As media entrepreneurs go, few come as seasoned or successful as Mathew Knowles.
Over the course of his illustrious career, the Music World mogul has managed major names such as daughter Beyonce, Destiny’s Child, and Nas. He has also facilitated multi-million dollar deals with the likes of L’Oreal, Walmart, and many more.
Eager to share his story and inspire entrepreneurs of tomorrow, Knowles penned his first book, #1 bestseller ‘The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals.’
In our quest to bring you a behind the scenes look at those who “make the magic happen,” our candid chat with the industry maestro is the is first instalment brand new feature ‘Meets The Makers.’
Read below as Knowles waxes honest about his career, his book, parting ways with Beyonce, a Destiny’s Child reunion, Rihanna, and much more.
As ever, we ask the questions you really want answers to.
Interview by: Sam – That Grape Juice
Edited by: Rashad – That Grape Juice
That Grape Juice (TGJ): We’ve been very engrossed in your book: “DNA of Achievers.” It really is essential reading for any music enthusiast. For you, personally, why this book and why now?
Mathew Knowles: I am 64 years old and I’m getting up in age. It’s time for me to leave my legacy. It’s time for me to help others as much as I can with telling my story.
TGJ: You’ve achieved so much in your career and you’re still achieving so much with your new ventures as well. But, before we delve into those things, who are some of your inspirations in the music business, and in business more broadly, as well?
Knowles: That’s a great question. It’s Berry Gordy. You know, he’s a guy that didn’t have a lot of money. His sister gave him a small investment, and he took that [and made an empire]. As we talk about the “360 concept” today, he had that back in the day of Motown.
When I look at it from a business perspective, there are some folks at Sony like Tommy Mottola and Don Ienner. From those folks, I learned a lot from the business aspect of it.
TGJ: In your time, you shepherded careers such as that of Nas, The O’Jays, Chaka Khan. However, it’s most definitely fair to say that you’re most renowned for your work with Destiny’s Child, Solange, and of course, brand Beyoncé…
Knowles: We spend a lot of time with Beyoncé, and Destiny’s Child, and Solange, but we don’t ever spend enough [time] understanding what I’ve done in the music industry from an executive standpoint, not just as a manager.
I’m just happy that you’ve given me an opportunity to talk more than just Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, and Solange because there’s a lot more [to my story] than that.
TGJ: Of course.
Your journey remains as fascinating today as it was when the world first learned of it. From leaving your job at Xerox, to the DC success, and the vast Music World empire you built…
Knowles: Even after that. There’s the Music World Gospel imprint, which saw Trin-i-tee 5:7 become the #1 female Gospel trio. Le’Andria Johnson the #1 female. She won a Grammy in 2012.
Not many people know that I also worked in Country music, after acquiring the Compadre catalogue (which included Billy Joe Shaver). I’ve done a few things [laughs]!
TGJ: In existing editorial space, we often hear comparisons between Mathew Knowles and Joe Jackson – principally from a hard-work-yields-results perspective. And, of course, the fact that you’ve both shepherded the careers of two of music’s biggest names.
Do you see any likeness?
Knowles: I have much respect for Mr. Jackson. He worked extremely hard to get [his children] to the level of success they are and he’s very much commended for his efforts and for what he did.
But, in no way do I see any resemblance of Mathew Knowles and Joe Jackson.
Joe never ran a major record label, never had multiple artists, and never had the success of his multiple artists that were #1, #1, #1.
So, I don’t, in any, way see a resemblance, other than he was a parent of his kids, and I was a parent of Beyoncé and Solange.
In 2011, you moved from being [what some have called] “Dad-ager” to just dad for Beyonce.
Knowles: I’ve never been a “Daddy-ger”. I find that insulting. I was a father who managed his daughter. It’s important that that is understood.
That said, I think anytime someone undertakes something new, there’s a learning curve that’s required. The good thing is that with Beyoncé, most folks don’t know, her Staff [upon going it alone] are people I had trained or collaborated with. People who worked with us the whole time [either at Music World or Columbia]. So, the Team stayed intact. That’s the key thing.
Obviously, Beyoncé is a very lucky young lady, I think, to have a mother and a father that were entrepreneurs as a young child. She got to watch and see their mistakes and their successes.
So, from a business aspect, she and Solange grew up in that entrepreneurial environment, which put them ahead of most people.
But you know, initially, [Beyonce] had to make some mistakes—and mistakes were made in my opinion—but she’s learned from them. And I think she’s done an incredible job.
Five years on, though, there still remains a curiosity about that professional parting.
Were you on-board on the ‘4’ campaign? Because that’s pretty much publicly, at least, when the transition occurred. And it’s known that album roll-outs are planned months, even years in advance.
Knowles: I was not part of any of that.
[The parting happened] coming off of tour mode. We weren’t in album mode yet. But I can say that a lot of discussions at that time were were already centered on: “Can you put out something digitally, and not put out something physical?”
I mean, the whole concept of putting a video with [almost] every song, we had done that twice already— with ‘B’Day’ and something with the Destiny’s Child videography
Specifically with Destiny’s Child, what was that experience like? What was it like birthing and rearing that brand?
