NFL of­fers guid­ance to play­ers who seek ca­reers in mu­sic biz

In­dus­try pros teach hope­fuls tricks of trade

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - BY NEKESAMUMBIMOODY

ENEW YORK ven be­fore Dar­ren Howard en­tered the NFL, the de­fen­sive end had dreams of be­ing in the mu­sic busi­ness. He was a DJ in high school and by the time he was in col­lege, he had cre­ated a “rag­tag” record­ing stu­dio in the base­ment of his home.

“It’s al­ways been some­thing I loved,” Mr. Howard said. “I knew one day that I would trans­form to that.”

So af­ter Mr. Howard re­tired in 2009, the for­mer New Or­leans Saints and Philadel­phia Ea­gles player jumped into mak­ing records. He started his own la­bel, Empyre, and signed a pop and R&B singer he’s con­fi­dent about.

But Mr. Howard ad­mit­ted he hasn’t yet had what he’d call suc­cess, say­ing the mu­sic in­dus­try is “fickle.”

“The mu­sic busi­ness is funny. Some artists go 10, 15 years of mak­ing records be­fore they ever re­coup and make any money,” Mr. Howard said. “The la­bel can be the same, be­cause they’re de­pend­ing on the artist. Hope­fully it won’t take that long.”

This week, the Na­tional Foot­ball League of­fered an as­sist to cur­rent and for­mer play­ers like Mr. Howard who are try­ing to find their foot­ing in a busi­ness that can be just as un­for­giv­ing as foot­ball.

Its player en­gage­ment di­vi­sion paired with New York Univer­sity’s Clive Davis In­sti­tute of Recorded Mu­sic, part of the Tisch School of the Arts, for the Busi­ness of Mu­sic Boot Camp.

The camp had key mu­sic fig­ures — from mogul Davis to record com­pany ex­ec­u­tives and man­agers — of­fer­ing their in­sights in in­ti­mate ses­sions with the play­ers. Each player was then paired with a men­tor, who will con­tinue to coach him in the months to come.

“The mu­sic game, it’s not just find­ing the tal­ent. It’s what you do with that tal­ent that ul­ti­mately de­ter­mines your level of suc­cess,” said Jef­frey Rab­han, the in­sti­tute’s depart­ment chair­man and a men­tor in the pro­gram.

Given that sports can be con­sid­ered en­ter­tain­ment it­self, it’s not sur­pris­ing that some ath­letes migrate into the field. Magic John­son may be among the big­gest suc­cess sto­ries, with his the­aters and other ven­tures. Shaquille O’neal was a record­ing

artist and had a plat­inum al­bum. Chris Web­ber, Metta World Peace and oth­ers also have tried their hands in the mu­sic busi­ness, and Roy Jones Jr. had a record la­bel Body Head — whose fi­nan­cial trou­bles, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Sports Il­lus­trated ar­ti­cle, may be part of the rea­son the 40-some­thing boxer is still in the ring.

While Mr. Rab­han noted there has been a smat­ter­ing of ath­letes who have made it in the mu­sic in­dus­try, “Un­for­tu­nately, the sto­ries of those who have not had suc­cesses are a longer list, so we’re try­ing to change that.”

About 70 play­ers ap­plied to be a part of the four-day pro­gram, and 20 were ac­cepted. Among those who took part in the camp were for­mer Oak­land Raider Justin Far­gis, New York Gi­ants player Marvin Austin, St. Louis Rams player Bran­don Lloyd, and Torry Holt, who played for the Rams and the Jack­sonville Jaguars.

Troy Vin­cent, the NFL’S vice pres­i­dent for player en­gage­ment, said the league cre­ated the pro­gram af­ter player sur­veys showed a strong in­ter­est in the en­ter­tain­ment field, par­tic­u­larly mu­sic. The NFL al­ready does a broad­cast­ing boot camp to ready play­ers for me­dia ca­reers, and a Hol­ly­wood boot camp is planned for April at Univer­sal Stu­dios, and will in­clude such tal­ent as Os­carnom­i­nated di­rec­tor John Sin­gle­ton.

Mr. Vin­cent said there was also a real con­cern that play­ers have jumped into the in­dus­try but then floun­dered be­cause they don’t have the ex­per­tise.

“It doesn’t mat­ter how much money you have or you think you have. Money does not equal suc­cess,” said Mr. Vin­cent, who re­tired as a Washington Red­skin in 2006. “It’s proper plan­ning, it’s ed­u­cat­ing your­self in the sub­ject mat­ter, hav­ing the right peo­ple with you, the right guid­ance, and not mak­ing an emo­tional decision, which of­ten hap­pens.

“I can’t em­pha­size it enough: The least ed­u­cated is the most ex­ploited, and peo­ple prey on that par­tic­u­lar au­di­ence.”

Jayson Jack­son, who has man­aged Lau­ryn Hill, Santigold and oth­ers, said ath­letes of­ten come up to him and talk about their plans in the mu­sic busi­ness. Just as of­ten, he hears from them a year or so later, and they’ve bot­tomed out.

“They have re­sources, and re­sources are amaz­ing, but they can also be a dan­ger­ous thing when you are mov­ing into an area that you don’t know much about,” said Mr. Jack­son, who spoke to the ath­letes as well.

Dur­ing Tues­day af­ter­noon’s ses­sion, the play­ers gath­ered in a pro­fes­sional mu­sic stu­dio and learned the nuts and bolts about mak­ing a record, from the ba­sics of Pro Tools, the com­puter record­ing soft­ware, to which mi­cro­phones are best for cap­tur­ing sound. Play­ers moved in closer as Nick Sansano, head of pro­duc­tion stud­ies at the in­sti­tute, showed them the dif­fer­ence be­tween a mi­cro­phone that costs $3,000, and one that’s $95.

“If that’s of good qual­ity, that’s where you should spend your money,” said Mr. Sansano as he held up one of the more ex­pen­sive mics.

Later, Ryan Les­lie, a singer/pro­ducer whose hits in­clude Cassie’s “Me & U,” told of his rise in the in­dus­try, how to make money on Youtube, and life as an in­de­pen­dent artist.

“Would you do it if you were only mak­ing $45,000 a year?” he asked. “If you re­ally want to make mu­sic your ca­reer, [you would].”

Keary Col­bert, who last sea­son played for the Kansas City Chiefs, is like Mr. Howard. He had what he calls a “deep pas­sion for mu­sic grow­ing up,” and is work­ing with an act. Mr. Col­bert met rapper Pol-b in 2007 af­ter he gave the player his CD, and said Pol-b al­ready has worked with key pro­duc­ers and artists.

For Mr. Col­bert, the week has been an op­por­tu­nity to learn more so he can grow in the busi­ness.

“I’m not go­ing to be able to leave here to­mor­row and go from zero to 60 and be at the Gram­mys to­mor­row, but there’s a lot of things that def­i­nitely will help from a ground level,” he said.

Mr. Howard also has re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Hope­fully it works out. I’m not look­ing to knock noth­ing out the park, I’m not try­ing to be Puffy or even Ryan Les­lie,” he said with a smile. “I just want to make good mu­sic, make some money, add some­thing to the com­mu­nity and pro­vide some jobs, and that would be some­thing I would be happy do­ing.”


Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Rick San­to­rum signs the sweater vest of Robert Casler, 17, of Muskegon, Mich., af­ter a cam­paign rally. Although “fear the vest” may have helped Mr. San­to­rum in the early nom­i­nat­ing con­tests, he now might need to con­sider a more dig­ni­fied look.

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