needs bold leadership that’s willing to do that and, obviously, that’s part of what drives you and why you’re in that position in the first place.
Detavio: Yeah. I’ll say, you know, first of all, Revolt is on fire like I’ve never seen before. Part of that winning streak, you know, that we talked about is that we literally watched our audience double in social media and in the digital spaces. We would attribute a lot of that to that pivot that you talked about, you know? Prior to the death of George Boyd, we were really light on social justice content. We weren’t doing that much of it. Again, seizing that moment. Revolt could only do one thing which was lead a revolution. The question was, which revolution should we lead? I joined on June 1st, George Floyd died late May. Soon as he died, I jumped in with the team and we made a pivot towards 100 percent social justice for that time period and it fundamentally changed the DNA of the company. We found purpose, we found our soul, and the audience absolutely responded and so we are committed to that fight. Being in the fight for social justice is 100 percent now part of our magic and part of our DNA. The audience is responding and now brands just get it and, you know, I was in a conversation the other day with a major player in the media space talking to all the people who buy media and they were talking about, “Well, what do you say to brands who are concerned about brand safety and don’t wanna be around your social justice content?” and my answer was, “Then you should go find somebody else to partner with,” right? Like this is who we are, we’re not gonna take our foot off the pedal, we care about our community more than we’re gonna care about the money, and we know that if we do what’s right for our people, the money will come and what’s right for our people is for us to be deep in this battle for social justice with them.
Dan: And I would also think that from everything that happened last summer too, there was a bit of a shift in that mentality, right? Because I think a lot of people had that same perception that, “No, don’t talk about social justice, don’t talk about these things, the dollars will dry up,” but I think we just saw so many brands that were vocal, brands I didn’t even think about that would put out a statement that did and it was good to see. I would think that that then lends itself to you all being able to double down on that effectively with the right people.
Detavio: Yeah, so what I’ll say is prior to George Floyd, nobody, nobody wanted to be around social justice content. Post George Floyd, has there been movement? Absolutely. Is it 100 percent of brands and 100 percent of advertisers? Definitely not. But has there been significant movement? Absolutely. One of my favorite case studies is State Farm. State Farm was one of the first to come on and be a real partner with Revolt in a very real way and they did it around Revolt Black News, which, for a lot of people, would be uncomfortable and I think it was uncomfortable for State Farm as well. However, their commitment to the community, their commitment to what Revolt thought was important for our community was broad. It was bigger than that, right? And so, you know, we’ve worked out some things and worked out some kinks so that everybody can feel comfortable but just seeing that there are brands like State Farm who are extraordinarily conservative but are willing to step up and partner with a company like Revolt is a testament to them, first and foremost, but it’s also a testament to how much some of this stuff has actually moved over time.
Dan: Right. And with a brand like State Farm, specifically, given how much they’ve benefited from partnering with culture, all this stuff, the translation is done with them with Chris Paul, Cliff Paul, and the Steph Curry and stuff like that, I’m like, “You all can’t be silent now when you’ve benefited so much from this,” so I’m glad that they stepped up.
Detavio: Yeah, look, I’m always one of those people that’s like if brands don’t step up, like I’m the first one to call you out but I will also be a champion of the brands that do and as it relates to Revolt, State Farm has absolutely stepped up. They’ve been great partners.
Dan: That’s good. That’s good. So, switching gears a bit to the business side of things, I also feel that this has just been an exciting time for you to be leading a company like this in digital media and I think there’s just so much that Revolt has done there, but I also know from the other side of the business, you also have this cable business that I feel like in some ways was challenged just based on the timing of when it launched and I know that Diddy himself has been quite open about just some of the systemic roadblocks that have been there. How has that been navigating both sides of the business?