Knowles: You know, when I came into the music industry, I came from corporate America and I was fortunate to have a significant success in marketing and sales.
I thought we were selling a brand, and our approach was different because we were selling a brand. And in that selling a brand, imaging becomes critical. Certain skills—communication skills, interviewing skills—become critical, to listening your alignment with certain brands becomes critical.
So, our approach was different.
Our approach was also that we understood with that all of having great artists—those ladies are incredible artists—great image. Above all, it was critical to have great songs. So, we were fortunate to also have some great songs that these ladies co-wrote.
These were very, very young ladies we’re talking. They were 15 years old. It’s not like they started at 25. I am very proud.
TGJ: With Destiny’s Child, going into their solo ventures, what was your goal for each member? And, do you feel that those goals were achieved?
Knowles: You know, the goal was to build the audience. That was the single, number one goal—to be build the overall audience. So, we were very, very clear with each lady. We ascertained what their individual passion and love was individually—Michelle came from a Gospel church background; Kelly loved Europe and Australia, and travelling (she was more of a Pop artist); and Beyoncé, of course, was the R&B artist.
TGJ: It’s been a decade since the ladies disbanded, and there’s been a lot of talk about reunions and things of that nature. What’s the status of that at the moment?
Knowles: Obviously, it’s the ladies’ decision on any and all of what I’m about to say. They are at a stage now where they make those decisions. I support them, I give them direction.
TGJ: With your “manager hat” on, what should a reunion look like now? In your opinion. Should it be only a tour, a new album, or both?
Knowles: If it was up to me, I think it’s critical that they do an album that supported a tour. I think it could be one of the largest tours ever.
I think that the approach to the tour could be different. Instead of going to travel all over Europe, like we’ve done before, I think we would camp it in certain key cities. You would camp it in London, and do it for three weeks. You camp it in Paris and do Paris for a week. You wouldn’t go all over [the world]. You just set it and camp it in one place, and let people come to you—and do that same concept in America.
TGJ: Sounds cool!
They’ve all shown that they do have the “DNA of Achievers” – having worked with you and having been guided by you in the past.
So, moving forward, do you always see yourself being Destiny’s Child’s manager or do you see them perhaps taking the reins of the group themselves, collectively?
Knowles: Coming from a contractual basis, I would always be the manager. That’s how contracts work.
What I don’t see is me, not them, wanting to do it forever. There might be a time and point that I don’t want to do it.
You are still creating your success narrative now, but at this point in 2016, what would you say are some of the things that you are most proud of, as a manager, over the many different artists that you’ve worked with?
Knowles: I’m most proud that they are good people—the artists that I have been able to work with— for the most part.
The second thing that I’m proud of is: all of the success that these artists had. You know, Nas having a #1 album when I worked with him, the talked about the Gospel; and Solange. Destiny’s Child, and them all individually—Michelle’s #1 Gospel career, Kelly’s solo album career, and Beyoncé’s solo career.
I owned a record label—a significant record label. I’ve been more than just a manager and I’m proud of that.
TGJ: So, shifting gears, music sales are dwindling and R&B is suffering the brunt of this. What do you think some of today’s R&B acts could do or should be doing, to revive the genre commercially?
Knowles: When you talk to me, you’re talking to a guy who studies the numbers. The truth is: all of the genres are declining. So, the comment that R&B is worse off than Pop, or worse off than Rap, is not accurate.
R&B, I think, is having a resurgence and I think the resurgence is coming back because now there’s an effort in Artist Development and learning how to perform and developing yourself as a performer.
You know, selling records is going to be the thing of the past for all genres as we get more and more streaming and social media merging.
TGJ: You’ve spearheaded many campaigns, many of which have been very successful.
One that has a lot of people talking at the moment, just from a contextual standpoint, is Rihanna’s new album. Things haven’t been going so well as perhaps they have with past efforts. What do you think she, or more specifically her team, could be done to turn things around? From a managerial perspective…
Knowles: I don’t study Rihanna. I pretty much focus on my own artists.
But, the fact in this industry, it’s about building an audience. Audience equals sales.
So, she who has the largest audience sells the most product. A very simple formula.
TGJ: We’ve spoken in earnest about all that you’ve achieved. What are some of the things you’d like to accomplish that perhaps haven’t happened just yet?
Knowles: Well, I’m working on a new girl group.
Knowles: Their name is Blushhh (B-L-U-S-H-H-H). Blushhh Music. I have had them in Artist Development now for 17 months, and they are a three-girl trio. And, they’re a Rap group. Two girls rap, one girl sings.
In wrapping up, how does Mathew Knowles want to be remembered when the dust is settled?
Knowles: Caring, effective, successful, thinks outside-of-the box. Those would be some of the words.
TGJ: Excellent. Finally: What advice would you give to people that want to follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps?
Knowles: I would suggest to them that they follow what I’m doing and where I’m giving seminars—and I’m giving them all over the world.
Buy the book, the “DNA of Achievers”—I think they’ll find a lot of good information in there too!