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Inside Benny Pough’s Career in Hip-Hop

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Music exec Benny Pough has shaped the hip-hop industry in a career that’s spanned from Motown Records to Def Jam to Roc Nation and now his own entrepreneurial pursuits. Benny joined me on Trapital to discuss his 30-year journey and where it’s heading next.

 

The defining feature of Benny has been his ability to spot and develop musical talent. He’s responsible for signing the likes of Future, Jeremih, and Yo Gotti, among others. That skill was initially forged from having an ear for what would catch on the radio, but has evolved in the streaming era. Despite this radical shift in music consumption, Benny says “stars will always be stars.”

 

After working at seven different record labels, Benny left the corporate world in 2019 and dove full-time into entrepreneurialism. He runs two separate companies — DVERSE Media and Kandiid. The former is a global music distributor and publisher, while the latter is a mobile app for creators to monetize their content. Benny also manages a diversified real estate portfolio. 

 

Like Benny’s own career, our conversation covers a lot of ground. Here’s our talking points: 

 

[3:13] How Benny Developed His Eye andEar For Talent

[4:42] Differences Between Hit-Makers andSuperstars

[6:10] How Has Streaming Changed Superstar Development?

[7:33] Record Label’s Role in Talent Development 

[13:07] Inside Def Jam’s Business Turnaround During Mid-00s

[16:02] Aligning Business andArt at Def Jam 

[18:15] Teairra Mari and Rihanna Coming Up at Def Jam

[21:37] Balancing Short-Term andLong-Term Business Goals

[24:39] How Did Benny Adapt To Working At Different Labels?

[27:00] Why Benny Became a Full-Time Entrepreneur 

[28:34] How Does Benny Split Time Across His Business Ventures?

[31:26] DVERSE Media’s Pitch To Artists

[33:15] TikTok’s Role In Talent Development Today

[34:43] Monetizing Content On Kandiid

[36:07] How Benny Got Into Real Estate

[38:54] Benny’s Upcoming Book

 

Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | SoundCloud | Stitcher | Overcast | Amazon | Google Podcasts | Pocket Casts | RSS

 

Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

 

Guests: Benny Pough, @bennypough

 

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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.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

[00:00:00] Benny Pough: You can have a star, but if you don’t have people who can market it and promote it and put the music together, then it’s going to take that star a little more time. Or you can have great executives, but you have artists that don’t have drive. They’re kind of confused on who their identity is. They write good songs, they don’t write great songs, then it’s kind of off balance. It’s that marriage of really strong executives and really great artistry.  

[00:00:35] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to The Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from executives in music, media, entertainment, and more, who are taking hip-hop culture to the next level. 

 

[00:00:55] Dan Runcie: Today’s guest is Benny Pough. He is a music industry veteran. And when I’m talking about people that understand promotion, understand what it takes to make an artist go from sixty to a hundred, this is the person to talk to. He has identified talent over the years, working at Motown, Perspective, Arista, MCA, Def Jam, Epic, and Roc Nation Records. He worked at Def Jam during one of the turnaround eras for the record label from 2003, all the way up to 2011. So we’re talking about that stretch where you had Rihanna, and Jeezy, and Kanye, and so many artists that made a huge impact there. Then he also worked at Epic where he was able to see Future, and Jeremih, and Travis Scott, and Yo Gotti. And so many of the artists there. And now he is building his own company. He works at Diverse Media, which is a music distribution and global publishing platform. He also has an app called Kandiid, which helps content creators and artists connect more directly with their fan base. We also talk about some of the ventures he has outside of music. He does a lot in real estate. We’re talking about some of the real estate he does, even in my hometown, which was pretty dope to hear how he understands the neighborhoods pretty well. So this is a great interview. If you want to talk about a mogul that understands each point of this industry, and with this upcoming book where he is sharing these insights as well. This is the interview for you. Here’s my conversation with Benny Pough. 

[00:02:27] Dan Runcie: All right. Today, we got one of the music executives that has seen this industry and seen hip-hop through so many pivotal moments at some of the most storied record labels. Mr. Benny Pough. Welcome to the pod. 

[00:02:40] Benny Pough: What’s up, Dan? Been waiting, man! I don’t know why you kept me out here so long, but thank you for having me today.

[00:02:47] Dan Runcie: People have been asking for this one, people have been asking for this one. 

[00:02:51] Benny Pough: Yeah. Yes, sir. 

