The following MBW blog comes from Kevin Liles (pictured), the CEO of New York-based 300 Entertainment. 300 is one of the USA’s most prominent independent labels, and home to artists including Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tee Grizzley and Young Thug. Before joining 300, Liles held senior roles at the likes of Warner Music Group and Island Def Jam.
Like everyone else in this business and across the globe, recent weeks have changed everything.
Plans for touring, launching new music from our emerging and established artists, and growing our business have all pivoted instantly. I’ve tried to lead our team and remind them that just because times have changed, creativity cannot be quarantined.
Those who know me know my travel schedule can be intense even by the standards of the typical CEO or label executive. I’m usually in at least two or three different cities in a given week to support 300’s artists, finding ways to grow our business, and to invest in causes I’m passionate about like education and entrepreneurship.
“It’s at the end of each day – when the emails, texts, and calls finally slow down and after my wife and I have put the kids to bed – I try to find a few moments to reflect.”
Meanwhile, like many around the world, for the past 10 days or so, I’ve been bunkered down with family in our home outside New York City.
It took a few days to find a new routine with technology, processes, and communicating clearly and efficiently with my partners around the globe.
Like many others, we’ve finally hit our stride as a team and we’re executing plans to help our artists get through this crisis, however long it lasts. It’s at the end of each day – when the emails, texts, and calls finally slow down and after my wife and I have put the kids to bed – I try to find a few moments to reflect.
Now, I won’t lie. About a week ago, this time for reflection was filled with concern for my family, company, and partners first and foremost. I pored over data to understand how our business needs to adapt to the new environment. But as we’ve settled into a new normal this past week, that concern has been replaced by something else: gratitude. Deep and profound appreciation for the life I live.
It’s gratitude for my team and our artists who have pivoted quickly and embraced this challenge. It’s gratitude for everyone who is doing what they can do to help from doctors and nurses to grocery clerks and the business community. But most of all, it’s gratitude for my family, and the whole support system that surrounds all of us. It’s gratitude for my ability spend time with them and enjoy the nuances of fatherhood in a way I haven’t experienced in a very long time.
“Until this past week, I haven’t had lunch with my family at my house on a weekday in probably seven years. But suddenly, I have a daily forum with my family to discuss their inner lives, the likes and dislikes, and to put it simply, what it means to be dad.”
Anyone who has reached a certain level in this business probably has experienced the same truth: the weight of our passion and career is often carried by those closest to us. There are days when we feel the weight of the world is on our shoulders. But if we’re honest, our spouses, our children, and other family members carry part of that burden too.
For example, until this past week, I haven’t had lunch with my family at my house on a weekday in probably seven years. But suddenly, I have a daily forum with my family to discuss their inner lives, the likes and dislikes, and to put it simply, what it means to be dad.
The big differences are the little nuances and details that come out during slow moments of the day that just don’t happen with scheduled time with my family. And yes, these are precisely the people who should never need to have an appointment with me.
I planned to teach my eight-year old daughter to ride a bike this Spring regardless of the present crisis. Still, the extra time at home has afforded me new opportunities.
For the first time in 10 years, I’ve taken the two adult bicycles off my garage wall and now I understand the joy of family bike rides. Instead of racing through life, I’m now racing to a place of enjoyment with my kids.
For my older children who are home from college with other members of our family, I check in with them daily and try to use this as an introduction to the responsibilities of adulthood. I’ve found genuine refuge in unplugging from my usual daily grind, and reconnecting with my family and truly being the father I’ve always aspired to be.
“In a single week, the experience of homeschooling is one that will stick with my children and I for the rest of our lives.”
In a single week, the experience of homeschooling is one that will stick with my children and I for the rest of our lives. After a work call, one of my daughters asked me what the word “ideation” meant because she heard me use it. I had the time to not only explain what it meant, but talk her through our brainstorming process at 300.
My youngest is taking French immersion classes, where it’s not just about learning a language – it’s about living a language, so we’ve mimicked a little Parisian café at home. I’m even in the process of helping them set up a 3D printer to make…well, I’m still trying to figure out what we’re making.
I’ve also taken time to slow down and give myself a gut check of my own mental health. Am I more reactive than proactive? How do I deal with problems that pop up? How do I center myself. In this process, I’ve picked up books I’ve been neglecting. I’ve had a chance to unclutter my home office, which I’ve often ignored. I finally even realized my Apple TV wasn’t broken – I was just too impatient to learn how to use all of its features. (Thank God for the Savant app.)
My point here isn’t to downplay the seriousness of this crisis. People will experience terrible loss, and they are in my prayers nightly. But other than to follow the advice of experts on what we need to do to keep my family, artists, and teams safe, I can’t control what’s happening in the outside world. What I can control is my mindset, my focus, and my goal of improving myself a little each day.
“As we care for our families and friends, let’s not forget fans who are going through this with us. The time to create is now.”
As an optimist, I feel blessed to have this opportunity to better understand the nuances of being a father, leader, friend, and entrepreneur. It’s easy to get lost in anxiety and scary headlines, but that’s precisely why I encourage everyone to spend more time during this crisis to find things that bring them joy, hope, gratitude, and inspiration.
As we care for our families and friends, let’s not forget fans who are going through this with us. The time to create is now.
In places hit by COVID-19, we’re seeing engagement, creation, and viewership on digital platforms explode – the opportunity to share our art and creativity is there if we take it.
Let’s all work on being better humans, and we’ll emerge stronger as an industry and individuals.
[Pic credit: Jason Goodrich]Music Business Worldwide