Detavio: Yeah, that’s a phenomenal question. So, what we’re doing right now is absolutely making an aggressive move to expand our digital footprint. We know that that’s where our audience lives and breathes. That said, we also recognize that one of the things that makes us extremely unique and differentiated in the marketplace is the fact that we do have a cable network, it’s the fact that we do have distribution in that way, right? Not only are we the only definitive brand for the culture globally, but we’re the only brand definitive for the culture with a distribution platform on cable so it makes us unique, but you’re 1,000 percent right in terms of the challenges that we’re up against on that side. So, we’ll talk about it in this way. First and foremost, the distributors have to be able to put Revolt on their cable boxes, right? And when you look at it today, Revolt is in 50 million households. How many households are there? 100, 110, right? So that shows you that half of the people still aren’t even giving our people access to our content because they’re unwilling to pay. Even in the 50 million plus homes that we’re in, they’ll put us on such a high tier that black people actually have to pay more money to get access to black content, which is a problem, and so then you’re up against, you know, so now you’ve got limited distribution against what other people have, like the Viacom platforms, the VH1s, the BETs, the MTVs, right? You’ve got limited scale, but then they want you to get measured via Nielsen metrics. Well, Nielsen metrics cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, and so, you know, the issue that we were up against was advertisers didn’t wanna pay unless you were Nielsen rated. Why am I paying to be Nielsen rated when the distributors aren’t even giving me all the coverage I deserve? Even when they do do it, a lot of them are giving me terrible standing and terrible tiers. So you want me to pay to show people that I only have half the distribution, right? That I should have and that’s the only way for me to make money. So, anyways, the system has absolutely been broken. What is being — what I’m watching be reconciled is the advertising side of it. They’re no longer demanding ratings, they understand our cultural influence, and so they’ve come an extraordinarily long way. The distributors, we still have tremendous problems. Find on MVPD with five black-owned cable networks on it, you won’t. You’ll find 50 Latinx, you’ll find hundreds of general market. Find me one with two or three black-owned cable networks. So, again, I’ll champion the people who show up for us, the AT&Ts, the Comcasts, the Charters, right? Those people have shown up in a real way but there’s a lot of them. Cox and Altice still don’t carry us and there’s tons of black people in their regions, right? And so that has been a struggle and continues to be a struggle.
Dan: Yeah, I could see that and I think that it’s probably just also challenging too, you mentioned so many of the strong Latino, Latinx channels like Univision, that is such a huge company that has had such a strong foothold for a while and Telemundo, like there are many platforms there. For you all, it’s like, no, like there are other opportunities besides BET or Byron Allen, besides those, but it’s like there’s more opportunities there and so I know that even though it is a slightly different audience that you may be hitting there as opposed to the digital audience that, you know, very much that generation hip-hop that you all are focused on, there still is value there and it is frustrating to see and I remember reading Diddy’s op-ed on that and then hearing you speak about this, it’s just like, damn, like the cards really are stacked.
Dan: Yeah. Look, I had a conversation with the CEO at one of the companies last week and they just refused to carry us. Now, mind you, what they would have to pay for us is probably 1/100th of what they’re paying for ESPN and ABC so the price isn’t even that high and so it’s incredibly disappointing to be in this moment in time where the world, for the first time, feels like there’s a bit of centering blackness where Revolt is creating content that is delivered, like Revolt Black News is giving them information, education, the things that they need, and it’s incredibly disheartening to walk into these rooms and CEOs look at you and say, “No, I can’t afford the two pennies to put you on. Meanwhile, I’m paying dollars,” you know what I mean, “to these other people,” it’s extraordinarily frustrating and that side of the business, we have to find a way to fix. Advertisers, again, they’re not perfect but you can see tremendous movement. The MVPD side feels incredibly broken to me right now.
Dan: Right, like you report the carriage fees are not that high, right? And —
Detavio: It’s not that high.
Dan: — there are other companies out there that I’m sure get less pull that aren’t necessarily, you know, hitting the same type of challenges so —
Detavio: That’s exactly right. In fact, they’re probably increasing the price they’re paying for them, right? So it’s bad for us so either you are ignoring us and we’re not there so black people can’t get access to the content or, when we are there, you put us on such a high tier that black people have to pay more to get it. That is a broken system. Something’s wrong.