[00:02:52] Dan Runcie: And I mean, I think one of the reasons that people have been asking is because of your track record. You have identified some of the best talents in this field. Yo Gotti, Future, Jeremih, could go on with the list, but it’s clear that you understand what you’re looking for and you have an eye and an ear for this. What are you looking for when you spot talent? 

[00:03:13] Benny Pough: So, you know, being a promotions person is how I started in the business. Like, my first entry point was at Motown records, doing college promotions. And at that point, I realized that, you know, music changed my life when I was able to take a song, and from a college level, and have it played across the airways, ’cause you have to think about over the decades, the mass means of communication was radio. So that changed everything. If you got on the radio in any capacity, you know, it could take you from zero to sixty. So for me, listening to the radio and listening to music one way or another, my ear just got refined to what sounds good on the radio. So with the artists that you mentioned, I heard their music before I even met them. So it’s something about, you know, obviously the spirit, you know, that ooze through them that comes out in their music that always just resonated with me. So the next step would be, you know, to meet them and obviously the artists that you mentioned, you know, from Future to Jeremih, Gotti, F.L.Y., it was something special about them that they’d already created for themselves. They just needed, you know, that opportunity to present itself for them to move on to the next level. 

[00:04:23] Dan Runcie: And I’m sure meeting that adds a whole nother layer ’cause you could have the voice but you’re not just building someone that can record an audio track. You’re trying to identify stars. What is it from meeting them in person that adds to it? Or is there something extra that you see when you’re face to face? 

[00:04:42] Benny Pough: I think what’s probably problematic now is that people can become instantaneously popular just from streaming. But never been in, you know, never really been in a studio ’cause you can record in your house. Never performed at a dive because that’s not what’s required. Never actually performed in front of an audience. So they’re great songwriters, maybe producers, but the bar is so much lower on the entry point now, because any and everyone can do it. The difference between the people who make just hit songs or records, and the ones who are superstars is that they have the full package. Not only do they write or they perform, but you know, they have that whole je ne sais quoi, something special about them that people want to hear more and more, see more and more of them. And that’s what the key is. And always has been, you know, since the beginning of music, of those people who attract and draw you in.

[00:05:37] Dan Runcie: You mentioned streaming and how it is easier and how it’s very different from having a hit record as opposed to being a superstar. But do you think that even some of the visual aspects are becoming easier to replicate, too? Thinking about how someone could do so much of the production of music videos, or even the visual of what they can do, whether it’s through Instagram and developing a following, but there’s still, there could still be a disconnect between having that piece of it as well and really being someone that can push a record label and push themselves. 

[00:06:10] Benny Pough: So the power is probably the best time, music and arts, the power’s in the creator. You know, ultimately as a consumer, we’ll choose what we like at the value point that we will or not. But ultimately as a creator, you can get in where, before you couldn’t, because there were, you know, gatekeepers. So now that you have the access and the ability to take your art to the masses. It’s great. Now the level of what you have, meaning, you know, whether it’s your music or your visual, if people like it, they’re going to like it. And if they don’t, if they feel it’s inferior, then that’s your presentation to the masses. So ideally you can’t look at it as a negative, but, you know, obviously, as you grow, and you develop, and you have success. All of those levels start to heighten as well. 

[00:07:02] Dan Runcie: And do you feel like this has made it easier or harder or how different it is for the people that clearly have superstar potential, but they are coming up in this era where there is more noise? But on the other hand, because some of that noise can filter away some of the artists that don’t necessarily have that potential and let the cream rise to the crop, I’ve heard people use both arguments about what it’s like for superstars right now, but what’s your take on the current stars now?

[00:07:33] Benny Pough: Stars will always be stars, and we’re going to find them if that’s the true course of action. You know, I worked with L.A. Reid, and I remember him always just telling me the story about Outkast. He didn’t sign them the first time they performed for him. It might have been the second or the third, but because they had it and when they finally brought it back to him, you know, the rest is history. Did it make them lesser stars because they weren’t signed the first time? No. What they went back and did was hone their skills, hone their craft. And at some point, the rubber hit the road and the rest is history, and that’s happened countless times. Look how many times Michael Jackson was passed on. So I don’t think the internet or that we’re in a technological, you know, era that it changes the pursuit and the passion for people who truly have the desire and commitment to their art. You know, it just doesn’t happen that I designate myself to be an artist today. And since I’m going to be an artist today, I’m going to be a star tomorrow, right? It doesn’t quite work that way. And the people who have the wherewithal and the gifts, they’re going to find it. 

