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The present moment is one full of nostalgia for the generation that grew up on internet piracy, mastered the art of taste-making on MySpace and thrived in the blog era. However, for music industry executive and entrepreneur, Modi Oyewole, that coveted period in time was as educational as it was enjoyable, laying a strong foundation rooted in discovery, dot-connecting and dedication. As technology evolved and trends changed, Modi evolved with it, looking to the internet as a limitless pool of resources necessary to yielding longevity in the music industry. While memories of the golden age of file-sharing may be fleeting, the desire to connect with others remains at an all-time high, something that helps drive Modi forward in his career today.
"What intrigues me is, I'm curious to see the potential of the shoes. I think when you're walking around the office and your shoes are vibrating, it's just crazy."
Over the years, Modi has worked for an array of reputable companies, such as Complex, Red Bull and Nike, to name a few, lending his talents to help assist in the creation of digital content, event activations and marketing plans. In addition to helping contribute to the successes of various legacy brands in music and entertainment, he has also been running his own race as a multifaceted entrepreneur. During the formative years of his career in music, Modi began blogging about then-up-and-coming acts and sharing his opinions on-air via Boston College's radio station in the early 2010s. These creative outlets soon sparked the idea to curate his own music festival, as well as continue exploring to see where his love for music, culture and bringing people together could lead him.
Alongside two close friends and fellow Washington DC natives, Modi formed the concert production agency DC to BC, which most notably owns, operates and oversees the annual music festival Trillectro. The concert production agency has come a long way since first booking Kendrick Lamar in 2011, with the following year seeing the inaugural Trillectro music festival. With Modi and his co-founders at the helm, the company has grown exponentially, both in size and in hard-earned reputation. In addition to overseeing DC to BC, Modi also runs a marketing and promotional company, Heating Up. On top of these self-started ventures, Modi is also holding it down as a director of marketing at Epic Records, where he oversees marketing initiatives for a variety of artists on the label's roster.
While Modi's career has led him in a variety of directions over the year, the heartbeat of his life's work remains at the intersection of music, culture and lifestyle. As he reinvents himself through his entrepreneurial spirit and finds new ways to connect others, Modi remains as driven as ever to keep moving forward. From gearing up to launch his own line of candles to inspiring artists to experiment with different means of self-expression, Modi is embodying how creativity is not limited to one path or endeavor, nor is it exclusive to traditional mediums. During a recent conversation with the DropLabs team, Modi dives deep into what led him to where he is today, what his music influences were growing up and how inspiration is everywhere, as long as you know where to look.
What do you currently do for a living?
I do a bunch of things. I am the co-owner of an event production company called DC to BC. Our biggest property is called Trillectro, which is a music festival. I also work at Epic Records where I'm a director of marketing. That really just means I'm a project manager and I oversee the marketing rollout for a roster of artists that have been assigned to me. I also started an agency called Heating Up which is essentially a marketing and promo agency centered around culture and lifestyle.
Do you have an early memory from when you first discovered some of your passions?
I was the guy that was selling burned CDs in 7th, 8th grade for $5 a piece. I was the person that was sending people music that they didn't even ask for. [Laughs] I was the guy that was downloading music on Napster and KaZaa and LimeWire and all of those kinds of programs. I really liked the early music exploration days where there was no algorithm that fed you songs based on what you listened to. It was kind of like, I'm just going to download a bunch of shit and sometimes it'd be labeled wrong, but that's how'd you come across a new artist.
How did you first get started working in music?
I have always been passionate about music and as a kid, I grew up in a household where a lot of different music was played. A lot of Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, a lot of zouk, a lot of Paul Simon, a lot of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Deep Purple, Beatles, a whole bunch of music. I didn't even realize it until I got older but all of the artwork in my house growing up was all music-based so it's always just been around me. After my first year of college, my first summer out, I got an internship at Def Jam through a grant I applied for. I'm from DC, went to Boston College and lived in New York in the summer. Interning at Def Jam was my first real music industry experience but I never really saw myself as a label guy; I just wanted to do cool shit.
I was also an early internet kid and I had a computer since I was six, seven years old. My uncle knew I was into that stuff, so he got my brother and me computers. I think that's how we were able to be so tech savvy and know what's going on as early adapters. We were in it before microblogging and Twitter existed, and then once the internet became a gateway to kick the walls down and lower the barrier of entry, we were able to leverage it.
What are some ways that you get into your creative zone or embody a creative mindset?
