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Irv Gotti on Running a Record Label

Among one of hip-hop’s most successful producers, New York’s Irv Gotti is founder and CEO of The Inc. Records, as of 2006 a co-venture with Universal Music Group. His credits include chart-topping albums and singles by Ja Rule, Ashanti, DMX, Jay-Z, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Mary J. Blige and Fat Joe. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gotti’s spacious and bass-heavy arrangements often featuring female vocalists were nearly ubiquitous on Top 40 and hip-hop radio. As a measure of his success, at one point in 2002 three Gotti-produced singles simultaneously occupied spots in Billboards’ Top Ten - "Always on Time” (Ja Rule), "What's Luv?" (Fat Joe) and “Foolish” (Ashanti).

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Irv Gotti, CEO and founder of The Inc Records, discusses the numerous tasks, both glamorous and menial, that a label head must perform in order to keep an enterprise afloat.

Shoot Date:
November 2006
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Here at Murder Inc, Irv Gotti, I do everything from the rooter to the tooter. I clean up and I’m the chairman and CEO. I’m the janitor to the President and CEO and founder. I do actually do everything. I go into the studio, I make the record, I work with the artists, I produce the record, after I produce the record and I have the hit record I work the record at radio. I will go up to radio, I will fly to radio stations and I will talk to program directors, DJs, music directors, air personalities, all across the planet earth; not juts even here in the states. I’ve done that in London, I’ve done that in Japan, I’ve done that in Germany and France. And after the record gets played and it’s time to make the video I direct the video, I shoot the video and direct the video. When it’s time to do the album packaging I get with a photographer and tell them the vision that I want. I help coordinate the styling of the artist. If I see something and say yo, you should wear this or you should rock this, you should look like this or we should do this or present it like this. I do that. I then after the video is shot I work it at BET and MTV. I call the program directors over there; get the videos played to see how they like it. Give them my vision on what I want after the video’s played. If they’re on award shows I coordinate the performance for the award shows and everything like that. when the record is time to get sold I go to Wal-Mart and meet with the gangsters over there at Wal-Mart that make you fly to like Arkansas or Fayetteville or some little small town that you have to catch a small plane to get to. And I go sit with them to sell my record. I sit with Circuit City. I sit with Sam Goody. I sit will all the chain stores that sell our music. I go on the internet and deal with iTunes and I deal with AOL and I deal with Google and I deal with Yahoo! to try and help them to see how they could sell my records.

It’s like a one, two, three, four punch and what I mean by that is yes I do every thing but I also hire – also my company I hire a marketing guy, I hire a radio guy, I hire a street mix show guy, I hire an A&R guy, I hire someone who does new media and deals with the internet. And what I do basically is I let them soften it up and I come in and try to close the deal. But then I’m also a joint venture partner and I have a partner with Universal now who has to work my records. So lets’ say radio for instance. Tark Williams and Dex Diamond is my radio guys. Dex does street team and mix show and Tark is my national guy who talks to the program directors and music directors. So Dex will start off by giving the record to the DJ. After he gives the record to the DJ some DJs will immediately play the record, some DJs are like we’re gonna have to work. So if he says Irv this one is being a fucking hard ass or this one is a guy who you’re gonna have to call I gotta call that guy. And I’ll call him and say hey you like the record? You don’t like the record? And I always have a way – I have a very good way of absorbing whatever they say to me and then firing back at them. in other words if a DJ says I don’t like the record I go well you know I hear you and I feel what you’re saying but I think it’s a great record and I’m hoping that you can just give it a shot. So maybe you’re wrong and the people may love this record. So will you be cool enough even if you’re wrong and say you’ll start playing the record if it’s a big record you’ll play the record. So when you come out with logic like that ___ not really an idiot about it sometimes you get good results, sometimes you get nah, I can’t play the record. And then you gotta say all right even when the say that. I have another line. All right, it’s cool if you don’t play the record but if I make this a big record all around you and it’s a huge record will you play the record then? If I show you that it’s a great record will you – if I do that then nine times out of ten they’re like yeah I’m gonna have to play it if you make it a hit. Cool. I’ll call you later. Right? But that’s how it works on that level from radio. And it’s like on Tark’s level it’s the same thing with the program directors and the music directors but then even after they shut me down I have Universal backing me up. So Tark is first punch, I’m really the second punch; Universal is the third punch and say the senior VP of radio is the fourth punch. So that’s why I always say joint ventures when they’re function like me is the best labels in the world to be on because you have literally two staffs working your record. So it increases the chances of you winning.

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