Alums Folayan Knight and Khari Cain (aka Needlz) Talk about Effort, Drive, and Success

Guest post by Peter Schwinge, G ’12, President of the MUBG Student Ambassador Board

On Friday, Feb 24th students from the Music Business Graduate program attended their first Professional Development Sequence of the spring semester and were treated to a wonderful experience from guest speakers and fellow NYU Alumni, Folayan Knight (UG’ 96) and Khari Cain (G ’03), aka Needlz.

From the onset, this was to be a different event. Typically guest speakers prepare a specific topic or presentation, yet after Ms. Knight briefly discussed her background (NYU Music Business graduate, Director of A&R at Island Def Jam, Senior Creative A&R at Hitco Music Publishing, Owner of Go Flip Yourself! to most recently Senior Manager of Creative at Kobalt Music Publishing) she turned to the 60+ students and asked, “What is it you want to know?”

With the floor left open, the students quickly jumped in with the pressing question, “How was it working with Redman, and Method Man?” A tantalizing story followed. With many of the audience follow-up questions regarding various sectors of the industry, Ms. Knight provided insightful responses on how to navigate each of the specific sectors. She dove into her experience-book with the common emphasis on your desire to put in the effort and drive to achieve your goals. From handling eccentric artists phone calls at random hours of the morning, negotiating a hot deal, to standing your ground…the basic takeaway is focus and follow-through.

About hour into her talk, the back door opened, to the surprise of the students, and through the crowd walked Khari Cain, aka Needlz – a fellow NYU graduate and Grammy-award winning producer. A delightful murmur radiated from the audience and a pleasant smile upon  Ms Knight’s face…as they had worked together for years.

She invited Mr. Cain up front with her and began an enjoyable conversation-like talk to the audience on the artist/manager relationship. A wonderful segment that openly displayed the balance of this kind of relationship. Stories from years past on how some things worked, and other times they didn’t, and what works out in the end with a relationship based on trust. Needlz, a truly humble gentleman that carries a big smile, is not the type of person you expect had just won a Grammy for his co-production on the Bruno Mars single, “Just The Way You Are”, as well as worked with such acts as Lupe Fiasco, Swizz Beats, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent. In an open conversation with the students, Mr. Cain’s message was clear…Don’t follow the pack, be true to yourself and your music, and have passion about what you do.

A truly entertaining and inspiring evening filled with a wealth of industry insights and stories that the students could digest and build upon for years to come. We thank both Ms. Knight and Mr. Cain for
taking the time out to share their knowledge and experiences with us.

Editor’s note: Bruno Mars single, “Just The Way You Are”, was the top-selling single in the world in 2011, with sales of over 12.5 million.

Follow Needlz on Twitter

MUBG Student’s Website Lets Fans Help Acts on the Road

Sara Stile (MUBG ’12) always felt it important to help her favorite artists build buzz, understanding that touring is an expensive endeavor that many artists cannot afford. When an entrepreneurship assignment seemed to be a feasible business, Stile assembled and small team and developed Support The Tour. Support The Tour lets fans help their favorite acts on tour by donating tour necessities or by providing the acts with a place to stay. Stile launched the site last October, and Support The Tour now has 256 registered fans.



How and when did Support The Tour start?

I’ve always had a passion for helping out artists and making sure all my friends were aware of my favorites. It started with joining street teams in high school but as I got older I wanted to do more. It’s obvious that in today’s music industry money is a hard thing to come by and so much of an artist’s barely there revenue is going to getting them out on the road to help build buzz. So I wanted to come up with a way to make tour life easier and more affordable.  Luckily I took Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry in the spring of 2011 in which we had to write a business plan as our final project. This forced me to work out all the details of a tour support company, which was the birth of Support the Tour. When I finished it up and got some great feedback, I realized, wow this could actually work! 

How did you assemble a team?

The team started with my brother. He has always loved the entertainment industry and worked in some aspects of it so when I told him about my idea he loved it so much, I didn’t have an option but to bring him on. I next recruited a close friend I knew had a lot of connections with the scene and bands we wanted to get things started with. Since we are still relatively small in all aspects of the business we haven’t found a need to bring in anyone else just yet but always looking for people interested in helping. 

What were some challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?

Starting a business is a challenge in every regard. There are times I get so frustrated that I think to myself “why on earth did you get yourself into this?”, but then I remember that I have a lot of support and people counting on me. The biggest challenge so far has been creating a website and getting all the things we needed to start the company with no money. We have done a lot of bootstrapping and reached out to investors but you hear a lot of nos which can break you down but it’s that one yes that makes everything ok again…even if it comes after 50 nos.

Has being a MUBG student helped in the development of Support The Tour?

The best part about being an MUBG student in regards to development has been the network here. All of my classmates, professors and even guest speakers in courses have helped in their own ways. Some give great advice, some will introduce me to someone else who can help and some even contribute at times as copywriters or graphic designers. I could not do this without everyone here. 

What’s next for Support The Tour?

Now that we’ve got the site up and running and have helped out our first bunch of artists, it’s time to get sponsors and partners. I just finalized our proposal we plan to send out to a nice long list of brands, executives and more. We have a product that works and now that we can actually show those results, it will (hopefully) be easier to bring in these people to take the site to the next level.

Do you have any advice for aspiring student/entrepreneurs?

Just don’t give up on your passion. No matter how defeated you feel, as long as you believe, then you can make it happen. It sounds cheesy but it’s the reality. Starting a business means you are going to hear “no” a lot, you are going to be let down by people, you are going to lose sleep, and so many other negatives but when you see the success of it all, you can’t help but smile!

Follow Support The Tour on Twitter

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