Dan: Right, I agree. I agree. I do think on the good side, though, and where the excitement of these, the trajectory is from the digital side. I feel like there have been some exciting things and even just the combination of both content and commerce there. You have the content and we’re gonna talk about The Crew League in a second because I’ve been watching those, I think those are awesome, but then the Revolt Summit too, I think that is just a good celebration and a recognition of a lot of the conversations, even some of the tense ones that I think are important for people to be able to have.
Detavio: Yeah. Yeah, look, the content that the team is dropping right now is so phenomenal. We’ve made a tremendous pivot in terms of our content development strategy and it’s paying off. Look, you know, Revolt, again, most black-owned media companies are operating out of scarcity so we have two pennies to rub together. That said, we’re basically trending every single weekend between — if it’s not The Crew League, it’s Respectfully Justin. If it’s not Respectfully Justin, it’s Drink Champs. The work that the team is putting out right now, regardless of how small our pockets are, is touching the culture and that’s all that matters to us.
Dan: And in terms of the success of those brands, you know, whether it’s Drink Champs or it’s The Crew League, what are the metrics that you’re measuring? Because, of course, there’s the objective things everyone can see, whether it is views or engagement or virality, but what are the most important metrics for you?
Detavio: Yeah, so, you hit it. Number one is we’re just big on engagement, right? You’re sitting in the middle of a constant explosion where millions of pieces of content are dropping every second and you need to know that you broke through, right? So that’s number one. Number two is, again, what makes Revolt different is we are a cultural brand and so the other thing we’re just measuring who from the culture is taking notice. A lot of that is a pool thing, right? So, okay, The Crew League is out, who’s calling to be on season 3? We’ve got some big names that are calling, right? Respectfully Justin is out. Who’s calling, like, “Yo, that last episode,” and you want the people but you want the influencers of the culture to be paying attention and taking notice as well and so that’s the other thing that we look at. We break through this ridiculous content explosion and the people who move culture and drive culture, do they wanna be a part of it? Did they see it? Did they recognize it? Did they love it? If we do that piece, then we know we’re on to something.
Dan: And I could see that from The Crew League, specifically, from who you had in season 1, who you had in season 2, and even the way it’s scripted, like you can tell this is something that was tailor-made for social media and tailor-made for that type of engagement, right? People wanna see Russ and Jack Harlow or whoever else like go at each other, right?
Detavio: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Yeah, yeah, 100 percent right and I think we’ll be, you know, the talent has been amazing. We’ll probably be able to level it up a little bit as we step into season 3, and I think even season 1 was literally built that way a little bit more. That’s why you have people like Kid Laroi, right, cast and had that YouTube kinda flow, trying to bring them in. So now like, look, the League is extraordinarily interesting. This season looks good, it’s fun. I think people will be excited to see who makes it to the championship and, again, just proud of the work that the team is doing. I should also say we have tremendous partners on the other side of The Crew League. Elie and Jordan who are ex-employees of Puff’s so I don’t know, you know, I don’t know how many people know but there’s this tremendous family story where Elie and Jordan used to work with Puff, now we’re all in business together with The Crew League, the world’s first hip-hop basketball league and so that’s also quite a nice story for us as well.
Dan: Nice. That ties it all together.
Detavio: That’s exactly right.
Dan: And I feel like, in general, this is something that people have been asking for. I remember myself, I’d went to NBA All-Star Weekend a couple years ago, it was down in LA and Adidas had this event where they had a bunch of rappers playing five on five against each other. It was like Wale, it was Chris Brown, Snoop was there and it was like this should be videotaped and this should be content itself, not just for the people that got invited to this thing.
Detavio: Yeah, I think that’s right, right? We had Rock N’ Jock back in the days when we were a little bit younger so there’s been this kind of hints at this thing. I think what makes The Crew League special is this idea that it’s not random — it’s not rappers randomly being cobbled together. What makes The Crew League special is it’s the rapper who gets to pick their team so it’s the rapper and their brother and their security guard and their cousin which allows people to bring a different type of fight to the game and it just ultimately gives you a bunch of different bragging rights, right? When you’re cobbled together randomly, it’s like, “Oh, someone says that.” No, this is your team. You put your team up against x, y, and z, right? And so there’s a different level of pride, there’s a different level of bragging rights, but the show is extremely exciting. Literally, we’re trying to figure out, you know, most people don’t do three seasons in a year and that’s the big question for us, like should we come back with The Crew League with another season this year? It’s performing phenomenally so we’ll see.
