HOUSTON -- I'll be the first to admit it: when I signed up for Mathew Knowles’ seminar, “The Entertainment Industry: How Do I Get In?” it was more out of car-crash curiosity. I've been writing about the industry for a decade, so I didn't expect to actually learn something about it.
And when I told people I was attending Mathew Knowles' "Beyoncé bootcamp", most people laughed or simply asked "Why?".
When you think about it, that's a really valid question. It was a marathon event to be held on a Saturday (September 13) on a community college campus, so pictured a horrible informercial mashed up with a low-budget college ad. I was ready to smirk my way through it while mean-tweeting the entire "experience" from the crowd.
And yeah, there were absurdities that were definitely meme-worthy, especially Mathew’s introduction where he “spoke” to God about Soundcloud and artists who currently reside in heaven and his joke about Joan Rivers that bombed big time.
After yelling out Bill Murray’s “cats and dogs living together” line from “Ghostbusters” from out of nowhere and later announcing that he might run for mayor of Houston, I was ready to break out the meme generator and get to work.
But then a funny thing happened...
This is the man who’d created/developed/managed Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé to the upper stratosphere of superstardom— and make no mistake, he reminded us of that somewhere in the neighborhood of 1324832 times — but at some point, he started sounding like a guy who actually could have helped launch Destiny's Child and eventually, Queen Bey herself.
Here's what unfolded.
WHO IS THIS, DESTINY’S GRANDCHILD?
Before Mathew dove into what he learned when he “got in” the music business, he introduced his new girl group, Blush Music.
WAIT, NO BEYONCE?
Beyoncé couldn’t make it to the seminar to tell stories about her Dad’s great music business acumen in person, so her Dad showed us some borrowed concert footage of Beyoncé telling stories about how her Dad cancelled Destiny's Child's audition with Columbia Records. Totally the next best thing.
PRACTICE? WE TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE?!
According to Mr. Mathew Knowles (by way of Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers"), one has to do something for 10,000 hours before they're even close to being any good. If you're a singer, that's 10,000 of singing, dancing and vocal lessons. If you're a singer/songwriter, that's 20,000 hours of singing, dancing, vocal lessons, writing, writing and writing. If you're a singer/songwriter/record label CEO/actor/model, well, you're doing too damn much.
"Focus on one thing and do one thing well," he said.
DON'T GET READY, STAY READY
Matthew hammered home the idea that you have to be ready at all times because you only get one shot. If you sing, rap or act, be ready to sing, rap or act on cue when asked to show and prove, like this kid, who jammed out Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on an acoustic guitar.
BUN B KEEPS IT ALL THE WAY TRILL
The fact that Mathew brought in Bun B for a panel discussion made things a lot more credible. When it was time for guests on the dais to share stories on how they got their start in the entertainment business, Bun B took us back to UGK's "wood grain" days and it was just as epic as you'd think it would be.
YOU WANT TO MAKE IT IN THIS BUSINESS? WELL GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER
After Stacia Pratt, the PR and marketing professional responsible for pushing the Dallas Buyers Club to Academy Award heights, told everyone that you have to have your shit together and make sure all of your social media matches up, Mathew told the story about how Solange started singing "Mr. Soundman, get your shit together" during a performance.
"Twitter is your headline, Instagram is your face and Facebook is your article," she said.
"Yeah, don't do Kevin Gates talking about eating booty," added Bun B, with a laugh.
WE'LL CALL YOU WHEN YOU GET A BUZZ
"Say you want to get your demo to Bun B and you'll go to a venue that holds 1500-2000 people, but every single one of those people walk past you while you stand there waiting to talk to me," Bun said. "So while you standing there waiting for somebody you think can put you on, the real people that can put you on, you just let walk right past you. So if you coming to a concert and you know I'm gonna be there, you wanna give me a CD, bring one for everybody else, too. You'd be surprised who is in the crowd. Treat everybody you see as a Bun B because the easiest way for me to find you, is that people are talking about you. When the people are talking about you, you ain't got to call the record company, they'll call you."
DON'T CALL ME A MOM-AGER!
One seminar attendant made the mistake of calling herself a "mom-ager" when asking about her kids' singing careers. Mathew admonished her for using that term. Another up-and-comer asked about managing himself and Mathew reiterated that all artists need a "team" and even put a little stank on it, adding, "Only a fool manages himself."
I WOULDN'T SIGN YOU
The truth hurts. But you have to respect anyone that gives it to you straight. When a female singer asked Mathew what it would take for someone like him to actually want to listen to her music or what she had to offer, he told her to stand up and after taking a look at her, told her he wouldn't even consider it because of the way she was dressed. She didn't look like an artist.
"You should have brought your A game," he told her.
BACK AT THE MUSIC WORLD RANCH
After the seminar and impromptu performances, which included an ex-Marine named Matthew Sanez doing a unexpectedly good freestyle for Bun B onstage in lieu of a question, all the participants were invited to the Music World complex, where they could see the studio, the media center and all of the platinum plaques, Grammys and MTV VMA Moonman awards they could stand.
WAIT, THERE'S ACTUALLY SOME TALENT HERE?
While talking to my fellow seminar attendants, I learned that some of them actually had a shot at making it if they stayed the course and put in those 10,000 hours.
Leona Surles, 15, is a singer with loads of personality and has a "mom-ager," business owner Elicia Crouch-Surles, that really makes the sacrifices to see her make it. They left Dallas at 3 a.m. to drive to Houston to listen to Mathew's "Music Business 101" course.
Or Hallie Jackson, 19, who is a talented singer that is moving to Atlanta to pursue her dream full-time. She's got the right attitude, the passion and, as you can see in the video below, talent.
LOOK, MOM...I GRADUATED!
I'm a writer, OK? I couldn't carry a tune with a wheelbarrow. But I know what sounds good. I know what a hit sounds like, but I couldn't tell you what it took to get to that point.
Sometimes, artists just get lucky. There's a perfect storm of lyrics meets production meets opportunity. But for most artists, it took work, lots of it. It was because of hard work that Destiny's Child and Beyonce had hit after hit after hit. I knew that going into Mathew's boot camp, but I was able to see him peel back some of the layers of the onion as far as what that "hard work" looks like. I understand a lot more about the music business and now I have a certificate to prove it.