[00:08:38] Dan Runcie: Do you think it’s harder for people to hit those Michael Jackson levels though? Because I do think that he, of course, I can’t think of anyone that was more famous at that particular time. And even some of the artists that you have now. Yes, some of the biggest stars you’ve seen, they’re breaking records and streaming, but culture is just so much noisier and there’s so many other things like it’s hard for any one artist to reach those same levels. Or do you think that that’s still possible? 

[00:09:07] Benny Pough: It’s just different iterations of it. And I don’t think you can ever take the greatness of one artist and measure other artists to that, right? Now you can look at stats and go, well, did you, did this person have this many accomplishments as is that one? Then you start getting to the, you know, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe, right? It’s just all different. So it’s not the same measurement, but also just realize everyone has greatness and in their time of what was available and what the market was, they exceeded everyone’s expectation. So that exists and it’s going to exist beyond, you know, today until tomorrow. So it’s really about, you know, how do you maximize the moments and all of that is really consistent on how much you commit to your craft.

[00:09:56] Dan Runcie: I agree because I think about some of the stars right now, we still see it. It just may not be necessarily the most traditional sense the way people see it. I look at what Bad Bunny is doing right now. We haven’t necessarily seen someone like him do what he’s doing at the level that he’s doing, whether it’s the streaming records or even the sold-out concerts. Or even if you look at BTS, I think there’s something to be said there for just how popular and strong that fan base is. And then you have your Drakes and your Taylor Swifts, these artists that I think even in 10 years will still be some of the biggest artists of their generation. 

[00:10:33] Benny Pough: And that’s all catalog. You know, artists that have great music, amazing songs, and are true performers. So, you know, once you get to that level, it puts you in a category by yourself, 

[00:10:47] Dan Runcie: Right. And so much of this goes back to the work of these artists working with record labels, and a lot of the names that we mention, they got big pre-streaming. And because of that, I think they entered a phase where record labels did do a lot more of the development to help bring them along to the area that they are now.

[00:11:07] Dan Runcie: But I think what we’re seeing now is, because of all of the tools and all of the do-it-yourself functions that we’re seeing that artists have the ability to do, by the time you’re ready to join a record label, the hope is that you at least have some footing behind you, right? This isn’t necessarily the place that’s going to bring you from zero to a hundred. But if you could get from zero to sixty, you sign with them and then that can hopefully get you to a hundred. And I think that’s the piece of it that’s a little different than even what we may have looked at 10, 15 years ago with some of the names you mentioned where it was still a bit harder for them to break out without having the additional support earlier in their career. 

[00:11:49] Benny Pough: That’s the equivalent. I don’t disagree with you. The entry points probably are, you know, different, but in some very similar. Ideally you are a thousand percent correct. You can’t look to a label to develop you at this point, but when you think about, you know, some of the earliest stars they were developed outside of the label as well, right? So, you know, that kind of overlaps in that perspective. I think the root of all of this is starting with talent, regardless, whether you were, you know, in the past and things weren’t as technologically advanced or right now, you know, you have the ability of all of technology. But you don’t have all of the components that are going to help you, i.e. great songs, great producers, you know, and all of those true means that are going to really push you to the next level. 

[00:12:35] Dan Runcie: Agreed. And I think, for you specifically, you’ve seen it with so many of the labels you’ve worked out, whether it’s Motown or even the run you had with Def Jam as well. And I do want to talk specifically about the Def Jam run because, as someone that loves business case studies, this is a turnaround story and you had a front-row seat to push that forward. Tell us that story and let’s walk through that process. What are the key things you think that really helped Def Jam turn things around from that ’93 to, you know, going on into the 2000s run?

[00:13:07] Benny Pough: So the crazy thing was, you know, for me getting into Def Jam was, it was amazing. The fact that they were a closed shop. You have to realize Def Jam never really let outsiders in. Everything was homegrown. They were one of the very few labels that was truly closed shop, right? Like, the people who started there from interns elevated all the way up, you know, into the higher senior positions, I mean, i.e. Kevin Liles, who is, you know, the person who reached out to me to come over to the organization. So given that opportunity and I was on the West Coast and wanted to get back home, I was at MCA Records and I wanted to get back home. So when I got the call, I was like, wow, I can go for one of the most renowned hip-hop labels in the world and get back home. So it was a no-brainer. Shortly thereafter I came on, Kevin and Lyor exited the building and L.A. Walked in. And that was, you know, an interesting dynamic because, one, I’d, you know, heard a lot about him and knew, you know, his abilities, but I didn’t, wasn’t certain on what my outcome would be because he didn’t bring me in.

