Carmen Murray Moves The Music That Moves You
Melanie Fiona's manager speaks on being one of the women CEOs in the game
Reality shows, Real Housewives, Basketball Wives, yeah, it's safe to say that the public image of black women is pretty one dimensional these days. Hoping to bring some sort of balance or alternative to the madness, Title 9 Productions founder Carmen Murray is on a mission to change the image, without trying too hard.
The Oakland, California native runs a company that specializes in building careers from the ground up. While she has a pretty diverse client roster, she is predominately known for being 4-time Grammy nominee Melanie Fiona's manager. She also has a growing reputation for being one of the most respected female figures in the entire music industry. Because of this many females looking to break into the music world flock to her company because they feel that she can relate.
Loop 21 caught up with Murray during one of her busy days to get her to speak on the origins of her company, using sexuality to your advantage and why even though she is the ex-wife of former NBA player Lamond Murray, she turned down an offer to appear on Basketball Wives.
Loop 21: We don't want to assume, so tell us what Title 9 means exactly.
Carmen Murray: The name of my company is based off the name of a bill that was passed in 1972 that give girls equality for scholarships to go to college. They didn’t have any scholarships for girls, they only had ones for boys so they could go on after high school and follow their dreams of being a professional athlete or giving them a chance to use their scholarship to get a four year college education. When I thought of my company and what I wanted it to do, I thought of the same thing, trying to open up new doors. My clients would always wind up being women who were attracted to my company because of what i do. I saw the similarity and rolled with it.
And for the record, we’re not male bashing or doing any “feminist” type thing, we just want to put out different images of women for young girls to look up to.
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Loop 21: What exactly do you do?
Murray: We are a full entertainment company, so on one hand we do complete production as far as producing and writing and we also broker great deals for our artists. We also have a publishing company and a management company. We’re on that old school Motown type vibe, one unit, one family that covers every base. So we’re preparing you for red carpets, finding you stylists and even partnering you up with the next brand you want to work with.
Loop 21: That sounds like it could lead to a conflict of interests. We always here how companies like yours would butt heads with artists because of that, back in the day. Do people mind that? Do they still just flock to work with you, knowing that?
Murray: I am up front with my clients before they even come over here. I don’t go at them trying to get a piece of their publishing, a piece of their royalties and piece of this or that. Matter of fact, the first couple of years of working with most of my clients, we don’t sign a contract at all. I want to make sure that we are happy to work with each other, first. Plus in that process I am so straight forward and do good business, that many times when they look at other companies, they don’t want to go. And even if they do want to work with someone else I approach them and say lets partner up on the management, that way, the artist does have an outside voice when they feel like they need one.
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Loop 21: Is it really true that "men run the record business?" At times it seems as if when you are coming in at an entry level in the music business, you're answering to a woman.
Murray: No, it’s true and let me tell you why. We get opportunities, we get to be VPs and oversee some things. But as far as the role that I’m in, when you are an owner, CEO and founder? There are very few. Yes, you will see women with power in the workplace, but very few are CEOs. That’s why with one of my outreaches I encourage young girls to not only be good at what they do, but to own their own company.
Loop 21: Do you enjoy being recognized as an accomplished female, or do you prefer being looked as a “person.”
Murray: Well, I am a humble person anyway, so I prefer to put my artists out in front of me. I never wanted to feel like I’m competing for the spotlight with my clients. But I noticed lately that people tell me they never knew anyone like me existed and that I’m an inspiration. Because I was getting that kind of attention, I started feeling like it is my responsibility to put my face out there and let other women know that this can be done.
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Loop 21: Looking at your client roster, you seem to work with a lot of “classy” people. Do you think there should be a cap on how much sexuality a woman exudes?
Murray: Well, I am happy that women like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj exist and have a choice as to how much sexuality they want to put out. They are choosing to do that, they don’t have anyone telling them to do that. They are in a power position, so I commend them for that.
As far as personal tastes, I’m in the business of selling the artform. I want to feel like we are pouring something into the world and touching lives. We want our music to make a difference in the community. I’ve been in front of the camera before and I know what it's like to use your sexuality and have people run with it. As long you are confident and will stand by what you do, then yes you should have the freedom to choose how much you want to put out. There are days when I come in the office and people say I’m dressed too sexy and that I should tone it down. Why? Why can’t I be strong, intelligent and sexy. I’m not living my life for anyone else anyway.
Loop 21: How do you find the balance between being a part of things that are profound and entertaining? Sometimes it seems like black people do themselves a disservice by trying to make a point or make sure we "look positive" instead of being entertaining first.
I found myself in that situation when I was working with a particular label who was telling me what my artists should sound like and wear. So I have to fight so often just to make them understand who they are, on top of the business stuff. At times I found myself fighting so much that I had to start choosing my battles. I can only do what’s in my hands. I can’t try to change the way everybody thinks.
I had an opportunity to be cast for Basketball Wives and I struggled with it. I am very different from those women but I was gracious for the opportunity. At one point I wanted to go on there just to show another side, but I decided that I’ d have to sacrifice my personal life to do that. So I’d just rather do that through my daily work. So, I don’t have to march, I’ll just move you in another way.