Being one of the most respected entertainment industry shakers in Atlanta, Vincent Searcy is quickly becoming a culture shifter. With his background as a basketball player, he applied the values of loyalty, teamwork, and consistency, as well as the discovery of extraordinary talent, to his passion for the music business. That led him to create Crown World Entertainment over 20 years ago, which has become a successful brand in artist management for both music talent and actors.
Searcy recently launched CWE Distro, a distribution company that provides an easy-to-use, transparent platform for independent artists and record labels to distribute their music unlimitedly and keep 100% of their royalties. Searcy spoke with rolling out about CWE, his time as a CEO, and tips for young artists.
When did you start Crown World Entertainment?
In 2001, I was a college basketball player in Texas, and one of my teammates said he had some friends from his hometown who needed some help in the music business. I wasn’t in the music business at the time; I was just a basketball player. He called a couple of friends from his hometown of Milwaukee, and one of them ended up being Rico Love. I flew him to Atlanta that weekend; we met and connected, and we started flying back every weekend from there.
What are the tips that you’ve learned as a CEO?
One, you’ve got to have passion because anything you’re passionate about, you’re going to go super hard at it. You have to build great relationships, maintain those relationships, and use them—but not misuse them. Third, just have faith in God. Do nothing without that.
How do you look for talent?
It’s a feeling that I get when I walk into a room. I can walk in the room without having heard any music and see a person, and I can see there’s something different about them or something that stands out about them. I can spot a star, and that’s always worked for me. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to find stars, recognize stars, and help develop them.
Tell us about your new business.
My new company is CWE Distro. It’s a distribution company that I acquired four months ago. The reason I did it is for a few different reasons. One is that we’ve always known Atlanta as the hub for the music scene, but we don’t have companies here. A lot of times, we have a lot of dope talent from artists, writers, and producers, but then you still have to go to LA and New York to get on. I wanted to create something from my hometown of Atlanta. I wanted to give artists a voice, and a lot of times these distribution companies are rap-driven. I came up in the R&B world, so there was a lot of R&B music and a lot of great R&B legends. I wanted to bring that back. I wanted to have a platform for everybody to put out music and be their own boss because that’s what everybody always says: “I want to be my own boss.” Now, you don’t have to worry about getting stuck on a label and getting shelved; you can put out music whenever you want to.
Why should people support the distro?
Some distro companies have areas where they’re stronger or better than other companies. With us, it’s more personable. It’s hard to get people on the phone and resolve issues quickly. You might have an album that releases tomorrow and at midnight, something didn’t go right. Good luck trying to get someone on the phone. But we’re up all night to make sure those releases come out. So if there’s an issue, we see it right then and there and can address it right away. It’s more personal to the clients; they can get us on the phone, and we help them build a scalable business. We’re not just getting their music and putting it up. We help them put their marketing plans together; we help them build a business. At the end of the day, if they don’t succeed, we don’t succeed. We’re working to help them build a real business.
Why is it important for young hustlers to understand that family and dear friends are important to this process?
It’s very important; you have to find that balance. At the end of the day, your family, friends, or your real supporters care for you. They’re always going to have your back, so you have to make time for that. The good thing about having supportive family and friends is that they understand you’re building a business, and they’re supportive of that. So, they give you the time to do what you need to do for the business, but you also have to take time for yourself to make sure that your family and friends are taken care of.
What are the professional music assets that we have in Atlanta that many other cities don’t?
I would say it’s not something specific that we have that other people don’t have. The difference is we support each other. Everybody in Atlanta, at some point, has hung out and worked together. It happens in other cities, but not like Atlanta. That’s why a lot of artists come to Atlanta to get on; anybody can come here and get on, whether it’s in music, TV, or film. No matter what you do, you can come to Atlanta, be successful, and win, and people are going to support you. I think that’s an advantage that Atlanta has over other places.
What should people understand about where publishing is today?
Publishing is the most important part of the business because nothing in the business would still be around without publishing. Think about all of the major labels like Sony, Def Jam, RCA, Epic, Interscope, and Columbia; everything is based on their back catalog. They still put out new music every day, but they’re able to sustain it because of their back catalog. When you think about Sony, they have amazing artists, but Sony established their home because of the Michael Jackson catalog and other catalogs from back in the day. Also, that’s how clients make a real living. Most of the big artists you think of, from Drake to Kanye, to Justin Bieber to Beyoncé, don’t make money from album sales. They make money from touring and publishing, which tells you right there that publishing is the most important part of this whole scenario.
When you think about your legacy, what do you want people to say 10 or 20 years from now about who you are and what you’ve done in this business?
I was a great person who did great business and took care of all of my clients. I take pride in that every client that I’ve ever worked with, we’re still cool. Nobody has anything negative to say about me as far as how I’ve done business. I don’t worry about what outside people say; all I can be concerned about is what my clients say. None of them, even the ones who I don’t work together with anymore, still have great things to say about me and love how we do business together. That’s what I want my life to be.