Dan: Nice. Any names you can announce for season 3?
Detavio: No. There’s a huge name that I wish I could but because the paperwork isn’t signed and I don’t wanna blow anything up but, you know, we brought big names out for season 2 and I feel very confident that the team will be able to deliver the same for season 3.
Dan: Nice. That’s great. That’s great. So, what are some of the other programming and content that you have ready for the rest of the year?
Detavio: Yeah, so, you know, we’d — at Revolt, we’re just trying to play the game differently so most people in cable will operate on a kind of like a fall, right, September release, January winter schedule. We’re just trying, like we move with the culture so we’re just trying to drop hits every single month so you’ll see some stuff come back, Fat Joe Show should come back in Q3, but I’ll tell you some of the, you know, two of the projects that I’m the most excited about that we’re working on right now. One is a show called Off Top and so Off Top is a rap video countdown show so reminiscent, maybe some folks who might remember Rap City back in the day and MTV had several Yo! MTV jams, right? People have had rap countdown shows. Those haven’t existed for a very, very long time so we’re gonna bring it back. We’re happy to announce that we’ll have Big Tigger and Rapsody as our host, which is super dope so Big Tigger gets you that nostalgia from back in the days when we used to do countdown shows and Rapsody just, you know, to be honest, women in hip-hop are crushing right now and so — and, you know, and not just crushing because they’re beautiful or attractive, like they got bars, like Rapsody has bars and so she for us just represents the future, the future being women with dope lyrics and dope capability and so excited to have that show come back. We don’t have the basement or anything like that but we have people doing these freestyle performances. We have a creative director named Dunnie who is brilliant, has a really amazing eye, and so I think what we’re gonna do is elevate with these kind of freestyle performances look like in the market and should be super dope. And then the other thing that we’re working on is with an amazing young black man named Tarzann, @therealtarzann on IG if you wanna look for him, but this is basically a brother who’s doing all this stuff you see in National Geographic, swimming with the sharks, running with the bears, sleeping with the pan— you know, the panthers, that type of thing. We’ve seen it happen but we’ve never seen it from a black man and this is a young black man, tatted up, well-built, you know, looks like hip-hop. He’s hip-hop, he’s got our attitude and our swag. And so we’re working on a show with him that we’re super excited about that will be coming out a little bit later in Q3. And then the last thing that you’ve mentioned already is the Revolt Summit. So, you know, it’s — last year we did a virtual summit because we had to. This year, we’ll be able to do a bit of a hybrid so just excited to bring the Summit back, bring it bigger, better than ever, but then also excited just to get people back into the stands, back into the room so we can feel that energy that the Summit creates.
Dan: Nice, and for the Summit, are you gonna have, because I know you’ve had one in LA and one in Atlanta, right?
Detavio: So, I’ll give you this little kinda sneak peek. We are heavily concentrating work in Atlanta right now. We love what’s going on in Atlanta. There’s no real black-owned media platforms there yet it is a new kind of black Hollywood that exists out there. So much of hip-hop music is coming out of that ATL trap sound and so what you’ll start to see from us over the next few months is a major concentration on Atlanta. It’s a big bet for us so whether it’s Summit, whether it’s filming Off Top, we’ve got two great brothers, Big Facts, out there in Atlanta who we have a podcast and a video show with, and so more and more and more, you’ll just start to see us making a bet on Atlanta because we believe in it. Doesn’t mean we won’t be other places but it means Atlanta, Atlanta got to be home.
Dan: Yeah, that makes a ton of sense, just given everything that’s there and the potential and, for the past year, Atlanta has not stopped. I mean, for better or worse, COVID did not stop Atlanta, man.