[00:14:10] Benny Pough: It was a great union because he was an amazing, as we all know, music maker, hit kind of guy. I was a promotion guru, you know, at that time in my career. So, it gave me a great opportunity to, one, work with one of the best, which also made me one of the best, great music, strong promotions, i.e. put it all together in a pot, stir it up, you got to hit artists, right? And the talent was insane. We had one of the best A&R teams in the business, one of the best marketing teams in the business, one of the best promotion teams, publicity, et cetera. And then we all played as a unit. And I think that’s, what’s really important in any business, including the music business. When you get a real starting fire and the goal is to really bring on the gold, it’s unstoppable with incredible artists and amazing music. So, you know, that’s how all of that came together. And through that, you know, between Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Rihanna, Ne-Yo. We had Fabolous, Justin Bieber walked in, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It was just an amazing, amazing time in music for us and that component of those artists, that team, and everyone wanting the big win put us right exactly where you have in this conversation. 

[00:15:31] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. And the other key thing with this, too, is that you also had a few leadership changes, as you mentioned. You had Kevin Liles, and then you had L.A., and then you were there during the Jay-Z stretch as well. And I’m sure with each of those, you were able to keep things moving just with the amount of talent that was coming through, but I’m sure that there were different things, whether it was leadership styles or things that the label needed at a particular time that was able to help it get to where it was during those 2000s. 

[00:16:02] Benny Pough: So what’s important, what people have to realize, and, you know, we put entertainment as though it’s its own kind of business. It’s still business. And you know, you have to learn how to manage up and manage down. And obviously, all the bosses have their own idiosyncrasies, but all of their goals is about winning. And obviously, you know, the people component is very important ’cause they’re all specific on identifying the right talent, but also the right executives because true leaders understand, in the music business, the combination of both is what’s going to help. You can have a star, but if you don’t have people who can market it and promote it and put the music together, then it’s going to take that star a little more. time Or you can have great executives, but you have artists that don’t have drive. They’re kind of confused on who their identity is. They write good songs, they don’t write great songs, then it’s kind of off balance. So when you get that real true alignment of both business and talent, that’s when you have, and you look back at it, like go through the history of all of the strong labels. It’s that marriage of really strong executives and really great artistry. So it doesn’t change, right, where our business isn’t different. We have just a non-traditional product. 

[00:17:22] Dan Runcie: Exactly. I mean, at the end of the day, there’s something that you’re trying to sell. You understand the customer, you’re trying to get what you can get out there. 

[00:17:29] Benny Pough: Yes, sir. 

[00:17:30] Dan Runcie: Looking back and you talking through some of these stories with these leaders making me think of that time as well. One of the stories I know that often gets talked about going back to around 2004, 2005, Def Jam is figuring out, okay, who is the artist that we want to propel, especially who is the woman artist we want to propel. And there was so much about whether the label is going to push Teairra Marí, or if the label was going to push Rihanna. And so much of that, I know that you were, had a front row seat in, what was that process like? And what is it like now just thinking about how it went and how, whether you could discern what we eventually saw play out, or if it was still tough to know at the moment how either career would’ve went?

[00:18:15] Benny Pough: So let’s be very clear. And especially in my upbringing in the music business and how I’ve always been disciplined and even in just me as an individual, I don’t play sides. I have to give my all to each and everyone because we don’t know. Like, I can’t say this one is a hit and this one isn’t. My responsibility in the pipeline is to make sure that I do my best to expose the product to the marketplace. In both of those scenarios, the company was behind both artists. Ultimately, the public is going to decide who are they going to weigh in more or not. But sitting here today, I wouldn’t tell you I did more or less for either of those other than provide an amazing system for them to go through in order to have the opportunity to live their dreams.

[00:19:04] Dan Runcie: And that makes sense. And I think that’s the most fair way to do it. 

[00:19:07] Benny Pough: Yeah. 

[00:19:07] Dan Runcie: Were you surprised at all by the outcome or how things played out in terms of the public’s response? 

[00:19:14] Benny Pough: Rihanna’s one of the greatest in the world. I mean, it speaks to its own, right? That speaks to itself and also realized she had, when you think about it, and there’s very few artists, when you talk about classics, right? When you can go through hip-hop or R&B, like, classic albums, her first album was a classic album, right? So ultimately the people weighed in on what they appreciated from her at that point. And that in turn is about once where we started in this conversation, the artistry, it’s the music and it’s the team. So you got to think about a lot of artists who came through Def Jam through those years. We talk about the ones that, you know, went on and had massive success, but there were artists, too, that had great success. There were artists that make a good living and then there are artists like, it didn’t work out because, obviously, the people did decide, not us.

