Always be open to following a new path. For years I limited myself to certain geographical markets and emerging artists. I thought that if I could take an unknown artist and led them to success, I would then attract more established artists. I learned over the years that wasn’t the case. I just had to keep an open-mind, showcase my knowledge and skill sets, and I would then attract those who are in alignment. Now, I’m working with international and established recording artists.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrice Cokley of The Bassline Group.
Holding both a BS and MBA in Marketing, Patrice serves as Talent Manager, Chief Strategist and Lead Consultant at The Bassline Group. While Patrice is widely known for her work with Mathew Knowles (Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, Solange) she also prides herself on her laser focus toward helping industry underdogs to become successful entrepreneurs while maintaining their authenticity. Her goal is to turn their passions into long-term careers. Patrice’s focus and objectives have led her to successfully branding and managing emerging artists who, as a result of her guidance, secured partnerships with major brands (Fashion Fair cosmetics & Lugz Footwear) as well as the opportunity to be a supporting act for major artists (Lalah Hathaway, Big Boi of Outkast, Slum Village, and Anthony Brown & Group TherAPy). The Bassline Group most recently announced a partnership with Symphonic Distribution.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been fascinated by music. My mom used to tell me stories of how I was a baby, rockin’ and bouncing to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. My parents had me take piano lessons around 6 or 7, then I took a short hiatus when my father passed away. I was 10 years old when he died. In fact, my mom and I skipped my lesson that evening to go home and check on him. Unfortunately, he was already gone. Experiencing death so young changes your entire being. I found peace and comfort in music. Fast forward to my college years, I started out as a music major, with hopes of focusing on the music business because I always questioned how one could earn a living making music. Around this time, my older sister (only sibling) had passed away, so I found myself falling deep into music again to cope. When I noticed a loss of interest in theory and classical training in college, I changed my major to business/marketing and made a vow to myself that I would apply what I learned to the music industry later in life. So here we are.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I’ve faced many hard times, but the one that stands out the most is finding hard-working clients to work with. The music business is a tough industry and takes a special skillset to deal with those who creative. Taking it back to Psychology 101, working with creatives is a tug-of-war between the right and left brain. On the right side you have the whimsical, and free-spirited creative who simply wants to create and get lost in the music. Then on the left side you have the analytical and logical business professional who is focusing on marketing strategies and various ways to monetize the music. For some artists, it can be a battle, but for others, it can be as easy as understanding that everyone has a role and valuing each other for the role that they play.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My immediate family growing up consisted of my mom, dad, sister, and myself. Losing half of that unit early on in life is what drives me to continue. It’s a reminder that life is too short to not work or pursue a career in a field that you’re passionate about. Despite those hard times, thinking of them is what keeps me going.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things today are going well. I’ve been able to establish a name for myself in the industry, I became a college instructor within a music business program, and started my own business developing independent artists and serving as a brand/marketing strategist for others in the entertainment industry. There were plenty of times where I wanted to give up and get a “regular job”. In fact, I have, quite a few times. But my music career kept calling me. The last full-time job I had was at a bank…which is so off the spectrum. I lasted a year before I turned in my resignation letter, and I haven’t looked back since. I didn’t choose this life, it literally chose me. So I have no choice but to be resilient. And it’s now paying off.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve been pretty intentional in business. I tend to weigh all options before making a decision, so it’s hard to think of a funny mistake. If anything, I’ve had lessons throughout my journey. One lesson I learned early was to not rush into working with an artist or client without making sure they’re a good fit. I’ve had clients that pushed my boundaries, wasted my time, didn’t take my educated advice, and failed to pay their invoice on time. You can be in love with the work you do, but you also need to love yourself just as much, if not more.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes my company stand out is that I’m an educator first, and truly for the artist. I not only guide, but I also educate my clients on the business they’re pursuing. We hear a lot of stories of artists signing bad record deals early in their career, or not fully understanding the contract. They sign because they were lured by a big payment advance. Something like that would never happen on my watch. I make sure all artists know that this is their business, and give them full autonomy when it’s time to create. So many record labels or management companies will try to force an artist to be something they’re not in order to grow a following. I’m completely against that and truly believe that an artist should be free to create. If a label doesn’t think they’re naturally marketable, then they shouldn’t work with them. Luckily for me, I have a gift of spotting marketable talent early.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Time management and finding balance. I live by my google calendar and make sure I schedule time for self-care. Even if it’s as simple as watching Netflix. Despite what some of these “gurus” say, Netflix is self-care. lol. The work isn’t going anywhere. So manage your time and take care of yourself so that you can operate at your highest level.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful for myself, because it was me that pushed myself through certain obstacles. With that said, I am appreciative of those who have supported and encouraged me along the way. My mom of course, she’s always been supportive of my creative endeavors. My close friend Erica has always been an ear to my wild thoughts and just an overall great friend. Tony Tobias formerly of SAE Institute Chicago for helping me secure my first teaching position; and Mathew Knowles for trusting me and my capabilities that resulted in him being my first high-profile client of 3 years after a short 15-minute phone call.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve always mentored in some way, but being a college instructor helped me really solidify myself in that role. Once I was laid off due to COVID, I started producing more content and short video clips on Instagram as a way to fulfill that need to mentor. As a result, I now have a global reach and have inspired and motivated so many across the world. It’s still a shock to receive thank you messages from those who found value in my content.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Build a team of experienced professionals to help grow the business, and not solely interns who are trying to find themselves through you. This is a for-profit business, so the goal should always be to turn a profit and grow, not solely to provide a platform for others to learn. I wish someone would have told me this because I would have then formed a non-profit entity that offered mentoring opportunities.
- Don’t get too attached to clients. They come and go, but your business will always be there. In music, it’s easy to “fall-in-love” with an artist’s music. Their potential can be so vivid at times, but most will stand in their own way. In business, it’s best not to get too attached until you see proof that they’re seriously trying to build a career and business around their art.
- Always inspect the work you expect from others. I walk the fine line between a Type A & B personality. I’m a pretty laid back person, I have to be in order to thrive in my creative space. But in leadership, it’s important to have Type A characteristics to ensure things in the business are meeting your expectation.
- Don’t be more invested in growing your clients business and neglect your own. I learned this from a friend of mine who successfully owns and operates her own law firm. During my podcast, she shared that she spends 10 hours out for 40–50 hours a week on client work. Most of her time is spent on strategic planning and ways to continuously grow the business. This resonated tremendously and ties into my #2. Clients come and go, so it’s important that you don’t let your business go with them.
- Always be open to following a new path. For years I limited myself to certain geographical markets and emerging artists. I thought that if I could take an unknown artist and led them to success, I would then attract more established artists. I learned over the years that wasn’t the case. I just had to keep an open-mind, showcase my knowledge and skill sets, and I would then attract those who are in alignment. Now, I’m working with international and established recording artists.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve always wanted to start a movement at the intersection of mental health & music. I don’t know what that looks like just yet, but I know that it’s missing and needed.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on Instagram & Twitter @patricekcokley and on LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/patricekcokley
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!