Tami, you started off as a songwriter and have built up such a name for your work. You retired the pen in 2018 to start your journey with your business, The Mezzo Agency. How did you manage the transition from being a full-time creative, into a full-time business woman?
I believe it started in 2012 when I started doing Youtube videos teaching the business of music, I realized that I was more passionate about helping other music creatives understand the industry and the intricacies of it. I was still writing but by 2015 I was doing live panels, teaching more on my Instagram and hosting workshops across the country and I received great responses. By 2017 I identified that there was so many writers and producers who had no clue on how to collect digital streaming royalties and so I graciously left corporate america and realized that I wanted to get back into music full time. I then started researching more at home in my bedroom on how to help and consulted with royalty pay sources and 3rd party royalty collection companies. By 2018, I was contacted by 1 client who only was receiving money from BMI. We found over 80k in missing royalties owed to him. We are now at 48 clients on our roster.
The Mezzo Agency has helped recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in unclaimed royalties for music creators on your roster — who are some of these creators and what inspired you to step in?
Our roster includes Billboard chart topping rapper and writer K Camp (Blessing, What’s On Your Mind), platinum producer El Jefe (Queen Naija), producer Audio Jones (City Girls, Nicki Minaj), Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner El Puma (Atrevete, Cicatrizes), the Estate of the late Rev. Paul Jones (I Won’t Complain), writer/producer David Frazier (Hezekiah Walker, Ricky Dillard), writer/producer Spotless (Soco by Wizkid) and several others who entrusts in Mezzo to find, match and collect royalties that are owed to them.
What got you started in the music industry to begin with? And Were you more fond of writing music or performing it as you grew up?
I started off as an indie artist in Houston, Tx – singing, rapping, dancing and writing my own songs. Back then in (1995-2000) there were no dope R&B writers that I knew of in my city so I just wrote everything myself. I loved performing but writing came naturally always. I was always good with words – songwriting found me.
How did you develop the relationship within the industry to write for Whitney Houston?
I actually was signed with an indie label and after we parted ways I found out that they sold my song to her without me knowing. I actually didn’t find out the song was placed on Whitneys album until a year later after I left the label. I will never forget, I was in my dorm freshman year in college at Texas Southern University, my mom called me because she heard it playing on the radio! I was confused, shocked, and excited all at the same time. According to the label, they were just exercising their rights of owning the song as the label since I left….but what they didn’t know is that I registered the copyright of the song before I left. So I was still the original owner of the composition copyright and I was owed publishing royalties. So after the CEO and finally talked about everything, we amicably came to an agreement for my full publishing rights and I still am making money off that song to this day. That song also went platinum, was remixed by Diddy and did even better overseas. THAT was my introduction to the music business and from that one incident, I vowed not to ever slip on making sure my rights are protected and business is handled properly. Im grateful things happened the way they did. I know so many peers who were not able to get their rights to songs that were released and didn’t include them on the ownership rights. So I never met Whitney, God bless her soul. But she is still my idol and changed my life forever.
At what moment did you really lock into this song writing career and affirm for yourself that this was exactly what you wanted to do? And what made you leave something you’ve known for so long, and transition into something new?
After the placement on Whitney, I realized that I now was a major songwriter so I started learning the world of songwriting on a major level. My circle began to change and I was around more people who also had big placements, who lived good lives, still had their privacy and personal life but lived in the studio. It was then I realized that this gift that God gave me was for me. I was fortunate enough to land a major publishing deal with EMI Music Publishing under the leadership of then Chairman, now CEO of Sony Music Publishing Big Jon Platt. From there I received placements on Keyshia Cole’s album – I wrote “Fallin Out” on her Just Like You album, then from there I wrote on SWV’s last two come back albums and placed a song called “Anchor” on Monica’s final album with RCA among a few other placements in between.
What made me retire from songwriting was my desire to serve and teach more had become more of a passion and a priority to me. My phone was ringing more from music creators who needed help with getting set up properly and had missing royalties out there and no one was helping them. I took it as a sign from God – I began hosting music publishing workshops on Youtube and did a few events in around the country at music conferences and music programs at different universities like Berklee College of Music, Thurgood Marshall School of Law to name a few. I just felt that I would rather be of service and pay it back by helping those upcoming and established creatives with understand the complexities of this business. I have been blessed already with so much and have over 20 years of experience to back up my expertise. It just felt right and now it’s been 3 years since I launched The Mezzo Agency which provides music administration services and royalty collection to songwriters all over the world.
The Mezzo Agency is big on collecting royalties, catalog management, and more. How has the overall response to the company been since it’s initial launch?
I started this company in my bedroom in December 2018 with only 1 client and now we are at 48 clients and have since found and distributed over $450k in unclaimed royalties to writers and producers who had no idea there was more money out there for them.
We’ve been doing extremely well and have received so much respect from my peers and industry leaders. The unsigned creators, the independents and even the established music creators all have one thing in common, they always need help protecting their rights and keeping their catalogs managed. Our community is so underserved in this area, I’m grateful Mezzo is able to be the agency people entrust with their intellectual property.
Do you have any big plans to share for The Mezzo Agency set in 2022?
We are scaling the business right now so I’ve eliminated our 3rd parties and invested my last into softwares to collect and report directly to put more money back in my clients pockets, I’ve hired more music administrators, a CFO, marketing team, and landed a few partnerships which all help to increase our bottom line by 30%. We are planning to build more presence for the music community online, release my 3rd digital course, go on tour to other underserved markets, and open up offices in Houston, Ft Lauderdale and Los Angeles by 2024.
As a successful black woman, you are creating a blueprint for many of black and brown women and girls nationally and potentially even across the globe! What is one supportive tip you can provide for those who will look up to you as inspiration?
Ask yourself, “what problem am I solving?”. Be a problem solver who is passionate and has defined your purpose and you will never be out of business.
What are some keys to success while working in a predominately men’s industry?
Talk less. Listen more. Study them and learn how they think. Cultivate business relationships/mentorship opportunities with those who genuinely see your vision because you want a logical and honest community around you in such a competitive and grimy industry. Stay away from the creeps and abusers. Learn how to control your emotions. Nothing is personal, only business. Lastly, never mix business with pleasure. You want respect not a reputation.
Where would you like us to keep up with you?
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