Multi-award-winning entrepreneur Mathew Knowles: The Brains Behind Beyoncé’s success
This iconic international business leader/best-selling author/speaker/college professor/mentor has made an unprecedented global impact on music. He’s not only the founder, president and CEO of hugely-successful Music World Entertainment, but is also the secret behind his daughter Beyoncé’s phenomenal career.
Mathew Knowles talks to Angela Sara West about the secrets to his success, his tips for entrepreneurs, his inspirational book and his daughters, Solange and Beyoncé.
Record producer/music executive, Mathew Knowles, is widely recognised for his business acumen and unique management style and has played a key role in transforming the music and entertainment industry. He has executive-produced over 100 award-winning platinum and gold albums in multiple genres and his brainchild, Music World Entertainment, is one of the world’s largest music and entertainment conglomerates, with record sales exceeding 300m worldwide.
Credited with the “360° model” for records; management, branding and endorsement, merchandise and touring, he is the powerhouse behind his multi-GRAMMY-award-winning daughter Beyoncé, and her girl band Destiny’s Child’s, success and has strategized the recording careers of numerous other artists, including Chaka Khan and Kool and the Gang.
“I’ve always had a passion for music,” he tells me. “Derived from the word muse, music fills our soul. It’s an intimate individual experience through sound. Growing up, my idols were Earth, Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye and Gil Scott-Heron, because of their social consciousness.”
Mathew has tremendous gratitude for his life successes. “From being on championship basketball teams in high school and college, and a top sales rep at Xerox Medical (being one of the first African-Americans to sell CT and MRI scanners in the US) to owning a successful hair salon for 18 years and creating our family’s clothing lines, House of Deréon and Miss Tina… Our family created all of Music World Entertainment’s successes in gospel, country, pop and R&B, but particularly the successes of Destiny’s Child, Solange and Beyoncé.”
Musical icons, idols & inspiration | A self-described “small town country boy” from Alabama who wanted to be a businessman from a young age, he launched his first business selling candy at just eight years-old. He was among the first African-Americans to attend the University of Tennessee and graduated from Fisk University with degrees in Economics and Business Administration, and also holds an MBA and PhD from Cornerstone Christian Bible College.
The music mogul attributes his self-made success to his entrepreneurial parents: “They were my inspiration at a young age and throughout my entire life, as mentors teaching me the true meaning of entrepreneurship.”
As the top sales rep of medical equipment worldwide for Xerox Medical, Mathew led over 150 marketing and sales seminars for the sales teams. “When the medical industry, where I was a neurosurgical specialist, was going through a change called ‘manage care’, I simply lost my passion and began to search out my true passion. Around the same time, Girls Tyme (Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland’s group) lost on the US TV talent show, Star Search, which allowed me the opportunity to transition into the music industry.”
In 1992, Mathew launched Music World Entertainment. He wanted a global name, allowing him to enter into records, management, media and publishing, all of which are trademarked limited liability corporations. Expanding his company through successful acquisitions and partnerships, he garnered countless music and business awards… “2007 International Executive of the Year”… “2011 Living Legends Foundation Award”… The City of Houston even declared a “Mathew Knowles Day”!
2017: a milestone 25 years in the music biz | Last year, the music industry stalwart celebrated 25 years of superstar-making power under his belt. “I still look back and pinch myself at what both Music World Entertainment and myself have accomplished. We’ve had many successes working with incredible talent and a great team.”
Indulging his passion for “the creative process” and leaving corporate America to create Music World Entertainment was clearly his best career move. His worst? “Selling my company in 2002 and partnering with a much larger international entertainment conglomerate with a totally different ethos and culture. I’ve since bought it back, in 2007.”
He made it to the top by building a great team, having a passion for what he was doing plus a great product. “Worth Davis, a branch manager at Xerox who mentored me in my early corporate years, taught me the value of relationships in business. Columbia Records’ Donnie Lenner and Tommy Matolla mentored me in understanding the various aspects of, as well as how to manage in, the music industry.”
