Anthony A. Cole has helped launch the careers of many stars in the entertainment industry. Cole started his career in the music industry at a time when putting up flyers around town for an artist’s new release was commonplace. He has grown up in the music and entertainment business and evolved along with it.
His evolution led to the launch of Complex Entertainment in 2008. The company is a multilevel entertainment brand that handles everything an artist needs to grow and sustain their careers.
Every year, Cole scouts new talent and helps entertainers fulfil their potential using his expertise. He may not be the man on stage with a mic in his hand, but he has just as much influence on what people see and hear today.
Anthony, you have had an extensive career in entertainment. Can you tell us how you got your start and what influenced you to go into the entertainment world?
I got my start at a music label under the Virgin Records umbrella. My start in the music industry was of a very humble beginning. I used to go around putting up posters around the city, passing out flyers for new album releases, and just being a part of the guerilla marketing that coincides with the elevating of an artist’s career. This has a lot to do with my knowledge and the passion I have for working with artists – I understand that the smallest to the greatest efforts all work to benefit and impact the career of an entertainer. What influenced me to go into entertainment was two things: I loved acting and I loved music. I was in the band and I played 5 different instruments. So, my love for entertainment has been in my life since I can remember.
You have worked with a number of leading music artists over the years including Madonna and Beyonce. What has it been like working with such talented, highly respected singers?
It’s been great working with these amazingly talented entertainers. I have had the privilege to watch their dedication and work ethic for the craft they participate in. Each one of them is different but they all have one thing in common, they truly love what they do.
Cole has had immense success in the music realm which has allowed him to branch out to other areas. The music mogul has worked on producing music events for the NBA’s and NFL’s biggest games. But live event producing isn’t his only speciality. Cole has become a go-to person in the music publishing arena. It is a space that is quite lucrative and one few explore.
Anthony, you worked on major events including the NBA All-Star Game and NFL Super Bowl. How much work goes into producing events for those major sports games?
When you are involved with events like the NBA All-Stars or the NFL Super Bowl, it takes the complete year gap to prepare and organize. The logistics alone are enough work by themselves and that’s before you add the half-time entertainment factor of the show. The work and manpower it takes to do these high caliber events are beyond the scope of other typical music events or festivals. The preparation for a live televised event of this nature impacts every single aspect of the planning phases. Also, you have to be prepared with backup strategies to ensure the shows are successful.
Music publishing is one of your areas of expertise. How did you become a go-to individual in this area?
Music publishing is one of the most lucrative areas in the music business. I have always been intrigued by this sector because we know the artist, but hardly ever hear the writer’s name. So, in college, I studied music publishing and worked with different publishing companies and developed critical working knowledge. I started advising clients and companies to use music in video games and films. After helping to get songs to sync in games, TV, and film, I was sought out by other companies and brands.
Complex Entertainment was Cole’s brainchild after seeing gaps in the music industry. Rather than artists needing multiple people or companies to run their careers, Cole founded an agency that could manage everything needed for an artist to be successful.
You launched Complex Entertainment in 2008. What led to the creation of Complex and how does it benefit clients in the entertainment industry?
What made me launch Complex Entertainment was, at the time, I and my partner of another label under Universal Music Group discovered an artist on MySpace and signed him to a three partnership deal. That artist is Drake. So, I was really busy being a label executive and managing other talents, I decided to launch Complex Entertainment as a multilevel entertainment brand that would handle management and festival/touring booking, as well as brand sponsorship procurement.
Festivals such as South by Southwest are important to Complex Entertainment. You have been a big proponent of festivals as a way for musicians to grow their careers. Can you explain how music festivals launch an artist?
When you look at festivals from 2000 to now, so many artists have gotten there start because of performing at festivals. Imagine Dragons, James Blake, Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, ZZ Ward, just to name a few, all launched their careers through being on the festival scene. With the exposure and social media, the fans get to see these artists first, then go research them and become huge advocates to get the music airplay, which in turn gets the artist signed. Also, many music label executives, including myself, attend festivals every year to find the cool new artist to sign.
Music has changed so much over the last two decades due to YouTube, streaming, digital downloads, and more. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen to the entertainment industry and what is to come?
Streaming and social media are the two changes that have created the biggest impact in the music industry. Streaming has made physical album sells obsolete and put the CD market pretty much out of business. Social media is the new marketing matrix that is used to decide an artist’s potential. It enables a music label to determine if consumers care about an artist and assess which territories the artist has the biggest fan base.
Music isn’t your only interest as you have worked on television and films. What drew you to this side of entertainment and what are some of your newest projects?
I always loved television and film being that I was an actor in my youth. But what professionally brought me into this area of the business, I started managing the top child actors from The Disney Channel’s hit shows at the beginning of my career and invested into many film production projects.
Cole continues to be a cutting-edge entrepreneur in the entertainment sector. His newest project involves an exclusive members-only club for music artists, film stars, and celebrities. It is a concept he aims to branch out into other areas and professions.
One of your newest projects is a members-only club in Bel Air. Can you tell us about this new exciting venture?
The members-only club came about after having a conversation with Beyoncé and Jay Z at there home one night, and I realized people of their status do not have a place to go and be free from paparazzi or someone reporting their every move. I came up with the concept of a three-tier member-only club called 10Noir, which will be the first 24-hour members-only club of its kind in the world. It will cater to the top levels of each industry including oil and gas, entertainment, technology, government, and health.
With your expert knowledge and experience in music, where do you see the industry going in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I project that the music business will become more interactive in many ways, particularly through advances in technology. Concerts are a major component of the industry now and technology will be able to allow attendees to feel more engaged with live events even when they are not present at the actual concert. Through VR, AR, and other technologies, there are opportunities for fans to participate in concerts from the comfort of their couch. Also, the connections between the artists and the fans will become much closer through technology, such as a more direct link between an artist’s music releases going directly to the fans. With many variables such as minimizing costs and increasing opportunities to make money in the music industry, virtual reality is going to be a huge part of the business in the immediate future.
Cole may have dreamt of playing music for a living when he was young. But what he has achieved working with artists is far greater than what many individual musicians ever attain in the music industry.
From working on guerilla marketing campaigns for record releases to co-founding Complex Entertainment, Cole has achieved far more than most people ever do when they begin work at a record label.
Cole has adapted well to the music industry’s changes and he is still evolving. If there is another change in entertainment, you can bet Cole will be at the forefront of it.
By Drew Farmer
Images courtesy of Complex Entertainment