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Interview: Ryan Leslie



Interview: Ryan Leslie

Photo © Next Selection.

Updated June 22, 2006
Ryan Leslie may not quite be a household name -- yet. But that's definitely not for lack of effort.
Mr. Leslie is the type of person who epitomizes the term "over-achieving multi-tasker." Not only is he a music producer, having crafted songs for Beyonce, Britney Spears and New Edition, among others, but he also is a songwriter and a recording artist himself.

Burgeoning Music Mogul

And if all that weren't enough, he also heads his own global marketing and media company, NextSelection Lifestyle Group and already has an up-and-coming, rising young performer under his wing, a singer by the name of Cassie.
The burgeoning music mogul says he doesn't feel burdened however, by wearing so many hats -- artist, performer, songwriter, producer, etc.

Filling Numerous Roles

"I think that they go hand-in-hand," he said of the various roles he fills. "I would not be complete if I didn't do all of them. I've always been a multi-tasker."
In his quest for mogul-dom, one thing that's been a tremendous help to Leslie and his company has been the Internet, specifically MySpace.com. Upon discovering the young singer Cassie and securing a demo deal with Tommy Mottola, Leslie created Cassie's MySpace page to showcase her music, and within just three weeks, she was a top 10 MySpace artist. Right around this time, terrestrial radio stations began receiving requests for her hit single "Me & You."

Bidding War

This popularity sparked a bidding war between major record labels, and eventually led to Cassie signing with Bad Boy Entertainment, through Leslie's Next Selection imprint. Her debut album, originally scheduled for release in January 2007, was pushed up five months to August of '06.
Leslie says he discovered Cassie out and about in New York.
"I had just come off doing a lot of work with Usher and I was inspired," he explains. "I happened to be at a New York hot spot and saw her with her girlfriends. They knew all the words to every hot record that's out."
Leslie says that he then struck up a conversation and got to know her before eventually managing to coax the singer into working with him.

Internet Promotion

Later came the MySpace promotion, which Leslie gives a lot of the credit for to one of his friends/business partners.
"A lot of the credit goes to Rasheed Richmond," Leslie said of Next Selection's online marketing partner. "He actually told me about MySpace, and he did a lot of the promotional work."
And the MySpace revolution isn't the only Internet project that Leslie's taken part in.
On his company's website, he posts an interactive daily video blog, in existence since January, where he gives viewers a taste of what daily life is like in the music business. Industry parties, TV appearances, hanging out with beautiful women -- it's there for all to see.
"Blogging is something that allows us to document life," Leslie said. "When you look at a lot of successful films, books, a lot of them relate to the experiences of others," and the video blog is a way for him to connect with the masses. "There have been other video blogs, but this one's a first of its kind from a music standpoint," he said.
It's a huge commitment," he said of the video blog. "It takes six, seven hours a day to produce a video blog."
But he's not done yet -- far from it.

Future Goals

"My next goal is to turn the music industry on it's head," he said. "I'm looking forward to creating a new paradigm. I'm looking to change the way artists get paid -- and it has nothing to do with retail CDs in stores. And this is far from what Prince has done," he said, referring to the online music store, npgmusicclub.com, that Prince opened in 2004.
Exactly what "this" is, however; Leslie won't say. All he does is promise that he'll reveal more details once the project is closer to fruition.

The Future of the Industry

When asked for predictions about the future of the music industry, however, he inadvertently teases what he and his collaborators may be working on. He says that due to the digital music revolution of the past few years, physical compact discs of music will eventually become go the way of the eight-track tape and become obsolete.
"In five or 10 years, we won't need CDs at all," he said.

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