[00:20:06] Dan Runcie: Right. And that’s what makes it so tough, I think, in any type of business, whether you’re looking at other areas of entertainment, everything else, you could do the best thing that you think you want to put out. But there has to be some type of demand. There has to be something that is pulling artists through. And I think we saw that with the other singles that came off of Music of the Sun, Rihanna’s first album. So fascinating times, it’s really special to go back and think about it, especially now. I mean, who knows when we’ll see the next album, but hopefully sooner rather than later. One of the things that stands out to me though, with the Def Jam time specifically, is just how much market share the record label was able to grow as well. And I wonder from your perspective, we’re talking so much about balancing the business versus the art, so much of the work is focused on, okay, who can you promote? How can you push things? But there’s also this zero-sum game of how can you get more market share than the other record labels that you’re competing against and all of that. Was it ever a feeling like a bit of a tug of war between the art and the business of pushing these things knowing that there’s this ultimate metric that the label’s shooting for. But there’s this longer-term aspect of trying to build and grow artists ’cause I know with other companies, it’s kind of one of these things where you have the long-term goals, but how does that work with the quarterly earnings and I do think that market share is essentially that for record labels in the music industry. 

[00:21:37] Benny Pough: So, a lot of that’s going to be predicated on leadership. And, you know, the companies that I worked for were very artist-driven. And what was most important about having the artist was making sure that the artist got their best shot and performance. And so that was a driving force for us at Def Jam. You know, it’s not being irresponsible, it’s just a matter of, you know, investing in giving the music, the artists enough time to breathe. Everything is not going to just be determined in black and white. Everything’s not going to be determined in dollars and cents. And the people who are aligned right from the business end, gas on, gas off. Someone has to read it, how much to invest in this artist because of what the tea leaves are versus investing in this artist, predicated on what the tea leaves are. If you have something that’s not talking back or something that’s not performing, then you can’t throw enough money at it. They don’t like it, but if you have something that’s incrementally or even starts to just explode, then, you know, that’s a better bet to hedge your money on. And the executives in the leadership, in the companies that have a really firm grasp of knowing when to gas on and gas off on which particular artist, as well as you know, the whole perspective of the business unit are the ones that have wins in both the artistry, people want to come in because, with the success of the artist, that’s what people are excited about. No one signs to a label going, oh, you have the largest market share. They go, oh, Future’s over there. Travis is over there. Gotti’s over there, you know what I mean? That’s what they’re going to say. Khaled’s over there. They’re going to say that they’re not going to go, oh, you guys had 11 share? No, they’re not going to do that. 

[00:23:22] Benny Pough: But in essence, all of it does work hand in hand, right? And on the other end with having successful artists, you have more market share, bigger profits. You know, now the executives, you’re going to attract executives ‘case they want to be there, right? Because good bonusing, good salaries, et cetera. So, a lot of that is really, really determined by the leadership. 

[00:23:43] Dan Runcie: I’m glad you mentioned the Future, Travis, and Gotti ’cause that is your time at Epic. You were able to see this run. You were able to see those artists just push through as well and, obviously, a different record label. I’m sure things were likely different there, but you had worked at several beforehand. What is it like when you obviously know exactly what you’re doing, you understand what’s required to succeed in your role, but you know, that you’re shifting into a different culture, shifting into a different environment? How do you adapt yourself as someone that has already seen success in different labels, but you’re moving on to other companies and still understanding that, yes, you know how to make this artist pop, but there’s different folks in charge and there’s different things that are happening that you also need to be aware of as you’re wanting to execute the best promotional campaigns possible?

[00:24:39] Benny Pough: So Benny Pough is a brand. I’m not interchangeable in that way. My core values are my core values. And if people are hiring you or bringing you into their organization, they want the best of you. And obviously, and it’s no different from going from, you know, the high school football team to the college football team. You have to learn how to adapt, but football is football. And in essence, you just learned in different plays from a different coach, and what they expect you and why they recruited you to bring you over is to bring your talent and show us exactly what we need to be done in order to win. So it doesn’t become that complicated and don’t forget once again, it’s learning how to manage. Like, you can’t come in with a crazy ego. You have to be adaptable, amenable, and willing to learn in someone else’s environment, but also bring your best game to play. 

[00:25:28] Dan Runcie: Were there any of the record labels you worked at where you feel like the culture or the way that they operated things was very different than the others? I know you were at Roc Nation Records after Epic but was any of them truly unique in this area? 

