Musician and producer Bruce Waynne’s roots reach back to the ‘90s when he was an East Coast rapper. Beyond sharpening his performance skills, he also began to weave a network of artists and industry executives. He then launched the production team the Midi Mafia, and partnered with Canadian engineer Dirty Swift, the producer behind 50 Cent’s hit “21 Questions.” The team went on to work with some of the biggest players in the industry including Frank Ocean and Common.
As a rapper, Waynne soon learned that skilled production came at a price. So he decided to learn the craft himself and save a few bucks. His strategy soon morphed into substantially more than a money-saving endeavor. With a business model inspired by Wu-Tang Clan, he began to record and press records himself. It was an approach that paid off financially and in countless business lessons.
One of the most prudent business insights Waynne gained was through his dealings with Russell Emanuel, co-founder and CEO of Extreme Music, who shared the importance of music libraries. “We thought [music libraries were] just music you didn’t want to use and you gave it [to the library],” Waynne recalls. “He explained that we could take the songs that we were giving to Rihanna and give them to Viacom or NBC. We might not have the same kind of success, but they’d definitely use them and we’d make money. We started developing independent artists and that’s how we survived. It was the best decision we’ve ever made. We built a music library called The MADE Series and it now turns a profit.”
Perhaps one of a producer’s most prized talents is the ability to identify strong songs. For Waynne, it’s all about the stories. “When we heard the song for German artist Bibi Bourelly’s ‘Ballin,’ it was perfect; it was so honest,” he says. “The concept was that even though I don’t have a bunch of money, in her mind she’s ballin’ because she’s living out her dream; she’s doing what she wants to do. She translated all of that into a song. We know we’ve got a great record when everyone can relate to it.”
Waynne finds that among his biggest challenges is earning the trust of labels and managers. It’s often apparent that they have ideas and goals that don’t always mirror his. “They want to work with you because you’ve made a hit record,” he observes. “But when you get into the studio, they don’t want to listen to anything you have to say. The way around that is to have a bunch of hits and put yourself in a position where you lay the rules down when people come into your space. We didn’t want to be like that because it stifles creativity. But that’s the only way around it.”
With respect to future projects, it’s difficult to say. Waynne finds that things change quickly and projects crop up regularly, especially with the duo’s music library business. These days the Midi Mafia works primarily from its Las Vegas studio. ”Vegas is cheap,” the producer observes. “You get more house for your money. If an artist wants to work with you, they’ll come out. Who doesn’t want to come to Vegas?”
Contact Bruce Waynne, 310-990-4829