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Welcome back to our INSIGHTS series where we show you all facets of the always demanding music industry. Meet David Airaudi, founder and CEO of up and coming record label Three Quarter. Did we say record label? Well, not quite, as Airaudi and his Three Quarter imprint offer a 360-degree service platform for creatively ambitious recording artists. Their services are utilized by the likes of Odd Future’s Tyler, the Creator, The Internet and more. This means nothing else than creative and financial benefit for every party involved. With credentials that include a MBA at Vanderbilt University as well as experience as an Executive running the Business Development departments of UMG and Interscope Records, you can rest assured that David Airaudi knows a thing or two about the modern-day music business and its competitive nature.
Can you tell me a little about Three Quarter? What is its exact function? It seems to be not an average record label.
That’s correct. Three Quarter was an idea I had during my time at Interscope Records. It’s a new way to fully service the business of music. It is part record label, part venture capital, part management. I create literal businesses for artists, provide them creative control and manage their talent, property and assets in a the most profitable and efficient way possible. They make the art, it is my job to figure how we, the company, makes money, how to build the brand, the long-term career and how we generate revenue given what the artist wants to focus on. It is a collective effort on creating a broader business and brand opposed to just sell records and producing content.
Full package service indeed.
Yes. For Odd Future, we founded our own record label and did deal through Sony Music to be able to put out music that the guys (Odd Future) want as well as provide the ability to find new talent that they want to push. My function has been facilitating that structural backbone of the operating business. I try not to get involved creatively, unless asked. No matter if they want sign acts, if they want to do comedy or open up a coffee shop, that’s none of my business. I look at my job as figuring out how to properly build and efficiently monetize the talents and, most importantly, passions of my artist partners.
You have also worked closely with Jimmy Iovine during your time at Interscope Records?
I was at Interscope for seven years. Right after my MBA at Vanderbilt I came in to run the Business Development department at Universal Music North America Division. Trying to get into business through the MBA program is not quite a typical way, but every meeting I’ve attended I was trying figure out how to get into the business, look for my niche, find somebody who believed in me, and all of a sudden, there was this offer from UMG. So I jumped at it. The first three months at UMG taught me so much. I was thrown into cold water basically, setting up publishing deals, buying labels, restructuring labels, doing official record deals. In this brief phase, we worked on deals for Prince, Elton John, 50 Cent, Jay Z. As far as Jimmy, I helped on restructuring Aftermath with Dr. Dre and after that I was brought over to Interscope where I ran Business Development and Strategy, I worked on every major deal at Interscope for the last seven or eight years and feel very blessed to have been a part of that team. Not too mention given the chance to see and impact the changing music business from such a unique vantage point.
What was the most important lesson that you’ve learned from Jimmy Iovine. Given his resume, he must be an inspirational character.
That there are no crazy ideas. Sitting and watching how Jimmy and the Interscope team managed the volatility that was happening in the music business was inspiring to say the least. Remember, the industry was losing a billion dollars annually. We had hundred decks on new business ideas, concepts. We looked at beverage companies, touring companies, management companies, apparel companies. We studied social networks from early on and had intense meetings on this field. We were having early meetings with entrepreneurs that were raising angel capital. We were taking equity positions in internet companies. I think what I’ve learned from him was if you have genuine passion for even the seed of an idea, no matter what others might think, it is worth chasing it. The culmination of that was Beats headphones and everyone knows how that turned out.
What was the best music idea in the last ten years?
Steve Jobs and Apple. What they realized with the iPod and iTunes, and something I preach at Three Quarter, is that the valuable and definable asset in music is no longer something you can put into vault. It’s not a master recording, the most valuable asset in music today is the ability to move people and do that in a very visceral and connected way. Apple created tangible products and easy-to-use services wrapped around people who love and are passionate about music. In addition, they offered their digital destination to find, buy and promote music. Essentially, they started this new swing of portable devices leveraging music and artists. The artists made it cool, they made you want to be connected to it, in addition of course to the designs, engineering and aesthetics. The way Jobs and Apple used music, capitalized on the interconnectivity of their products and product services was one of the many genius things that have been done at Apple. This is the type of creative thinking that I try to implement with this company.
Photography: Kelly Turso