Detavio: No, Atlanta’s been turned up. It’s been lit out in Atlanta. The one time I went, I was honestly ready to get back on the plane but Combs Enterprises, the CIROC, DeLeon, they’ve done a ton in Atlanta during COVID. I know our chairman was out there in Atlanta so, you know, we’ve been touching Atlanta even during quarantine because, to your point, it was open. We’re now about to find the different ways to build out there.
Dan: Right, yeah, tons of potential there. I wanna switch gears now, I wanna talk a bit about you running the company overall and you have a bunch of exciting things, as we just mentioned, and there’s a lot that I know is also challenging you to manage as well but I’m curious, as a CEO, because you do have this position of power where you’re doing a lot of things but I think it’s a unique position in some ways because you do have this larger-than-life figure with Diddy that is the chairman seeing things over and, to some extent, you know, Tarik is also seeing things over too as president of the organization and, obviously, I’m sure the relationships and the connections are dope there but what is it like, both from like an autonomy perspective but also being able to execute your vision?
Detavio: Yeah, look, it couldn’t be better. Let me see if I can attack that one by one. So, starting with the chairman, the chairman, Sean Combs, is really an amazing leader for me. He does a couple of things that I think are perfect for someone who has my type of personality. He inspires me to dream so he is consistently pushing me to dream bigger, go further, go higher, raise the bar higher and so — and I love that, like I love that I get that from him. He also just is like the king of encouragement so always like anytime I’m with the chairman, when I walk out of the room, it’s like he puts a battery in your back and you feel like you can just run through walls and so that’s what he is for me, you know? He’s in this really amazing point of time in his life where, again, I think he’s waking up trying to figure out how to help black people. He’s using himself not about ego and himself but about creating a platform for others and so what a wonderful time to be with him on this journey in this moment. And then Tarik is amazing, you know? I think Tarik will go down as the unsung hero when the world sees what Combs Enterprises was able to do with the team that Tarik largely built and selected, it’s gonna be amazing and I hope he gets his flowers because he’s doing a phenomenal job. And then also, just for me, he is an incredible coach, mentor, and brother. And then, you know, the last thing that you talked about was kind of like my sense of autonomy and I would say I absolutely feel like I have autonomy. I’m one of those people who can’t be micromanaged. All bosses deserve to be in the business of, you know, whoever’s overseeing their business. I don’t know where my break is, it’s like you can be in my business 5 percent, it’s all good, there’s a break somewhere, 20 percent to 25 percent, I’m nowhere near that break. Both Sean Combs and Tarik give me plenty of rope to hang myself and then end up being great coaches, mentors, inspiration, and they’re people who just keep pushing me to do more and more and better and better. So, for me, it’s a phenomenal trifecta.
Dan: That’s great, yeah, and, I mean, they just seem like good people that, you know, want the best and, in many ways, they’re just so busy that there couldn’t even be the time to, you know, get in some of those details, even if they wanted to.
Detavio: That’s exactly right. Sean Combs is working on a hundred things for black people. Tarik is working on all of those things plus all of the other businesses so, yes, everybody’s got their hands full and everyone is trusting people to do what they’re here to do, which is take whatever piece of the pie you own and change the world for black people but let’s change the world in general.
Dan: And I think, in some ways, it presents an opportunity for you too to be able to step up and craft a vision because I know that there has been some leadership turnover specifically with Revolt and that can, obviously, you know, internally present a great opportunity for someone to be like, “Hey, no, this is the plan, this is the vision. Let’s put this into practice. This is where things should be.”
Detavio: Yeah, 1,000 percent. So, I would say, you know, big dreams, like we talked about being the world’s most powerful black media empire. Those are dreams that were dreamt collectively. I don’t even remember where it originated. I don’t know if the chairman came up with it first or Tarik came up with it but those were kind of collaborative and then, since then, all of the rest of it, they’ve kinda given me the freedom to paint and so just painting out what that vision is and what it looks like, again, with the chairman just pushing me to dream as big as possible and then Tarik just being the one to provide the guidance for making sure that we get there with speed and urgency. So, yeah, man, everything is going well. Again, I just feel so blessed. Right time, right place, right people. It’s magical right now at Combs Enterprises and there’s no other place I’d rather be.
