V Exclusive! Glu Agency CEO Derek Jackson Talks Artist Management, Nicki Minaj's Pepsi Deal, & Rates Lil Wayne's Skate Skills
If you don't know Glu Agency CEO Derek Jackson, allow us to introduce you to the man responsible for getting lucrative deals for some of your favorite artists.
Lil Wayne's new skate park in New Orleans? Thank Derek. Nicki Minaj's multi-million dollar Pepsi deal? You can credit Mr. Jackson for that one too. With his Glu Agency—a firm that "weaves the latest and most relevant trends" together like glue (get it now?)—Jackson plans to take the music industry by storm, and give it a much needed face lift.
VIBE got a chance to catch up with the influential businessman to discuss everything from locking down Nicki's Pepsi deal, the difference between managing artists versus managing a business, his ten-year plan for Glu, and even rates Weezy's skating skills on a scale from 1 to 10. You might just be surprised with his rating.
VIBE: Let's talk about who you are as a person, GLU Agency, and how you got started in the business in the first place.
Derek Jackson: After Scott Storch and I went through what we went through (Editors Note: Jackson managed Storch spanning from the early 90s to November of last year), I found myself in a position where I wanted to do something different. I saw the transition occurring in the industry, and I needed to find a safe haven. I knew I was well connected, and I also knew that in the industry there's a pocket for brands & for the relationships. I found it necessary to fill that void. That was my driving force. I took a couple dollars of my own money and I started [GLU Agency] up. At that point, I met with a gentleman by the name of Marcus Glover—who's now the President of the company and my partner—and I suppose you can say, in a cliché way, the rest is history.
You went from managing Scott Storch to pretty much managing an entire company. What would you say is the biggest difference between managing artists vs managing business? Were there any kind of struggles while making that transition?
Actually, no. I’ve done this before, but managing a company is much simpler. When you’re managing individuals, you're managing them 24 hours a day—you manage their every need & want. Basically, you are on-call. In the business world, you can manage people, but you can manage them at a distance. It's not as intimate I should say.
Speaking of individual artists, let’s talk about this Nicki Minaj Pepsi deal. That was pretty huge, man. She was out in South Africa filming that! How did you go about approaching her with such a game-changing business venture?
The great thing was, I already knew that she was on her way to going on her international tour. I found it necessary to fill that void—like I did with Wayne. I’m great friends with the management company, and I said, 'Guys, there is a void. I think we can fill it.' At that point, I was committed to selling Pepsi on believing she was worth the money and the program. I think they’re learning the truth—she was worth it.
With addition to the Nicki deal, Weezy just launched his skate park—which you had a big role in cultivating. How did you get started with that whole YMCMB union?
From being a manager, I know a lot of the head guys at Blueprint Group (Lil Wayne's management firm), like Shawn Gee, Cortez Bryant, and Gee Roberson. I have great relationships with them. I’ve been in this business for 25 years, so these are people I know really well. I knew that there was a time, as I watched this thing grow into something so immense, when they could use some sponsorship opportunities. That’s what I did. I pitched to them that I can help bring additional pieces to the party, and they agreed. They believed.
Let's delve more into Weezy's new skate park. He’s been really dedicated to the whole “Skater Life." Have you ever seen him skate, with your own two eyes?
[Laughs] Yeah, yesterday. He skated in front of everybody! He was not intimidated.
So with that said, how would you honestly rate his skate skills—on a scale of 1 to 10?
I think, considering the timing, he’s definitely a 9.
You gotta remember, kids usually start skating from a very young age. [Wayne's] only been skating for about a year in a half. He’s picking it up and really getting it.
For you to give him a 9 though is pretty crazy [Laughs].
Listen, watching Lil Wayne skate was one of the most amazing sights I’ve seen in my life. He wasn’t Wayne the rapper—he was Wayne the skater. The difference in that is, he had to stand in line, he wasn’t the best, and he was just a guy wanting to be a part of a group. It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen from him thus far. He knows that he, as a individual and celebrity, is huge. However, he respects the sport so much, that he doesn’t thrust his celebrity on everybody. He wants to be a skater and be respected as a skater.
You can definitely tell. Even in the DEWeezy campaign—which I know you had a hand in too—he's really trying to learn it and go through everything that actual skaters go through. From getting injured and coming right back from it, Wayne is really intertwining himself into this whole culture.
Let me say this to you: From the minute we did the launch at South By Southwest, he's been so committed to this that it's ridiculous. There’s not one thing I asked him to do that he hasn’t done. I couldn’t have asked for more. He was incredible.
With yesterday being his 30th birthday, where do you see Mr. Carter 30 years from now?
Wow! [Laughs] In all honesty, from doing some of Wayne’s biggest records with him, I really know this guy. Wayne is an intense human being and one that’s committed. With those kinds of characteristics, he’s destined to be successful for the rest of his life—as long as he stays true to that ritual. There are tools to success, and he has them. When it’s all said and done and he sells this, 60 years from now I see him somewhere with his kids & grandkids enjoying life—deservingly so too! He really is committed. He didn’t even miss a beat when he got incarcerated.
Agreed. He just surpassed Elvis Presley for the most Billboard Hot 100 entries, so he’s already paving a lane to becoming a living legend—if he hasn’t already.
He is a legend. I'll give him that—he's a living legend.
Definitely. To sum all this good stuff up, where do you see Glu Agency going in the near and distant future?
D: Well obviously we’ve got Nicki. We’re setting up some deals for Drake. We’ve got Muhammad Ali, Meek Mil, Trey Songz—I mean, we have the luxury! We're even doing stuff with Kelly Rowland, so the list is endless. I call us, as a company, “The Cleaners."
Care to elaborate?
What I mean by that is, this industry that we call advertising needs new life, new breath, and new ideas. That’s what we’re trying to bring in. We’re trying to cultivate new strategies. It's things that people are not doing what they should be doing. Just because you’re an A-List artist, doesn’t mean it’s certified success because you participate in something. What if I take a new artist, who has 500,000 Twitter followers and 1 million Facebook 'Likes', but they’re brand new. Why aren’t they just as important as Meek Mill?
I'm cultivating the strategy of believing—not just in the A-List artists, but the B- List and C- List artists. They work just as hard and they need people to believe in their vision. If I go to a brand, we’re creating a phase-out program. You work from one level to the next, until you get to the top. People will definitely go crazy.
That sounds like an amazing business platform.
It’s all about getting everyone on track. Social networking has really turned the industry into a new plateau. It’s creating a new frontier. To be at the forefront of it, Marcus Glover, the staff at GLU, and myself all take great pride in it. The reality is, our future is dedicated to how much we can do. How much we can give directly affects what we will get back. That’s why we work at the pace we work at. We’ve had a hell of a year. We’ve done a lot of cultivating of the marketplace. Never in history have you heard about an advertising agency building a skate park. We built that skate park. We’re gonna leave it here, and let be left as a blueprint. It’s important to a community that has been downtrodden and affected by devastation. Now what happens is, we’ve given them a life preserve. It’s something to hold on to. I think that’s where I'm most prideful.