[00:25:41] Benny Pough: I worked at seven different labels. All of them were different ’cause it’s seven different leaders. And I think, like, the common thread with all of them is that they had an insatiable desire to win. So every person that I worked for wanted to win and they all saw a different path to winning, but that was the common thread. And then systems, you know, obviously, the ones who were successful had winning systems, and the ones who kind of meandered out had different kinds of systems. So I think a lot of it comes into play to the individuals, right? If everybody could you know, coach the New England Patriots, then everybody would be doing the job, right? It’s the best of the best it’s going to get, you know, to do that and sit in that seat. 

[00:26:29] Dan Runcie: Right, exactly. And I know that sitting in that seat and having so much control over understanding what needs to be done is key with this. But I also recognize that you specifically with where you are in your career right now, you’ve worked at many different labels, but you’re no longer working for a label. You’ve since left, you’ve left Roc Nation Records a few years back, and you are now building your own companies. Can you talk to me about that process, that transition, and why this was the right time for you to make that leap?

[00:27:00] Benny Pough: Man, it’s an amazing time in my life because now I have the opportunity of everything I learned, right? Think about the talent that I’ve identified over the years, the executives that I’ve groomed over the years, and realizing business and talent is something that I’ve been blessed to do. So now I can take all of that, what I’ve learned, and now apply it and reap the benefits for my family and friends. So I’m super, super excited about this time and being in the marketplace and having the freedom and flexibility to chase different and identify different kinds of talent, you know. Had I been at a major label, I wouldn’t have invested in an app, right? Had I been in a major label, I wouldn’t be launching my first conference. Had I been in a major label, I wouldn’t be releasing a book. So it gives me, you know, the freedom and the latitude. But since I’d spent so much time learning the system, I am now approaching this from both a corporate perspective and entrepreneurial perspective, blended to now give the artists that I’ve signed as well as the ones that, you know, I manage and the business that I’m involved in, you know, the best opportunity to win because I’ve seen a lot of winning along the way.

[00:28:19] Dan Runcie: Exactly and for you right now, you have Diverse Media, you have Kandiid, you also have real estate, and a few other business interests. How do you split your time right now? And writing a book as well, how do you split your time between each of these?

[00:28:34] Benny Pough: Organization. It’s no different than anything else. You know, whether you’re working for someone or working for yourself, it’s all time management, allocation of, you know, what needs to be done for this particular company today. You know, the things that need to be responded to, but most importantly, making sure that I’m reading the tea leaves properly because I’m the one that’s investing. So it’s, you know, being fiscally responsible is important and also taking the signs from the marketplace. As we talked earlier, the things that you learn along the way, just because I love it and no one else does, at some point I got to go to what they say versus how I feel because it’s my resources, but I’m having a great time in this section of my life.

[00:29:15] Dan Runcie: I got to imagine that’s the biggest change as well, right? You’re working for these record labels, part of these bigger corporations, someone else is always giving the final checkoff. And some of that may line up with what you want. Some of that may line up with what you don’t want, but here, the buck stops with you, and there’s sure there’s so much freedom with that. How has that piece of it been? Because I know that that is likely one of the bigger changes or bigger shifts that comes with being able to run these types of businesses yourself. 

[00:29:46] Benny Pough: It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time. You know, what you realize or what I’ve realized along the way is, you know, was always indicative of having someone on the team to go, what do you think, or let’s go through this one more time, you know, to help you formulate that opinion because all the opinions aren’t yours and all decisions aren’t just made by you. The buck stops with you, but you know, you can lean in and on other different resources inside of the company. When you’re independent, it may not be as rich as far as having those qualified people to assist you in the decision-making. So I’m very tactical on how I approach things. Obviously, you have to get more analytic in determining, you know, how to proceed in situations in the companies that I’m invested in. And at the end of the year, it has to make sense, right? It’s the bottom line. It has to make sense in order for it to continue. 

[00:30:39] Dan Runcie: So let’s walk through each of these ’cause I think there are ways to talk a little bit more about each of them, with Diverse Media specifically, global music, distribution, and publishing. This is your insights you’re bringing. And you’re like, I’ve been doing this for decades. I’m one of the most experienced people here. And I know what it takes to run the ship. What is the pitch then to artists who may want to, as you kind of put it yourself, they see the superstars that are still at the major record labels? You may not necessarily have the stable of the superstar yourself, but you’re pitching yourself as your experience as well. How has that pitch been? ‘Cause I’m sure that pitch is a little different when working for yourself as opposed to having the major label behind you. 