Dan: Yeah, it’s an exciting position, especially right now, for sure. And I think too, there was something that you had spoken on in an interview I listened to, it was talking about leading internally and leading as a black-owned media company and even some of the challenges there. I know we talked about the cable piece but even in the digital media side of things where you had said that people will often compare, “Okay, well, why can’t you all pay what x company will pay?” We don’t have to give any free ads here, we all know the other companies but like why can’t you all pay what x pay, but like that also stems back to this thing of like, “Okay, well, who were the companies giving the ad dollars to?” and all those things and that’s something that I know has been something that’s been top of mind for you even before Revolt but it’s something I’ve heard from other people and it’s something that’s real and I can imagine just how frustrating that can be because that is this cycle that obviously you wanna break, that’s why you want this to be as successful as it can be.
Detavio: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Yeah, it’s incredibly frustrating, right? We’re here for our people, we are here to elevate and uplift our people, and so it’s frustrating when they don’t get to see that. To your point, the core challenge is not that Revolt doesn’t wanna pay people. The core challenge is that despite the fact that black people and black culture drive, whatever you wanna call it, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 percent of culture, black-owned media companies only get 1 percent of the pie. 1 percent of the pie is for all of us, that basically means that black-owned media companies are on the brink of extinction and so we don’t have the money to pay because the advertisers historically have not been giving it to us. They’ve been giving it to the other people who we shall not name and when they’re getting checks for millions of dollars, of course, they can break off from other people and so, yeah, recently, you know, there was one woman in particular who I won’t call her out, you know, went into social media and Twitter and got, you know, some 15 minutes of fame talking about how Revolt didn’t pay, which was bananas. She was even talking about we didn’t pay for news. Most people don’t pay for news. If I call you right now to go be on CNN, they’re not gonna write you a check, right? So not only were we getting in trouble for not paying as much, we were getting in trouble for stuff that nobody else is paying for either. But we’re fixing it on our side so what we are doing more and more, despite what our checkbook looks like, we are trying to pay the price that is commensurate with the value that these people bring to the table. We have to prove to the market that excuses don’t matter anymore and that enough is enough and so you just gotta fix things and so, on our side, we’re trying to fix the way that we work with talent, pay them what we think they’re worth, which might mean I get to make a little less cotton on the side in the short term. I believe that in the long term, it’ll all work itself out. And then, again, I will say that the advertiser side, the 1 percent side, is doing a much better job of having conversations around why 1 percent is ridiculous and how we have to get much higher and much closer to a number that is reflective of the investment that black consumers give them. That’s what we’re saying. Whatever black people are giving you, you need to make that same type of reinvestment in the black media.
Dan: Right, and I think that talent piece is an interesting piece of this too because I know you had mentioned in the beginning of the episode how the brands of Puff or Cardi B, these are the people that people are following now. In many ways, they’ve become the face of the brand and even how they’re getting paid is changing and, in some ways, they want more money than ever. I mean, there’s all these stories about the podcasters that once they get some clout, they want the ownership, they want the copyright, and they want the sizable money that comes from the checks and it’s one of these chicken and egg type things because it’s like, okay, did the platform build the person or did they build it themselves? It’s always a combination of both. But I do think that the monetization and the business model for talent is going to be a consistent conversation that’s gonna continue to come up.
