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10 Questions with Shannon Houchins



Feb 22, 2010

Shannon Houchins decided at a young age he wanted to make movies. An early entrepreneur, he bought his own video camera with the money he made selling contraband (bubble gum) at school. "I would buy a 5- pack for a quarter and sell it for a quarter a piece. Because gum was outlawed at school, I had a small monopoly," Houchins explains. Once he convinced the neighborhood kids to come be in his movies (anything from horror to war) he then realized a missing main component--the MUSIC. With that, Houchins' path towards music was sparked.

As a staff producer for Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Productions for three years, Shannon Houchins produced remixes for such diverse multi-platinum recording artists as T.L.C., Usher, Jagged Edge, and Kut Klose. His successful track record with So So Def afforded Shannon the necessary clout and client base to form his own company, 11th Hour Entertainment with partner Doug Kaye. 11th Hour's first exclusive artist/production project was Bubba Sparxxx, whom which Houchins signed to Interscope Records before negotiating a marketing deal with Timbaland's Beat Club Records. Houchins produced seven songs on Bubba's debut album "Dark Days, Bright Nights" and served as Executive Producer along with Timbaland.

In order to facilitate his ever growing stable of producers and expand services to clients, Houchins merged his studio with Mindzai Multimedia in 2005. Mindzai is a multi-media facility encompassing two recording studios, a video editing room and a wide variety of media based services including the following: audio and video production, graphics and web-site development, photography, model agency, screen printing, CD & DVD duplication, and consulting. Houchins is responsible for running Mindzai Marketing & Consulting, which assists upstart artists and indie labels in achieving their goals within the music industry.

In 2006, Houchins started his own label Average Joe's Entertainment Group with longtime friend and flagship artist, Colt Ford. AJEG has since formed Full Scope Management with Ken Madson as well as Promotion, Merch, Concert and Film divisions. Houchins has gone from Artist, to Producer, to Label President and will finally come full circle to film production in April 2010.

1) Congratulations on starting Average Joe's Entertainment. What can we expect to see from AJE in 2010?

Diversity. While we plan to stay the course with several alternative country projects (Colt Ford, Brantley Gilbert, Sunny Ledfurd, The Lacs) we have also signed more strait down the middle country acts like Josh Gracin and Matt Stillwell. We have also launched our Pop/Urban label AVJ Records with signings of two Platinum selling acts, The Nappy Roots and Bizarre from D-12.

2) You started your career in music as an engineer then a producer in the hip-hop and urban genres. Why the transition to country?

Colt Ford. I grew up on both country and hip-hop and have blended them over the past 10 years with other acts like Bubba Sparxxx and Rehab. Colt was just the first one that needed to be marketed within the country format.

3) What was the first step when you came to Nashville from Atlanta?

Step One was to learn the lay of the land. It's a different landscape, a different mentality and a different way of doing business. I brought a lot of my street marketing techniques and blended them with what was already working here.

4) You have a large line of real believers in AJE artists, like Colt Ford. That's not an easy sell. What do you credit as assistance in penetrating the Nashville market? How are you growing Ford's audience?

Finding the right team who both believed in what we were trying to do and shared our work ethic has been crucial. Then as a whole, we spread the word within the Nashville community. Overall, I think most people are bored with hearing the same things over and over again. As far as growth, we just continue to do whatever it takes to create new impressions. The music will take care of the rest.

5) What made you venture into the artist management side of things with Full Scope Entertainment?

We were already managing artists via AJE but felt we needed to separate the entities. Full Scope was created to do that. When Ken Madson and I created Full Scope Ent., it allowed me to go back to focusing on running the label side of things, while he and the Full Scope team handled day-to-day artist management.

6) You have Country and Urban acts on the AJE roster, and it's impressive that you are growing your company in an economy where most are downsizing. What do you credit this growth to at your label?

We make good business decisions. While we are very cavalier in the music we create, we know that every deal we do will be profitable based on our model.

7) What is the infrastructure at AJE? Do you outsource your promotions team? Marketing? Publicity?

It varies from artist to artist. We do some outsourcing, but our internal staff is growing every day.

8) What have you most enjoyed from starting AJE and FSE?

Being able to experiment and do things other labels are scared to attempt. I was the kid who took apart all his toys and built new ones just to prove that he could. Presto! A new, cooler toy that no one else has.

9) Your albums have sold over 40 million across all genres. Where do you see the direction of album sales going in 5 years, and do you think labels should go back to the basics when it comes to growing an audience, etc.?

I think people will always buy music, but I really don't care if we just give it all away. What we lose in record sales we gain in fans. I would rather give away a $10.00 CD and gain a fan that buys a $20.00 ticket and $20.00 t-shirt. I just made an extra $30.00. As far as going back to the basics, yes. Quit throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. Build a grass roots audience for your artist first, then when you start spending promo dollars you already know it's coming back. We owe it to our artists to do what it takes to make their careers work and do right by them. All of our artists have 50/50 deals so we live and die together. So, if any of you artists are tired of not seeing any album dollars - call me.

10) You have worked with a lot of artists through the years. With all your knowledge, who are the newer artists (any genre) that you feel like could be the next superstars?

If they are not on my label then I'm not saying, because I'm probably trying to sign them.

Bonus Questions

1) What is the first concert you ever attended?

Fresh Fest 3

2) What's with the Superman hats?

I fix problems. Plus, I love super heroes and my name starts with an "S".

3) What is something most people don't know about you?

I'm a chronic pacer. I have 3 offices and not a desk in any of them.


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