Gently reclining in a single seat, leather sofa inside a downtown Toronto coffee shop, Charles Murray slowly places his cell phone on the square shop table in front of him. Minutes ago he was a funny man with a wide grin and firm handshake – laidback and full of jokes just like his friends and family know him as. But right after answering a business call, he shifts his phone to the side of the table, focuses his eyes straight ahead, and turns on a serious facial expression. He transforms into boss mode.
“I’m hoping to transfer my knowledge to new artists so they could avoid the grenades and landmines that are catastrophic to their career.”
Since he founded Benjamin Verde in 2006, Murray, who is the company’s Chief Executive Officer, has worked to build a brand synonymous with supporting upcoming musicians in the hip-hop and R&B industry – particularly in South Western Ontario and the Mid-Western United States. Aware of the boarder gap that he believed was hindering the rise of Canadian music, Murray says he knew it was a necessity to launch a new music firm where artists could have their own musical voice through 50/50 deals, and not the traditional deal that he experienced as an artist years before. “I’ve spent a lot of money making terrible mistakes,” admits Murray. “Fortunately I’ve learned from them, and I’ve been able to apply my understanding and the things that I’ve learned. So I’m hoping to transfer my knowledge to new artists so they could avoid the grenades and landmines that are catastrophic to their career.” Today, Benjamin Verde Inc. offers a wide range of industry know-how from financial aid and intellectual property management to the overall dos and don’ts of the industry. In addition to personal consultations, the company’s website vxco.net offers an online platform for artists to brand themselves musically and connect with fellow musicians, fans and industry professionals.
On a daily basis Murray offers a lot of advice to his clients, but there are some guiding principles to this industry that he says every artist should know – free of charge.
Be Yourself Originality is key for a thriving career. Although the industry will try to change your image and your sound, always stay true to yourself, and your talent. “The industry needs originality, and you cannot make a career on covers,” says Murray.
Lose the Ego “Being humble will get you further than being overly vocal or overly passionate,” says Murray. Remain thankful for each and every positive opportunity that comes your way.
“You don’t have to listen to everybody, but at least consider it, contemplate it, think about it, mull it over.”
Understand Your Audience “Know your lane,” Murray advises, before adding, “Stick to what you know.” After all, your fans are your number one critics – knowing what they like, don’t like and expect from you goes a long way in building your name and your brand.
Seek Guidance “At least consider the advice from industry professionals,” says Murray. “You don’t have to listen to everybody, but at least consider it, contemplate it, think about it, mull it over.” This way, he adds, you don’t burn bridges with people you may need to call on for favours in the future.
Be Open To Constructive Criticism Lots of times Murray has had a lot of people catching feelings because of things he’s advised them of. For example, artists have often presented him with questionable visual materials, such as music videos with narcotics. “If you are portraying the street life, it wouldn’t make sense for you to go out there and capture [footage of] you breaking the law, and then get surprised when the police are knocking at your door.”
“Invest $100 in yourself. Know what it feels like to spend money on your business; you are a business.”
Step Your Audio/Visual Game Up “The visuals have to be a good representation or depiction of the body of work that you are creating,” explains Murray. “Subsequently you need to have a good quality of sound. You can have the best producers, best beats, best lyrics and you give it to an executive and you can’t hear anything, but it looks good, it’s poorly mixed.” Keep in mind your visuals and audio is an extension of your brand.
Invest in Yourself “An artist has to invest into him/herself first,” says Murray. “Invest $100 in yourself. Know what it feels like to spend money on your business; you are a business.” Essential first steps in taking your career seriously cost money, Murray explains, like talking to an accountant or a lawyer. For that reason a budget is a must. “Don’t rely so much on handouts. [Funders] are going to help people that are more established first, why are they going to take a gamble on someone who might just go pay their MasterCard [bill]?”
“Everyone’s put in a decade. Success doesn’t happen overnight.”
Keep It Professional There is a difference between real life and entertainment, Murray warns. “If you’re having a bad day and you’re going on a rant and this is your music page, this is the image you’re using to get paid, it doesn’t help to put all your personal business on social media. Then you become a liability to executives [who may wonder] I don’t know about this person, am I going to babysit them?” When industry professionals check out your social networks they want to be greeted with professionalism, not personal drama, he says, adding Twitter and Facebook can prove quite damaging. “Once it’s posted it can’t be removed.” Instead, channel that energy into your work.
Keep At It While the saying, “never give up,” may seem cliché, Murray reminds rising artists that most people that they see on TV have been in the shadows or shelved for at least 10 years. “Everyone’s put in a decade,” he says. “Success doesn’t happen overnight.”
Words By. Aliecia Brissett + Photo Courtesy Of. Aries 7 Media