Detavio: Yeah, it’s really interesting, you know, in a way that I’ll say at Revolt is we’re just trying to build, build deeply, and in a way that is fair and equitable. Again, we’re gonna try to set a different standard for what exists so every deal that we’ve done with talent where we’ve collaborated on the actual idea, they get a check for showing up, you know, for filming, they also have some sort of participation in the upside of the IP, whatever may happen with it, and then they also get some sort of participation if advertisers and sponsors come in so we are trying to set a new standard. Again, with not half as much money, not even remotely close to half as much, but a fraction of the money that other people have, we’re trying to set a standard for how we believe black creators and black talent should be treated and it’s working. And then the second piece that I’ll say about that is as we are building with this talent, we are also willing to double down in the places where it works. So I mentioned Big Facts earlier. Well, we have a phenomenal video show with them that airs weekly on Revolt. They just started moving into Big Facts Live where they’re now doing live events in Atlanta. Well, guess who’s there with them? We’re there filming, helping them make sure they get the live production off right, right? So we’re gonna double down on Big Facts as they grow. So, we just wanna be a platform for creators. For us, it’s not about saying Revolt’s the only ones with the ideas or Revolt — no, no, we’re here for the culture. We’re building this platform for the culture. Come plug into this operating system, we’re gonna make sure that we share the wealth and like let’s do something amazing for the culture and our people.
Dan: Right, and I think too that you mentioned the upside of being able to have them have upside on that way, both the ownership and the revenue that comes in, and I think that, in a lot of ways, even if it may work out being the same or it may work out being, you know, like something close from a price perspective, that’s what people value. I mean, even at the highest levels of this with Issa Rae or Michaela Coel having the discussions with HBO or Netflix about trying to get ownership stakes in their shows, it’s the same thing, and, in some ways, there is a symbolism there just of like, no, we’re not just gonna take this from you and there’s value in that, but also, yeah, they get to ride the wave and I know that this is tough. This is obviously something that is very germane to the music industry in general and there needs to be some type of compensation or some type of thing to offset the risk that is taken on too but, yeah, it’s gonna be an ongoing conversation.
Detavio: Yeah, I’m glad that you understand the risk side because that’s what a lot of the talent doesn’t get. It’s like, bro, I’m putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into this thing, right? But you’re right. You know, at the end of the day, America has a storied history of exploiting black genius, black bodies, black hands, making billions of dollars and sharing none of that with the black people who were the genesis for the creation and so, again, we have to begin to set a different standard. You think that, you know, look at the world that hip-hop built and let’s figure out, of that world, how many black people made it out as millionaires? How many white people made it out as millionaires and billionaires, right? And we fundamentally believe at Revolt that in the same way that hip-hop has dominated the audio world, it will dominate the video world and so that’s why it’s important for us to get it right from the beginning. Like, no, this is a partnership. No, this is a collaboration. There are no masters and slaves. Let’s build this thing together and if it pops, we all win. Like let’s change the way the game is played.
Detavio: Now, look, we may wake up in five years and I may be going out of business because we gave too much money away. I don’t really know but like, at this point in time, it’s like you just gotta do what’s right and you gotta do what’s right for your people.
Dan: Right. That would be something if we see Revolt out of business but all these creators got paid. I don’t think that’s what’ll happen but that would be something. Oh, man. And I think, you know, it makes me also think about the future. I think we’ve talked about a few different areas with video, with podcasting, the content, the events, and I feel like there’s so much and all of those things make sense and they’re the right way to do it. I wonder, are there any areas that you haven’t delved into that you want to, that are on, you know, on the roadmap for the next few years?
Detavio: Brother, that’s a long conversation. Are you kidding me? We are here trying to build the world’s most powerful empire so you’ve gotta have key stakes in key places, right? We talked a lot about building a black Disney, right? You think about Disney who is the largest entertainment company in the world and you look at all the things that they have, everything from sports, ESPN, dedicated sports channels to dedicated studios that are best in class of what they do, Pixar for animation, Marvel for superheroes, news, ABC News. You think about Disney World, Disneyland. You think about all of the things that they do from a merchandising, a product perspective. Bro, like all of those things, like we’re coming, you know what I mean? So I think in the most immediate and the short term, we’re definitely excited about podcasts, it’s just trying to figure out how to do podcasts in a way that everybody else isn’t already doing it and so, you know, when we come in the game, we wanna come in the game for real. We don’t wanna just come and build another, we wanna come and build like a dominant force and so podcasts is something that we’re working on and the other thing that I’m personally super excited about is our studio business, right? Revolt is not a cable network, Revolt is a lens, Revolt is a perspective, and that perspective is valuable for a lot of people. Yes, it’s valuable for our audiences. We run things through our negative channels. Yes, it’s valuable for advertisers. We launched the branded content studio this year that’s doing amazing work for brands like Adidas, but it’s also valuable to all of the streamers who have popped up, all of the cable networks who are programming black. I’ll give my content, look, I’ll do a deal with the FX or, you know? Like there’s so many people who wanna be in this space, Netflix, Hulu, Apple, and so we need this studio business. We believe it’ll give us a quantum leap in our business as well so — and then, of course, you’ve got to do like the e-commerce and the merch play, especially right now the brand is so hot. I was in the elevator the other day rocking my Revolt hat and this dude just kinda looked over me like, “Yeah, I see you, nice hat,” you know what I mean? He didn’t know I worked at Revolt, he just thought I was rocking a Revolt hat and so we’ve got to get in that game. So, anyways, there’s so many things to be done. The world is — it’s really an exciting time right now.
