Tommy Brown wants to rewrite the music industry rulebook. The super producer, who has supplied marquee artists like Ariana Grande, T.I. and Chris Brown with boundary-shifting tracks, spent the past few years surveying the scene and witnessed how difficult it can be for up-and-comers to connect with more notable writers and producers. His solution: create the Facebook of the music community, where newer musicians can pay various price points and access exclusive instrumentals and get their music heard by a wider audience.Read more
“They say everybody has the same opportunities, but I don’t think so,” says the 28-year-old, who will launch the site in early 2015 to “level the playing field” of a notoriously unapologetic industry. “Some people are so creative they don’t even know how to get it down. I’m somebody that you could bring your ideas and we’ll take it to the limits, to a place you never thought it could go. We want to expand the limitation of your lifestyle.”
Brown knows a few things about the hardships of coming up as an underdog. A Pittsburgh, Penn. native, the 28-year-old spent his teen years soaking up the sounds of the era—Kanye West, Timbaland, The Neptunes—while developing his skills as a drummer at his local church. After saving up from work at a grocery store, he purchased his first drum machine, an MPC, and spent the next few years honing his sound. At 18, he decided to go for it—”I don’t believe in a plan B,” he says—and packed up his studio equipment to move to Atlanta and engrain himself in the local scene, known for its thriving music community and ability to dictate trends.
In ATL, Brown soaked up the sounds of the city, attending open mic events where he forged connections with fellow upstarts and sold beat CDs tagged with a sample of Notorious B.I.G. saying “Crack King” to prevent artists from stealing his material. The tag became his short-lived stage name and, as Crack King, he started producing tracks for Gorilla Zoe, Yung Joc, and 2 Chainz, then known as Tity Boi. But it was his next move that set his career into motion. Brown signed with Roy “Royalty” Hamilton (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears), who in turn sold his contract in 2008 to Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, producer behind some of contemporary pop’s greatest hits from the past two decades.
Under Jerkins, he worked on songs for Jennifer Lopez and Wyclef Jean, but it wasn’t until 2012 that he felt confident enough to embark on his own path and break from Jerkins’ purview. “Every bird has to leave the nest at sometime”—a recurring theme for Brown, no stranger to taking chances—”and you don’t want to do it too early or too late.” In 2012, he signed with BMI, which in turn led to an independent production deal with Sony ATV. Since then, he’s become one of the hottest producers across genres, helming T.I.’s “New National Anthem,” G.O.O.D. Music’s “Sin City,” and four songs on Grande’s chart-topping sophomore album My Everything.
In addition to his aspirations in launching his innovative site, Brown is developing artists and songwriters under his VieTom imprint—all just part of his master plan to set the new standard. “I see the business model. I don’t know if that’s going to be around too much longer,” he says. “I want to make it easier to push artists through technology as opposed to just labels and radio—and try to make artists feel good.”
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