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Wendy Day - conducted by DJ Ty  

Wendy Day makes millionaires out of Rappers

September 2006

For those of you who May or May Not know who Wendy Day is, what she has accomplished and what she does for living, you need to read this interview.

Yes, rap music is a field dominated by Men. But as the saying goes, "behind every good Man is a good Woman". Wendy Day is that good woman behind many of Rap's good Men.

Rap Coalition History

Wendy Day founded the not-for-profit Rap Coalition in 1992, out of revolt for the way urban artists were/are unfairly taken advantage of in the music industry. Wanting to shift the balance of power to favor the artists, Wendy dumped her life savings (selling her condo, her stocks and bonds, and her BMW) into starting the advocacy organization to support, educate, protect, and unify hip hop artists and producers--in other words, to keep artists from getting jerked. Since 1992, Rap Coalition has impacted the urban music industry by helping, for free, thousands of artists, DJs, and producers individually, as well as through monthly panel discussions, seminars, demo listening sessions, cipher sessions, showcases, and fair deal negotiations. Rap Coalition breaks unfairly oppressive contracts (pulling artists out of bad deals with record labels, production companies, and managers), teaches the business side of the music industry to thousands of artists and industry hopefuls from around the country, offers health care and dental benefits, coordinates the panels at most of the major urban music conventions, has instituted a mentor program combining up and coming artists with established artists, and helps set up artist-owned record labels.

MVRemix: How did you come up with the idea for Rap Coalition and where were you?

Wendy Day: I was taking a class in New York City that was taught by an "accountant to the stars." The class was called The Pop Music Business, and I was basically nosey. I wanted to know more about the music industry. When the teacher talked about how artists got jerked, I was annoyed that no one helped them because there was no money in helping them. I decided to be the one!

MVRemix: Who was hot when you came on the scene?

Wendy Day: I started listening to rap in the early 1980's when Run DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick, Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush, and Sugarhill Gang were hot. But when I started Rap Coalition 12 years later, my soundtrack was Naughty By Nature's "OPP," Ghetto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks," and X Clan were busy stomping in their big black boots. On the rap music historical time-line, the music had just left New York as the center of everything hip hop and the influences were coming from the west, the south, and the Midwest--like it should be. The importance of mainstream radio was just coming into play--instead of rap music being played only in the mix show evenings, some of it was crossing into mainstream and being played during the day. The growth of radio was something that would continue to accelerate, even today.

MVRemix: Did you know that your organization was going to be around this long?

Wendy Day: No. I wasn't sure there was this much of a need for what I do, and also, I didn't know exploitation and greed went as deep as they do. The naive, optimistic me thought that I'd help everybody and then the problem would be fixed in a couple of years. I thought the organization would morph into a union for artists--all artists. See? Naive and optimistic.

MVRemix: Were people, mainly rappers, initially put off by you're being Caucasian or did and does it work to your advantage?

Wendy Day: If they were, I didn't notice it. I think they were more put off by someone willing to help them for free. We don't charge to break contracts, and people never quite trusted that "free" aspect of what we do. Now that we've been doing it for 14 years and it's still free, people seem to get it. But back then I think they thought it was a trick. They kept looking for my angle, and when there was no angle, they were pleasantly surprised.

MVRemix: How did and do the labels react to you?

Wendy Day: With love and hate, fear and reverence. The ones who know me and deal with me regularly, understand me. The ones who do not know me well, think I am a "do-gooder", out to keep them from making money. Some even think my deals are overpriced and ridiculous. The ones who have done deals with me have made millions of dollars and call me regularly to see what else I have. They understand me. I am a pussycat when a label is fair and honest. I am a pitbull when a label is shady and lies to their artists. There are a handful of labels I refuse to deal with, and they hate me. But who cares? They are fucked up labels. That's why I don't deal with them.

MVRemix: What is the worst career move a struggling rapper or producer can do in this day and age, in your opinion?

Wendy Day: Worst? There are so many fuck ups to choose from [laughs]. I think the worst is an artist assuming all labels are equal and signing a deal with any record label because their goal is to just get a deal--any deal, not to get a good deal that will lead to success - success should be the goal, eh?

MVRemix: Have you had experience with ungrateful artists? Meaning, artists you'd help out of a bad deal then turn around and show you no gratitude?

Wendy Day: Sure. But since I don't do it for the thank you's or the kudos, those few situations don't matter. Rap Coalition is the last stop for an artist who has no place else to turn. When the artists arrive on our doorstep, they are usually broke and at the end of their rope. 99% of the artists know the value of that love and support we offer, and act appropriately. One or two have been assholes, but that's not a prerequisite for helping someone. We even help assholes. Happily.

MVRemix: Do you get swamped by unsigned rappers and producers and how do you handle it?

Wendy Day: I used to get swamped and it was frustrating because there was a mistaken assumption that I could get anyone a super deal at any time. That's obviously not the case. I handled it by removing myself from situations that created that misunderstanding--like the Source Power 30: as honored as I was to be selected as a power player in their mag, it caused pure drama. There was no upside. Haters came out of the woodwork, and artists assumed that access to me guaranteed a deal. So when they called me asking to do a photo shoot in the following years, I refused the honor. After awhile I guess they thought I was crazy, or an asshole, and stopped asking me--or maybe I'm just not powerful anymore in their opinion, who knows. There was no upside to that honor.

I began explaining on panels how to get a deal and that demos were not the way. I stopped accepting demos by mail. I stopped doing interviews so folks that weren't firmly entrenched inside the industry wouldn't know who I was or what I did. I stopped doing photo shoots so folks wouldn't recognize me from magazine articles and stalk me with demos. And I began writing for rap magazines to educate folks on how-to.

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"I used to get swamped and it was frustrating because there was a mistaken assumption that I could get anyone a super deal at any time. That's obviously not the case."