Every now and then we meet an entertainment professional whose work ethic and personality explains their success. Big Billy Clark is one such professional. Despite his intimidating 6’5” bodyguard frame, Billy is one of the nicest, most reputable executives in entertainment that we’ve ever met. Not only is Billy a record industry executive who has worked at some of the industry’s top record labels, he is also the co-founder of the successful music industry networking site, Musicolio.com, as well as the manager of actress Keke Palmer (star of Nickelodeon’s hit TV show ‘True Jackson VP’).
I Am Entertainment Magazine sat down with Big Billy Clark at one of LA’s best kept secrets, The Griddle Café on Sunset, and discussed music and film from the mind of an entertainment industry veteran.
Please tell us where you’re from and what inspired you to get into entertainment?
I was born and raised in LA, and I’ve always been interested in entertainment. As a kid, I always thought I would end being a dancer because I loved to dance. Unfortunately, I was too tall for that (laughs).
What was your first job in the entertainment business?
Well, when I got out of high school, I got an agent and began acting for about a year. Then when I was 19 years old I went to New York to visit a friend of mine who was working for Russell Simmons at the time. While I was there, Russell offered me an internship at Def Jam Records and I started interning for Def Jam in their LA office.
So my first job was the internship, which I drove an hour everyday to do, and wasn’t being paid. Needless to say, my dad wasn’t too happy about it because I would ask him for gas money to get to and from Def Jam’s office (laughs), but I was really passionate about it and I knew it was going to pay off. In order to make money while I was interning, I worked the “grave yard shift” at an electronics store called, The Good Guys. I did that for about 2 years and in hind sight I couldn’t even imagine doing that (laughs). When Russell sold his share of Def Jam to Universal, the label became Island/Def Jam, and when that merger happened I was offered an assistant position. I worked my way up from assistant to coordinator, and eventually I was running the West Coast Office and doing the A&R for all the artists. It was a blast and I had a lot of fun.
As a record exec, what artists did you help become successful?
When I was at Def Jam I worked with every artist on the label. The West Coast office was really small and we had about 6 people in the office and because of that every artist that would come from New York we had to deal with. We’d go to radio stations and do all the runs together. I worked with DMX, Jay Z, Ja Rule, Method Man, Redman, Ashanti, Sisqo, Keith Murray, LL Cool J, Foxy Brown, Christina Milian, FeFe Dobson. When it became Island/Def Jam I started working with all the rock bands like Sum 41, Bon Jovi, Hoobastank, and so on.
As a talent manager, what are the differences between managing in music versus film?
Different but similar. It’s really the same thing because, as a manager you have to use your expertise to make sure you always get the best situation possible for your talent. As a manager I get called all hours of the night for everything from my clients’ dog being sick, to something more career related. You name it, I get a call about it (laughs). As a manager you have to create the team, you make sure the agents and attorneys are right for the artist or actor. The agents find the jobs and the attorneys negotiate the deals, so you have to make sure it all makes sense and each person on the team knows what they are doing.
As an entertainment entrepreneur, tell us about some of the projects/ventures you are working on?
Something I’m very excited about is a new website my partners and I launched in February called ‘Musicolio’ (www.Musicolio.com). As a music executive I feel like there are certain things the music industry is missing as a result of the labels downsizing, folding, or merging. There are a lot of amazing artists whose dreams haven’t died just because a label can’t or won’t sign them. A label doesn’t validate you as an artist, and there’s literally an entire world of people on the internet who haven’t heard your music yet, which is something artists have to understand. So I created the site for that purpose. Musicolio is like a social networking site just for people who are serious about the music business. This site allows you to connect, collaborate, find talent or work opportunities. In the current economy it’s hard to find jobs, and since a lot of labels are cutting back their operations there are a lot of out-of-work Talent Executives. So my goal with Musicolio is to create an environment where these out-of-work executives can all get together with the unsigned artists and rebuild the music business. This site is perfect for people who are searching for a producer, songwriter, harp player, photographer, or whatever, there is always somebody looking for you. You have to let people know that you are out there and this site will house all of this. You can upload your music, video, and list your experience so that people can hire you for gigs.