American record producer/music executive Mathew Knowles is widely recognised for his business acumen and unique management style and has played a key role in transforming the music and entertainment industry. Mathew’s brainchild, MWE, is one of the world’s largest music and entertainment conglomerates, with record sales exceeding 300m. He is credited with the “360° model” for records; management, branding and endorsement, merchandise and touring, and is the powerhouse behind his multi-GRAMMY-award-winning daughter Beyoncé and her girl band Destiny’s Child. He has made an unprecedented global impact on music, strategising the careers of numerous other artists such as Chaka Khan, Kool and the Gang and Johnny Cash.
But his business empire extends far beyond the music industry…
A self-described “small town country boy” from Alabama, Mathew was among the first African Americans to attend the University of Tennessee. He also graduated from Fisk University with degrees in Economics and Business Administration, and holds an MBA from Cornerstone Christian Bible College.
“When the medical industry, where I was a neurosurgical specialist, was going through a change called ‘manage care’, I simply lost my passion and transitioned to the music industry,” he explains.
In setting up MWE, he wanted a global name, allowing him growth into records, management, media and publishing, all of which are trademarked limited liability corporations. Mathew expanded his company through successful acquisitions and partnerships, garnering countless awards for his achievements in business and the music industry. He was named the “2007 International Executive of the Year” by the Greater Houston Partnership, while the City of Houston even declared a “Mathew Knowles Day”!
Leaving corporate America and creating MWE was, clearly, his best career move. “My worst was selling my company in 2002 and partnering with a much larger international entertainment conglomerate with a totally different ethos and culture. I’ve since bought it back.”
Icons, idols & inspiration
Mathew co-wrote Beyoncé’s No.1 international megahit, Survivor. “I’ve always had a passion for music,” he tells me. “Growing up, my idols were Earth, Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott-Heron, because of their social consciousness. The most rewarding aspect of what I do is seeing the impact of my involvement in my students’ and my recording artists’ careers, especially my daughters’, Solange and Beyoncé.”
The music mogul attributes his success to his entrepreneurial parents: “My parents were present in my early life, and later as mentors teaching me the true meaning of entrepreneurship. They were my inspiration at a young age and throughout my entire life.”
He tells me he has tremendous gratitude for his life successes: “From being on championship basketball teams in high school and college, to being the top sales rep worldwide at Xerox Medical, owning a successful hair salon and creating our family’s clothing lines House of Deréon and Miss Tina. Our family created all of MWE’s successes in gospel, country, pop and R&B, but particularly the successes of Destiny’s Child, Solange and Beyoncé.”
How did he make it to the top? “By building a great team, having a passion for what I was doing and having a great product. Worth Davis, a branch manager at Xerox who mentored me in my early corporate years, taught me the value of relationships in business. Columbia Records’ Donnie Ienner mentored me in understanding the various aspects of, as well as how to manage in, the music industry.”
All in the DNA…
A modern blueprint for success in any industry, Mathew’s book was inspired by highly-successful people he has met on his prolific travels: “I began to see common traits in some professional associates and myself. As an educator, I saw it as an opportunity to write my first book and share what I had observed from many successful professionals,” he explains.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Failure is an opportunity to grow, not a reason to quit.
“First and foremost, it advises you to live your passion, in coexistence with work ethics. Always think outside the box with a great team. You are the visionary!”
He says the first challenge of running your own business, regardless of the industry, is identifying and understanding your customers. “Exceed their expectations and give them a superior product. Putting together the right team is always challenging, as is cashflow. I’ve learned the importance of developing my staff’s skill set.”
He admits to not always managing his business growth: “Early on in my career, I grew too fast, causing logistical, cashflow and growth problems and losing focus on my core business. Now, however, I’m in the business of downsizing as I’m nearly 65.”
Who’d have thought? “Age doesn’t matter to me. I ride an exercise bike 4-5 times weekly, eat lots of fish, fruit and veggies and have reduced meat consumption. I try to reduce stress as much as possible.”
So, who is the next big thing in music and how will the industry evolve? “I’ve launched a new girl group called Blushhh Music, the first-ever rap female trio with two rappers and a vocalist. The digital evolution has impacted the way we purchase and experience music. The industry evolution, in my opinion, means we will SEE music rather than just hear it. Video will change the way we experience music in the future.”
His proudest moments? “Seeing Solange and Beyoncé become the women, mothers and artists they have become. Both doing it totally differently, yet remaining humble and true to their fans and themselves.”
Mathew shares his knowledge and experience with others as a popular speaker at conferences worldwide and holds a professorship at Texas Southern University, where he teaches courses on the entertainment industry. “I’m inspired by my students. When I see their potential to impact the world, I’m motivated to be an even better teacher.”
What’s next for this superstar-maker/music business innovator/philanthropist? “More teaching, public speaking, TV and film projects. I see books telling the Destiny’s Child story… I see it on film and theatrically. Ultimately, I see myself just chillin’ on the beach with my wife… Stress-free.”
His final message for 50+ entrepreneurs?
“Realistically, your window is shorter, so maximize every opportunity. Keep overheads low; that’s money that could be going into your pocket. Life doesn’t give us the opportunity to change what has happened… we can only be positive, learning from our mistakes and moving forward. Let your business be one that you are passionate about. When you live your passion, you never work a day in your life!”
Established by Mathew in 1992, Music World Entertainment has several hugely-successful recording imprints under its umbrella, including Music World Gospel, the largest owned and operated African American Gospel label in the world. Mathew has executive produced over 100 award-winning platinum and gold albums in multiple genres, including pop, R&B, gospel, dance and country.
For further information, visit: www.musicworldent.com
Learn more about Mathew’s book The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals (which was an Amazon No.1 best-seller even before its official release!) at www.dnaofachievers.com
© Angela Sara West 2016 www.angelasarawest.com