Earlier this year we had the good fortune to see MC Hammer speak at the Startup Grind conference. He was interviewed by Mary Grove, Director of Google for Entrepreneurs. We never ran this piece due to other pieces in the works that week. However, we’re sharing this with you today… From the vault!
Q: How would you define yourself now?
I’m focusing right now on a few things. One is the value of music going forward. Today music from an artist’s standpoint isn’t considered a very valuable commodity but it’s valuable to the businesses that build businesses around the model. Like many of the entrepreneurs here today, the first thing I did on the music side was read a lot of books. In certain aspects education is — for whatever reason — not highlighted. I say to a lot of youth when I speak to them, “My reading and comprehension in the 2nd grade was equivalent to the 3rd year of college.” I understood the music industry and I had to get out there and apply it. I had a good understanding of marketing and promotion, but had to learn grassroots marketing to get my record on.
Q: Do you think that hip hop has made you a better entrepreneur?
I brought my entrepreneurial skills into hip hop. In ’86 when I came in you had successful rappers, but I came in with a whole different concept. My idea was to create a show and momentum that would allow me to sell records to the same fans that Michael Jackson and Prince sold to. I had my 10,000 hours in of dancing.
The first time I tweeted, there had to be 100 different naysayers that said ‘What kind of entertainer would do his own marketing?’ Make no mistake – we won’t be using the old music model so you can’t measure your impact or success. The whole way that they judge success in music is outdated and all paid for. The engine underneath Pinterest is scary to me. It can serve up music, retail, fashion, music, the whole nine yards. The value of kids who come from homes that have less income are as important as someone who has $1 billion.
Q: How can entrepreneurs give back to their communities?
The 1-1-1 model. 1% of the equity, 1% time of the employees, 1% founding of the company. Yelp now has $50 million because they adopted that model from the beginning. The culture you’re creating for your company is giving back because 1% of the time is giving back to your community.
To all entrepreneurs: Setting the foundation of the culture of the company is extremely, extremely important. Know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. I like to empower people. Previously I’d be more of a control freak, but you’re much more powerful when you empower your employees. The perfect way is to delegate authority and to allow people to do what they do.
I like to compare the tech wealth in Silicon Valley to the NBA. You have a lot of players that look good on the weekend and dream of playing in the NBA. But they’re not prepared nor do they have the skill set to play in the NBA. When I see someone who has that skill set, I invest. This is all business. What we see on the playing field is the best of the best and that’s what I think of this business. I had to work every day to create connections and relationships. The best of the best will make their way through. The cream rises to the top and you have to build the skill set on the team.
Q: With the increase of people supporting music instead of buying it, where do you see the distribution model going?
It’s going to be very tough going forward with the existing models. Right now, branded artists and legacy artists should have their own channel and their own streaming service. Why would I, as an artist, do that? Because all of the content that I own will be in one place. $9.99 for subscribers, whatever it is, artists should now have their own spending service. They can give you the backstory where only they can bring you inside of their world. You want to go to a channel that has his voice and his history. With the new artist, do you sign and allow a company to build a brand for you? They’ll create your brand, you’re going to give them four years and your merchandising. If you want to maintain control you’ll have less profit. The doors are meant to keep you out because you cannot afford it; if you can get in past the doorkeeper for less of a fee then it’d be a lot easier to let people in.
I’m getting up every morning thinking about next year. What I want to do for the anniversary is make it tech oriented. partnering with companies right now that will be part of the celebration. will be 100% social and tech driven. Creating content going forward is the thing that i live for – from music, to film, you name it.
Q: I’m going to give you one word and I want you to tell me the first word that comes to mind. Platform?
Beyonce! What Beyonce did when she released her album, she should receive even more credit than she’s already received. Her model of releasing the album with zero marketing and zero promo and zero radio play and zero video, four areas that all were disrupted, all areas where ppl were looking for a check, she disrupted all of them and sold millions of records. It disrupted things for artists going forward on that level.