Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dru Ha: Co-CEO Of Duck Down Records NYC Two Part Interview

via Planet Ill

Part 1

2010 brings Duck Down Records to 15 years of existence. Still standing amidst the broken bodies of Loud, Rawkus, Death Row, No Limit, and so many idies that rose high and flamed out, The little label that could has steadily chugged along retooling and rebuilding and delivering quality music. Planet Ill sat down with co label head Dru Ha to discuss behind-the-scenes stories and the secret to their survival in a market that, at best, is certainly unkind to those who get caught slipping. Read on.

Planet Ill: Black Moon’s original album was not a Duck Down album. What led to the formation of the label?

Dru Ha: Well I actually worked at the label, at Nervous. I was actually Executive Producer of that album with Buckshot as well being a main member of Black Moon. So we did that record on Nervous. We got our learn on. We learned a lot. We cut our teeth there. We brought Smiff-N-Wessun into the fold. Buck introduced me to them and we originally started managing them. We actually brought them into the same situation to that same label. We were trying to get a bigger piece of the pie; thinking that we were doing a lot of the work and heavily involved in the campaign and the marketing. And just doing a lot of the stuff, we felt like we could go out there and get our own situation for the new groups that we were going to bring in. So that really is what motivated us, money and getting a bigger piece of it.

Planet Ill: How have you managed to stay viable over the last 15 years? Generally speaking, entities come out. They get bought out and they become part of the mainstream and that’s that. How did you manage to stay independent, but stay in business?

Dru Ha: Well we had a lot of trials and tribulations, definitely highs and lows. I’ve heard Buck say this in interviews and it’s a good point. We never really made it so big, you know, and I think some of that has worked to our benefit. Sometimes when you get to a certain success level or you have that one humongous record that blows up and there’s lots of money floating around, things can totally break up a camp or break up an organization because people don’t feel like they are getting what they deserve or they don’t feel like they’re getting rewarded correctly.

I think we’ve just kind of, by being steady, we have avoided that situation. Of course we would have loved to have had more success over the years, commercial success in terms of actual sales. But I think in some ways that’s kept us grounded and you know we have been fortunate enough to still be consistent with our numbers and still have significance with our numbers. That has maintained us. You know so it’s like we’ve been steady and when you are steady it allows you to keep going. It allows you to continue playing the game.

Read more of Part 1 with Dru Ha here:
Planet Ill - Dru Ha: 15 Minutes on 15 Years Part 1

Part 2

Planet Ill: You came to a point in your label’s history where you decided, you know what, maybe we should expand outside of Brooklyn emcees and I believe that’s what led to your current new wave. And you’ve done extremely well, probably stronger than your original run. What led to the decision to say let’s bring more people into the fold? Let’s bring more artists from different places into the fold.

Dru Ha: See again, I keep referencing Buck. Like I always say that because that shows you how much we really talk. People will look at Duck Down and see Buckshot as the artist and me as the business person and it’s like man, it is truly a partnership. The questions you are asking, I have to say that first because these are things me and Buck have talked about over all the years. That was a vision of ours well long before we made it a reality. The problem for us was we just never had the right situation. We went through about five or six different types of production label deals for the brand or for the label and each time we learned something new, or we found out the deal wasn’t all we thought it would be, or the deal wasn’t making sense for us or we were losing money or we were getting ripped off or whatever it might be.

It wasn’t until we left Koch in 2005 and we went to a label called Navarre, a distributor called Navarre, that we finally got the situation under control. Where we were truly, I know that all of this is really technical, but we truly became that independent label where we could understand the business model, understand what we were going to make on each record, and control it. So many times you do these deals, artists and labels, it’s so hard to tell what you are going to earn or what you put into it because it can be so shady man.

The deals can be so backwards. You never really understand them until you actually execute them. I don’t care how good your lawyer is. By the time you get slapped with a statement it’s like you’ve already spent so much money or went through so much. You get your learn on through putting the project out. So long short, we finally got that situation straight with Navarre in 2005 and we knew that we understood our business plan and the business model of how the company was going to operate. That’s when we knew we could open the doors up and start investing more money in groups outside of the original core family that was already with us.

Read more of Part 2 with Dru Ha here:
Planet Ill - Dru Ha: 15 Minutes on 15 Years Part 2

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