Founder Jennifer Horton shares what fuels her platinum music industry success.
Jennifer Horton has always been a fan of the performing arts; she grew up as a dancer and musician in a family actively involved in the fine arts world in Houston, Texas. But it was a college internship in Los Angeles when her music passion pivoted to professional aspiration.
Fast forward to 2009 when Jennifer took the startup leap and founded JRH Entertainment Group, a music and entertainment services agency, followed by her latest ventures Matrix Artists and Matrix Productions. Eight years, exciting growth and a star-studded road ahead. In 2016, Matrix Artists simultaneously held three spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart with artists Chris Brown’s “Zero,” Post Malone’s “White Iverson,” (three-time platinum) and 2 Chainz’s “Watch Out” (platinum). The firm’s 2017 is already off to continued success with the sold out 10th anniversary tour for international K-Pop stars BIGBANG.
In this heavily male-dominated industry, it’s no wonder media outlets such as Huff Post and Billboard call her a ground-breaking A&R phenom and music industry exec. And while the star power in her midst might make her the envy of many a music fan, it’s her business hustle and passion for knowledge that make her a great role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.
I had the opportunity to ask Jennifer about her startup journey and recipe for success.
People assume the music industry is impossible to break into. How did you do it?
I went to L.A. during a summer break before Senior year in college and decided I was going to get an internship in the industry. I pounded the pavement and knocked on talent agency doors until I landed my first opportunity. The following year, that internship turned into a job offer. From there I immersed myself in the industry and became a student of the business, reading every related book I could find. I applied everything to my job at the agency, and became the youngest agent and highest earner in my department. That track record opened up an opportunity in the music business. Along the way, I did a lot of networking and built a solid reputation for delivering on my word. I also identified the top women in the industry and followed their careers to get an idea of how they made it.
You worked your way quickly up the ranks to managing music talent early in your career. What lit your entrepreneurial flame?
After my start as a Talent Agent, I took a strategic leap of faith into Artist Management. Later I moved up to executive positions in A&R at Record Labels and publishing companies. I was always looking for fresh ideas, new ways to sign, develop and break talent as well as create new revenue streams. I worked in an environment that encouraged risk-taking and entrepreneurial thinking. I had been able to successfully launch concepts as part of my job; spotting trends and jumping on opportunities ahead of competitors. Ultimately I decided it was time to strike out on my own. Launching brands or products within your current company is a great way to test your startup chops and an opportunity many people overlook.
Speaking of learning….along with managing a busy career, you seem to be a perpetual student. Tell us how you fuel your brain.
When I was first conceptualizing my startup, I considered all the roles I would need to play in my business and I educated myself in those areas where I felt I needed more knowledge like financial projections, organizational structures, and customer acquisition models. I sought out free and low cost classes at the local Small Business Development Center. And while there are a lot of great resources online, I’m a big fan of books! There are so many books by successful business people from The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber to Like a Virgin by Richard Branson. Sometimes you don’t have to go any further than your public library to learn from the best, especially those “what not to do” lessons you don’t want to repeat..
Now I’m spending more time in entrepreneurial networking and business development forums than the library, but I’m still learning. I was very excited to be chosen as one of 30 LA business owners for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, which I just completed in December. I’m also a member of the west coast chapter of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council, which hosts power breakfasts and other educational forums. Through my WBENC membership, I also had the opportunity to attend the Tuck Executive Education Program at Dartmouth. If you’re considering launching a business, take advantage of these networking and educational groups.
From one business to three: tell us more about your brands and growth strategy.
JRH Entertainment was my first launch and serves as the over-arching brand. I’m not a believer in one big brand that does all things for all clients. As we expanded and identified our competitive advantages in a saturated marketplace, we launched Matrix Artists to focus on our core service of building the careers of artists and their brands. We also launched Matrix Productions to best serve our clients in tour production, content production and brand integrations. This strategy allowed our team to grow in a focused but flexible way. It also allows us to be a valuable development and production partner as a full-service company.
You’re a big advocate of mentoring. How can busy founders give back to future entrepreneurs?
I never had a mentor. There have certainly been key people who gave me opportunities along the way, but I really owe my success to every artist and client who believed in me and allowed me to represent them. Once I had my own company, it seemed obvious to give to others what I didn’t have.
In 2015 I joined the faculty at Los Angeles College of Music to help launch their new Music Business Degree Program. That’s been very rewarding, but I think what I do informally in my day-to-day business always has some aspect of mentoring to it.
Many of our trainees go on to work at the biggest companies in the industry and we often stay in touch as they navigate their careers, many who also venture into entrepreneurship. Recently I had dinner with my first intern who just launched her jewelry line while still working full time. It’s important to share experiences with the next generation of women entrepreneurs, especially while they are taking those first steps early in their careers. It can make all the difference helping them not only get but stay on the path to success. I think that’s something we can all do.
It’s an exciting success story in a tough market….any other advice for aspiring founders looking to make it big in music?
This industry isn’t just a job or a business. It’s really a lifestyle and it can be very consuming. You definitely “pay your dues”, but if you learn how to deliver results and be consistent you will stand out. Find out what your strengths are and focus on those areas to become an expert, while striving to learn the many aspects of the business as a whole and you will be well prepared for success. Then just keep grinding and don’t quit! Remember the saying, “luck is opportunity meets preparation!”
How are YOU making it big on stage or screen? Comment below or contact Team sheBOOM at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story with fellow entrepreneurs.