I think as a director of marketing, in order to be a good one, you have to be tapped into culture. You have to understand what's going on, who's moving and shaking, who's making really cool art. You have to figure out how to partner with those people to create stuff for your artists, whether it's assets for promoting a single or a tour, or content creation or video or whatever is needed to cut through the clutter.
I definitely have a creative drive. I have my own passion projects that I work on myself just to stay active and stay creative. I'm always listening to new music and searching for new artists. I love Spotify for the algorithmic playlists, but I also enjoy talking to people about what they're listening to because I feel like it just gives me a better idea of what's going on and what they're into. I like people more than I do computers [Laughs]. I'm not on social right now at all.
I've always connected with creative people, such as through managing artists or putting on shows. I feel like I have that mindset where I understand someone has to figure out how to bring structure to the creativity. In a marketing capacity, whether it's in an office or as an entrepreneur, I add that value. I don't paint; I don't really create anything with my hands. My creativity is more in the form of curation. I love making playlists and I love making them flow. I like to be creative but it's not in the traditional sense.
Do you have a favorite kind of environment that brings out your best ideas?
I don't know if I have an answer to that. [Laughs] I think it just happens. Every idea happens at a different time. I could be in the toilet, I could be in isolation, I could just be thinking. There's no rhyme or reason to it. If I have an idea, I'll write it down or email myself so I don't forget it. I make sure I see it and then I'll build on it.
Everything I've ever done has started out by my being inspired by something I've seen or by working to build out an idea. I just made some candles, for example, and I was telling one of my artists about it to give him some inspiration. He was like, it's always amazing to me to watch something go from an idea in your head into a manifested thing that other people can enjoy.
It's so crazy. I feel like a lot of people have ideas but they don't really have the follow-through. There are a lot of creative people out there that unfortunately you never get to see what they are capable of because it's hard for them to bring an idea to life just because they either don't believe in it, or they don't know how to do it. I've worked in corporate and have done a whole bunch of odd jobs. I've hauled junk for a living and I've worked at big brands like Nike and Red Bull. I think you get inspiration and creativity from everywhere. From the type of people you run into and have a conversation with, to collaboration. You never know.
How would you explain the DropLabs experience to your friends?
I think the experience is really cool. What intrigues me is, I'm curious to see the potential of the shoes. I think when you're walking around the office and your shoes are vibrating, it's just crazy. I've tried out a lot of wearables, like the vests that video game players wear when they're playing Call of Duty. I think that kind of experience is just an elevated one. I think it's really intriguing and it's cool to catch a certain vibe or really feel the energy from the music.
On the marketing side, I think it'd be really cool to do a silent disco type of activation. When you're in the process of throwing a music festival, you have a bunch of brands and each brand wants to do something. I really like working on different activations and figuring out exactly how to bring different visions to life. It'd be really cool to figure out a way to have people enjoy the sets, whether it's a DJ set or a live performance, with the DropLabs shoes on their feet. That could definitely take the experience up a few notches.
Do you have any mantras that you live by?
I'm not really good with mantras. For me, I listen to a lot of early Pharrell. A lot of his music is super motivational to me. In 2005, 2006, I got into N.E.R.D. and it was around the time he dropped his first album. He was producing music with Slim Thug and making music and collaborating with artists you wouldn't expect him to. I just thought that was so cool because at that time, what he was doing was unheard of. That was the ultimate era where him and Chad Hugo had a large percentage of pop radio on lock.
Pharrell's song, "You Can Do It Too," comes to mind and I would have that song on repeat. When you're in college and trying to figure out what's going on, or you graduate and you don't have a job, you hear other people's stories and you just need confidence to be able to grow in this industry that is so cut throat. Or just the world in general, with everything going on. Pharrell's hook is very straightforward - "You can do it, too" - but is motivational. Don't think that you're stuck with whatever your circumstances are. I think it's about having that positive mindset, which allows you to get to where you need to go.
What are some things you're working on so far in 2020?
I have a roster of artists that are dropping new music, so my focus is on that at Epic. With Trillectro, we're trying to figure out what's next. We are working on continuing to build the brand and evolve and innovate. With my agency, Heating Up, I want to release product, starting with the candles. I haven't even rolled them out yet but people are excited about them. I have an idea of where I want to take it, I just have to figure out how to bring it all to life.
As innovators by design, the team behind DropLabs Technology™ is dedicated to supporting and elevating members of the creative community. Together, we aim to serve as a platform highlighting different creators as they work towards achieving visionary excellence and inspiring others along their path. To nominate a creative leader you’d like to see highlighted on our website, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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