Jay-Z has a lot of women to thank for his achievements and Latrice Burnette is one of them. Though the digital era is filled with stories of overnight success, this marketing maven followed the more traditional analog-era path. When a lot of her high school peers were playing with video games or obsessing over a new crush, Burnette was paying dues interning at Roc-a-fella Records.
The Brooklyn-bred digital diva started passing out flyers and poster boarding for the street team, but because of her drive and passion for music⎯especially hip-hop⎯she had an edge over the competition. Shortly after graduating from high school she was on the Roc-a-fella digital team full time when the label was in its hay day. She helped to steer the digital promotion campaigns of some of the hottest projects at the time ranging from, Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, Cam’ron’s third and fourth albums, to Dash Films and Armadale vodka.
A few years after putting in work at the Roc, she transitioned to the Atlantic Records digital marketing department, where she worked with urban music heavy hitters like TI, Fabolous, Twista, Flo Rida and more.
Today Burnette is building her own marketing company but don’t get it twisted, her love of music still runs deep. The Urban Daily caught up with the entertainment entrepreneur to discuss her next moves in the industry and why Black music still rules the world.
Interview by Starrene Rhett
TUD: You spent many years building brands for other people and are now focused on developing your own. How’s that been going?
Latrice Burnette: It’s really been going great. So far, I have seven clients right now and I’ll be looking to take one more over the course of the next year. Basically, my company provides digital marketing services so that’s everything from contests to viral marketing, social media marketing and press and anything that comes in the digital landscape and also [general] marketing because that’s also what I did at Atlantic. I didn’t even mention that before but I moved from the digital marketing department to the urban marketing department to product manage. So while I was there my roster got short so instead of me working on every artist on the urban roster that was there before, I had Flo Rida, B.o.B., Lupe Fiasco, Jaheim and Pleasure P.
What exactly is product management?
Product management is basically overseeing a product and dealing with every department in the label and working in tandem with them to make sure that things get done for the release of the album or whatever product you’re releasing on the artist. So we would figure out a stylist for the artist, figure out a photo shoot,–just create cool marketing ideas and concepts, work with the digital marketing department and see what can be done there. Everything kind of started with us. We were responsible for circulating information to the company on the artist and dealing with management on a day-to-day basis and facilitating everything. One of my proudest moments was being at Atlantic and doing the B.o.b project when he did his first album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray.
Isn’t that a big responsibility to be in charge of how people perceive the artist?
I’m telling you! It’s something that I just couldn’t grasp and I used to always say this to co-workers, we would laugh about it. I was like, “Wow, do these people know that some of these things that they’re seeing are ideas of mine or ideas of the artist management?” They don’t understand that it’s just not done out of the blue. There are people behind the scenes that put everything together. When I go in the store and see people buying albums, I’m like, “Oh my God, I was a part of the idea process” so to me that was the best part of that job.
What are some the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
I definitely think being a woman. Being a Black woman, I would say, is definitely hard in the music industry. There are a lot of other Black women in the music industry but I feel like some of them are not really taken seriously and that is a struggle. I work with a lot of males because it’s a male dominated industry and when they’re in a position of power, sometimes they’ll try to used their power in a negative way so to have to navigate that, especially from a young age⎯to really have to sit back and watch and see what other women did, seeing the things that they were doing wrong, I took that and obviously just having moral principals from my mom and dad instilled that in me. That’s part of the reason why I’m able to move around and do the things that I’m able to do. I just feel like we have to struggle to get promoted and raises and for people to really see that we’re talented and that we have great ideas. I still have so many friends in this business, Black women that are so dope and they just sometimes⎯it just takes us so much. We have to sit and be patient, ultimately. I think the hard work should speak for itself but sometimes that’s just not enough and that’s really unfortunate that that’s the way this business is. And it’s not just this area of business it’s a lot of different area of the entertainment industry in general.
You started in digital but of course, digital in 1999 or even 2000 was completely different from what it is now. Did you ever imagine it would become what it is today?
Absolutely not! When we started, MySpace wasn’t even at the point that [it is now]—there was no Twitter. Now, to see the evolution of all of these applications and all of these platforms and the fact that Microsoft just bought Skype for $8.5 billion. It’s amazing to me. Even some of the general things that we had to do like, the process is so much easier now. We blasted things out and see what sites would pick it up but there were not as many websites then as there are right now. Blogging was not as big as it is now. There’s so many more outlets to work with there’s so many more things you can do. Now, it’s to the point where this is the main way that artists are able to keep their name afloat and keep fresh content out there. You could shoot a new video every week if you wanted to and put it out there and get somebody to put it up. Before, you really [only] had MTV, BET and Vh1 playing videos and if you put video out online the majors were giving it to an AOL or a Yahoo or an MSN. Now, it’s like there’s so many sites you can premiere a video with a different site every day of the week if you wanted to or a song or exclusive images or—it’s wide open. I think it’s great in terms of a lot of artists are having opportunities to be heard more. Look at Frank Ocean. He was signed to Def Jam for a minute but he dropped his mixtape and it spread virally throughout the internet. Now it’s everywhere and people love the music so I’m thankful for the Internet because it provides artists with a way to get their music out there and let the people dictate what’s hot. I’m glad that things have changed and come as far as they have. I think it’s a great thing.
Frank Ocean is definitely part of that Internet buzz collective of artists who are really starting to blow. With that, how do you feel about the state of Black or “urban” music nowadays?
I’m torn. People say certain artists or certain rappers aren’t real music or real hip-hop but I think that they have to understand that it’s easy now to make music. You can record yourself on a laptop and put it out there. I feel like a lot of people might have been sitting in their houses saying they want to rap or make a song. Now you can actually go record yourself, make a song and put it out and it will actually do something. So I enjoy music in general. I think everybody has the right to voice themselves and their opinions but who are we to judge? Music at the end of the day⎯not just hip-hop⎯but I think that music is about people having fun and enjoying themselves. Sometimes music helps you get through things. You can’t really block people’s creative space or what they can say on a record I think that’s wack. I think everybody should have the right to their expression. I still listen to a lot of old school stuff, albums from back in the day like Biggie, Jay and Tupac and things like that, but I love Waka Flocka’s “No Hands” and all of these types of records that people have criticized. It’s about feeling good. You know how you hear a song and how you have certain memories or get taken back to a time and place in your life? What else in life besides music can really do that? That’s why I love it.
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