Dan: Yeah, the Disney vision is legit. I get that and I see the future with that. I think the content licensing piece could be huge, especially with the studio. I mean, you have the content there, you have the engagement, you know, yeah, what does this look like on FX? Hulu? I think that’s really smart.
Detavio: Yeah. And thank you, brother, and I’ll tell you the other side about it that we’re really excited is this idea that we wanna start telling stories that are not just based in you, like based in the black US gaze, right? We wanna tell stories from across the diaspora, right? The more and more we look into it, we believe that in our history, there are blockbusters and so we wanna tell the story of Mansa Musa, the richest man to ever live in the world. We wanna tell the story of Atlantis. Did you know that Atlantis is just Ethiopia? That Europeans found it, decided it was too beautiful to attribute to Africa and so they gave it a whole new name like it was some far-off place in the — you know, we wanna tell all of those stories, right? Like we believe that the path to freedom is largely anchored in the world of storytelling and we wanna create this media empire that can tell those stories and change how, one, how black people see ourselves, two, how the world sees us, “us” meaning not blacks in the US, meaning all one plus billion of us, right? The entire diaspora. West Indies, Africa, those in Europe, all of it. We wanna tell those stories. That’s the dream, man.
Dan: I love it. You gotta dream big and I think that —
Detavio: You gotta dream big.
Dan: — stuff is attainable too. That’s what I like about you all. That stuff is attainable and it’s big dreams. Well —
Detavio: And, Dan, look, sorry, like I love that you said because that’s how it feels. It feels attainable. It feels — like they all feel like, you know, they’ll talk about like big, hairy, audacious goals, they all feel like that, but there’s not one day I wake up and think it’s not possible. It’s gonna be a stretch, but I believe 100 percent of it is possible.
Dan: Definitely, and I’m glad you’re the one in that position, man, it’s a good look.
Detavio: Thank you —
Dan: Well, Detavio, this has been great. We’ve got a lot of gems in this but, before we let you go, is there anything else that you wanna plug or anything we didn’t mention that you wanna let the Trapital audience know about?
Detavio: Definitely tune in to Off Top, it’s dropping mid-July so I wanna make sure that the world sees it. I think it’s a really exciting thing to bring back a rap hip-hop countdown show so please definitely tune into that. Get ready for the Summit. AT&T is a phenomenal partner. We’re in the lab crafting and designing what we believe will be a really amazing experience so please make sure you keep your eyes on that. And then just keep watching and I wanna say that to the world, you know? Advertisers are saying, “We can’t bet, you know, 10 percent of our money on black media because there’s not enough inventory,” and I’m looking at them in their face like, “That’s what you think today, keep watching,” and so I want the rest of the world just to keep doing the same, keep watching, seeing what we’re all just doing. Every day, new opportunities open up. We’re dreaming big. We wanna create change, we wanna revolutionize things for this world so please keep an eye on us, please support us every way that you can and just know that we’re out here fighting for our people every day that we wake up.
Dan: Yes, sir. Appreciate that, man, that’s good.
Detavio: Appreciate you, man. It’s such an honor to be here, King.
Dan: Thank you. You too, man. Appreciate that.