[00:31:26] Benny Pough: So it’s not for everyone, but it’s for the right people. I’ve worked with some incredible talent as an independent now that I have been able to help groom them, teach them, develop them in a process that, one, a major label wouldn’t look to them for. So we have different needs. It’s a smaller investment for me in investing in someone who’s at the beginning of their career. And we are more of a partnership because I’m going to be very specific as well of who we’re going to give my time to. And for them, they get direct contact to someone who, guess what, can make a call and help them move a little bit further and faster than they would’ve on their own. So I enjoy that, that element of it, and it gives me the ability to stay very connected in the music space, but also grow and develop talent at the pace that they primarily would not get at a major. ‘Cause once you get on the conveyor belt, it’s your time. It’s your time when they say it’s your time. And I think what we’re lacking now is the development, the true artist development. So that’s what artists get the benefit from. And it works.

[00:32:26] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And I think, especially with the type of artist, you’re looking at the sweet spot as well. There’s so many artists that look at the technology medium as the means of growth or the means of exposure, right? I got to get on the streaming services. I got to get on TikTok. I got to start making reels and things like that. How much importance does that play for the artists that you serve? Because on one hand, as we’re talking about at the beginning of this conversation, there can be so much emphasis on just having these songs or having these videos that are being put in this place, so you can write it up in numbers, but that still doesn’t quite develop you as an artist, but it is one of these chicken and egg things. So how much of a focus is TikTok for you with the artist that you’re working with? 

[00:33:15] Benny Pough: TikTok is pretty much the hand were dealt in the music at this point. So you can’t ignore it because that’s what everybody’s leaning into, but then there’s a whole other means of developing talent outside of TikTok. And it all depends on what’s specific for what you’re looking for as someone in the executive seat. I mean, if I can see it on TikTok and everybody at a major label can see it on TikTok, okay, it’s cool. But everyone’s not going to see the same thing. Like, although it may have all of the mechanisms, it’s making all of the growth, you know, week over week. It just may not be something comfortable for me unless you’re doing, you’re in the commerce game, right? You’re just chasing money and that’s fine, right? People do that well. I’ve always been someone who’s been more about the artistry and people who are going to have staying power. So, you know, if you get lucky and you get one that becomes lightning in a bottle, that’s great. But more importantly, you know, I’m a time over money kind of guy. You know, I’ll develop you, you know, spend time with you, you and I like, yo, we figured out, you know, we committed to each other. And when it’s okay, we might not have made the billion dollars, right? But we lived a good life and that’s equally as important as those who, you know, get a couple million, then they go away. 

[00:34:31] Dan Runcie: Right. And I feel like this lines up as well with Kandiid, which is your social media platform that you have. What role do you see it playing for artists and content creators? 

[00:34:43] Benny Pough: It’s the equalizer. It gives artists the opportunity to monetize on their content, which was crazy. When the pandemic started, we were one of the first platforms to actually introduce that, that people could actually pay to monetize their content. And obviously, you know, OnlyFans took on a whole other different dynamic, but also, too, that was web-based that wasn’t an app. Like, we were an app that was in that space, you know, to put us into a different ball game and then having Soulja Boy come on and endorse the company and is also one of the co-founders involved, just opened up all kinds of vehicles and avenues for us as we started to grow and develop in the space. 

[00:35:23] Dan Runcie: Yeah. It’s crucial. It’s needed. And I think having the artists themselves as backers helps push it into a whole other level ’cause it goes back to the why does someone want to sign with the record label, they see who’s involved with it. Why would they want to use a social media app or a new platform, they see who’s involved with it. So that makes sense. The other piece of this, though, and we’re talking about this a little bit before we recorded is what you’re doing in real estate. You own a number of properties, even in my hometown, which I thought was pretty dope to hear about. Talk to me about that piece of it ’cause obviously very different from music, but there’s so many wise reasons why it’s a smart investment, but we’d love to hear what that journey was like for you, how it started and how you see it continue to develop.

[00:36:07] Benny Pough: Mentally, I fell in love with real estate. If there was a passion, first thing I ever wanted to do was be a truck driver, just like my dad. And then the second thing was to own a home because we lived at a five-family home in White Plains, New York, where my parents had an opportunity to purchase this home from the owner who was moving back to Kansas. And when I realized the freedom that having a multi-unit at that time, you know, what it gave our family was exceptional. My father had the freedom, didn’t have to work. My mother worked at the post office and was able to take care of us with, you know, the benefits from the health perspective and the building paid off the mortgage and put money in their pocket. So one day I said to myself, you know, I just want to be like my parents like when it’s time for me to retire, I don’t want to have to worry about how to make ends meet per se. So that was the impetus to this. Once I got into the music business and realized that, you know, it’s one of the few businesses, especially for us as minorities, where, you know, you walk in and six months or a year, you could be making six figures, right? As a young person, there’s no guidance, there’s no financial planning, you know, there’s no one telling you what the value of six-figure you might be making more than your Senator, right? 

