Many people would love the chance to break bread with the likes of Jay-Z, Irving Azoff, or Simon Cowell. But these music industry magnates come from humble beginnings, learning as much as they could before commanding millions of dollars.
Helen Bruner and Terry Jones, owners of Philerzy Productions and artists in their own right, sat down with us to talk about the tough but fulfilling road to owning your own music label, which is paved in sweat, hustle, and smarts.
MadameNoire: How did you both get started in the music industry?
Helen Bruner: My first deal, my first record was in 1989 with Warlock Records. At that time I was a kid right out of high school and I had this song called “Over You.” I knew nothing about house music; my cousin took me to a club in New York and I was like “What is this?” [Soon after], I wrote a song, it got picked up.
From there, I went over to Cardiac Records, which was owned by Virgin Records in the 90s. I had my first top ten record, called “Gimme Real Love” on Cardiac. Cardiac was folded into Virgin Records and I recorded an album and in the midst of it all coming in on the second single, I got dropped from the label. I received a check from ASCAP because I wrote and produced my own material and it was quite lucrative, but it was from overseas. So, we [she and Terry] decided to hop a flight and go over to the UK. We found that we weren’t failures. We began to write all around and decided to start a record company.
Terry Jones: My mom was a famous R&B singer, Linda Jones. She passed away when I was a baby. As I grew up I watched her music being played on the radio and on TV. My sister and I were not receiving any residuals because when she passed, she was only 27. My family was not that familiar with the business of music and were so distraught they couldn’t pick up where she left off [in regards to the business]. As a young child I always said, “You know this is what I wanna do and when I grow up I’m gonna make sure that no one takes advantage of me.” So, I actually got a record deal on Atlantic Records.
During that time I had a manager that was handling my deal and the producer of the project received the advance and spent it all on drugs. At that point, because the budget was spent, I was dropped from the label. After that, Helen and I began to work together. We spent a lot of our time in Milan (for ten years!) and just took it all in and worked and decided to start our own label. It’s a global economy, so the experience that we had of being overseas and really learning how to conduct business internationally was really a blessing for us.