VP of Publishing for Roc Nation Dominique Dunn talks the makings of a hit record, networking and discovering new talent at ASCAP’s Women Behind the Music celebration in Hollywood. (Brittany K. Jackson photo)
Recently, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, also known as ASCAP, took a moment to honor a few of the music industry’s fiercest “Women Behind the Music”. In celebratory fashion, a sexy crowd of artists, producers, songwriters, music managers, and the like gathered at Bardot in Hollywood to toast to the ladies who give men in the music industry a run for their money with their keen level of talent and skill.
Amongst the honorees were Priscilla Renea, the singer-songwriter known for writing hits like “Worth It” for Fifth Harmony, “Rihanna’s “California King Bed” and earning a number of songwriting credits for artists such as Madonna, K. Michelle, Demi Lovato, Chris Brown and more. And let’s not forget Priscilla’s own singing career. With an impeccable vocal range, Renea released her own album “Jukebox” in 2009. Renea literally shut down Bardot last week, wooing the crowd by performing renditions of hit songs she wrote, including ballots with a unique country flare.
When asked how she starting singing, Renea says it’s a part of her genetic makeup. “My father played the trumpet, my mother sang Minnie Riperton whistle notes around the house all the time, I just grew up around music, I didn’t have a choice,” she said. As for how she became a songwriter, Renea says she hadn’t planned on it,that she thinks it was arbitrarily decided for her as a pathway into the game.
Renea, who’s 28 now, says that when she ultimately entered the game at 20, she experienced intimidation as a direct result of her genius. The artist says that for eight years, she was “the youngest, the darkest, and a woman, and most successful”.
Renea continued to drop jewels from her journey, saying that she by far exceeded the expectations of her peers. “Just because I’m a girl, you don’t expect me to be able to play the guitar, you don’t expect me to know copyright law, you don’t expect me to know the difference between arranging and producing, you don’t expect me to know the difference between vocal production and production,” she said of crushing stereotypes of women behind the music.
Renea has also experienced a considerable amount of adversity in her career despite her success. Having had artists pilfer and pick apart songs on albums she’s written, bouts of bankruptcy and litigation, an untimely lupus diagnosis, and the whirlwind of being dropped, re-signed then dropped again from a label, Renea says she realized how to pick herself up and have tough conversations with the industry leaders she makes lots of money for. “Of course they want to call you a b**ch when you pick up the phone and be like, ‘listen, this is my sh**’,” Renea said. “Really they don’t like you, they like your gift, and I had to realize there’s nothing wrong with me. This is a game, so if they gon’ pimp me, I might as well pimp myself,” she declared.
Also honored was Dominique Dunn, Vice President of Publishing for Jay Z’s Roc Nation empire. Starting her career as an intern in the A&R Department for Island Def Jam in 2006, Dunn’s hard work and persistence landed her in a position where she now works with the industry’s top producers, songwriters and artists. Dunn has worked with the likes of The Dream, Stargate, No ID, Rihanna, J. Cole, Willow Smith and Melanie Fiona.
Dunn says she was able to breakthrough the music industry by building a great rapport with music industry professionals, often networking in studio sessions and facilitating artist collaborations. When asked what qualities make for a hit record, Dunn simply says, “It’s just the gut. I don’t know. I don’t have a formula.”
As it pertains to scoping out new talent, Dunn isn’t necessarily looking for the artist with tons of followers and the best social media-marketing package. “It’s more about the music for me and what feels right and feels good,” she said. While Dunn’s current focus is finding and discovering the crème de le crème of rising stars, she continues to break divides as a powerful woman in the game.
Eufaula Garrett, top brand strategist and manager to Andre 3000 also served as an honoree for the night’s panel. While representing an equivocally aloof yet powerfully talented artist, she’s managed to keep Andre 3000’s brand just as mysterious but salivating to Andre’s die hard fans. As for 3 Stack’s social media presence, Garrett says it’s “100% non-existent” on purpose. “I think as a manager and as a talent agent, one of the most important things you can do is to know your client, and in his particular case, his brand is built on mystique,” Garrett said.
While on the topic of a woman’s professional stature in a male dominated industry, Garrett says that there have been times where her gender spoke louder then her level of skill and intellect. “There are those slivers in time when you’re in those creative discussions and you become very aware that everyone else is uber aware of your gender,” she said. Garrett says that there are walls created, particularly in hip-hop that create hurdles for women in the game to push through. “We’re born into this world knowing that we have to persevere, knowing that we have to work a little bit harder, the same almost any minority does,” she concluded.
All-in-all, these powerful women behind the music are making waves in the music business that no one can deny.