[00:37:23] Benny Pough: As a music person, so for me, staying in lockstep with what my parents were doing, I realized making this money, I had to prepare for my exit. So every bonus I bought a piece of property, you know, I bought a single family. I bought a single condo. I bought multi-units. I bought buildings. And to the point we were talking about, you know, I had even owned up to a city block at one point. So the benefit of the business was very, very giving to me and realizing that at one day it would end, that you’d have to create no different than any other entrepreneur, people who are out on their own in their own small business, you have to create your own retirement because one day you can be making a six figures or a seven-figure salary. And then the next day that’s gone. It may never come back. So you can’t live in the moment of just what you’re receiving. You need to think about what you’re receiving, also to be planning for the day when that’s not there, right? So it’s important, very, very important for young people or old people who are now, in their careers, figuring out the next steps is that you should always plan for the future. 

[00:38:33] Dan Runcie: Well said, and I feel like I can hear some of the insights already that you’re likely going to be sharing in the book you have coming out.

[00:38:40] Benny Pough: Oh, absolutely. 

[00:38:41] Dan Runcie: So talk to me a little bit more about the book. I’m sure that this conversation highlights some of those things that you want to share, but what are some of the things that we may not have covered that are the key themes from the book that you have coming out? 

[00:38:54] Benny Pough: So On Impact spawned from a near-death car accident that took place in 2014, hit a tree at 90 miles an hour, sustained a level two concussion. That’s when you black out from one to five minutes, L3-4 vertebrae fracture, bulging disk in my back, lacerated liver, and severed two feet of my small intestine. And in that moment, God put a book inside of me called On Impact, which is an acronym for intuition, mastery, pivot, authenticity, connection, and teamwork. And what it does is takes the reader for me with my first job that was, at 11 years old, delivering newspapers to modern day with an undercurrent of music because the majority of my life, I spent in the music business. And at the end of each chapter, I put together what’s called a hit list or takeaways from each chapter for an individual to now apply to their daily lives and say pretty much if Benny could do it, I could do it, too. So it’s a roadmap for interns to CEOs because I’ve done both. 

[00:39:52] Dan Runcie: Nice. When’s the date for it coming out? 

[00:39:57] Benny Pough: September 27th, 2022. 

[00:39:57] Dan Runcie: Exciting stuff. Exciting stuff, man. I feel like it will be, and I’m sure it already feels like it’s going to be a ton of work leading up to it, but I am sure that once you’re actually in the thick of it, you’re seeing people resonate with it, like that’s where the real reward comes from, right? You wanted to be able to share these insights, of course, life-changing and life-threatening challenges and accidents that you have to go through. But that’s what gives you the clarity to be able to share this. So hopefully it can provide someone else and hopefully many others with the same insights.

[00:40:31] Benny Pough: I think what happens for us is we don’t get an opportunity to get the lessons when we need them. So, what I want this to be is a roadmap of giving people an opportunity to see, guess what, there are a lot of similarities for others just like myself. And now you don’t have to struggle to figure it out. This is here for you. So I’m excited to share this with the world and give those who just need that little extra push and insight. Come get it. 

[00:41:00] Dan Runcie: And they’re in the right spot. Good stuff. Well, Benny, this has been a pleasure. We covered so much in your career, what you’ve been doing since then, especially on the entrepreneurial front, and also with other ventures, but for anyone that wants to keep tabs on you and follow what you’re doing. Where could they follow and keep up with you? 

[00:41:19] Benny Pough: All my socials are @bennypough, B E N N Y P O U G H. And come visit my website. bennypough.com anytime. 

[00:41:27] Dan Runcie: Good stuff. Benny, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you. 

[00:41:29] Benny Pough: All right, Dan.

[00:41:31] Dan Runcie: If you enjoyed this podcast, go ahead and share it with a friend. Copy the link, text it to a friend, post it in your group chat, post it in your Slack groups, wherever you and your people talk, spread the word. That’s how Trapital continues to grow and continues to reach the right people. And while you’re at it, if you use Apple podcast, go ahead, rate the podcast. Give it a high rating and leave a review. Tell people why you liked the podcast. That helps more people discover the show. Thank you in advance. Talk to you next week.

 

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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