Growing the brand | Mathew’s entrée into the music business was as a father assisting his daughters’ desires and aspirations and realising his own objective. “It was a combination of supporting my kids’ dreams and living my own personal passion. I knew that Beyoncé had a God-given talent and, at a very young age, was truly passionate about music. I always believed in Beyoncé and knew that with hard work, the right team, a strategic short and long-term plan plus great songs, that she could become one of the best female artists of all time.”
Mathew grew global pop phenomenon Beyoncé and his other brands by partnering with Walmart. “We built a unique strategic partnership for Solange, Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child and for Music World Entertainment, in the areas of toys, apparel, music, electronics and fragrance. For example, today we talk about Beyoncé’s recent video album, yet we did the first Video Anthology exclusively with Walmart on her first album.”
There have been numerous other collaborations… “McDonald’s, Pepsi, Samsung, L’Oréal, Nintendo, American Express, DirecTV, VIZIO TV, Coty… Branding is critical. It’s what you or your business represents.”
Family ties… | Mathew co-wrote Destiny’s Child’s No.1 international megahit, Survivor. “Sometimes, it’s as simple as being in the studio at the right time! The song came about from the on-air negativity of a local Houston DJ, due to Destiny’s Child member changes.”
How has he found working with family? “Solange and Beyoncé started this journey at around 9-10 years of age and were treated as such when they were that young. Looking back, working with family had its pros and cons… One of the pros is that you have complete trust; a con is having to separate business from family.”
Mathew says the most rewarding aspect of what he does is seeing the impact of his involvement in his students’ and recording artists’ careers. “Especially my daughters, Solange and Beyoncé. My proudest moments have been seeing my daughters become the women, mothers and artists they have become. Both doing it totally differently, yet remaining humble and true to their fans and themselves.” Can we look forward to a Destiny’s Child reunion? “I’m sure, one day!”
Mathew mentions several projects in the works. “Books telling the Destiny’s Child story… I also see it on film and theatrically”. He has big plans for a Destiny’s Child stage play, with Idris Elba possibly playing Mathew. “Stay tuned!”
“I’m working on the autobiography and hope to have the book out soon.” He’s recently been researching his roots for another new book, and discovered that twins run in the family. “That’s right! My new book, Racism from the Eyes of a Child, can be purchased on my mathewknowles.com website.”
A fashion-forward family with a sky-high luxury property portfolio | The Knowles’ family’s clothing line, House of Deréon, launched in Selfridges in 2011. “Agnes Deréon (Beyoncé and Solange’s maternal grandmother) was the “soul”, Tina (Beyoncé’s mother/stylist) was the “couture” and Beyoncé was the “kick” of the brand. I headed up all marketing efforts. We were able to sell the brand for a sizeable profit.”
Mathew’s empire’s also expanded into real estate with Music World Properties, which includes investment holdings from high rises to luxury homes across the US, and Skybar, Houston’s largest night club. “Well, I can tell you the Skybar investment turned out to be a mistake, and we just recently sold the entire city block I owned in mid-town to BMW.”
All in the DNA… | Throughout his career, Mathew’s encountered individuals who have motivated, encouraged and contributed to his success, inspiring his modern blueprint for success in any industry, as detailed in his best-selling book The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals, in which he explores the challenges of creating a global brand for one of the world’s leading entertainment companies.
Focusing on common characteristics among successful people from all walks of life, it features illustrative true-life experiences and numerous essays by luminaries in every area of entrepreneurship, music, entertainment, sports and philanthropy. “I began to see common characteristics in some professional associates, as well as in myself. As an educator, I saw it as an opportunity to write my first book and share what I had observed from many successful professionals.”
“First and foremost, it advises you to live your passion, in coexistence with work ethics. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Failure is an opportunity to grow, not a reason to quit. Always think outside the box with a great team. You are the visionary!”
The 10 traits commonly shared by successful people are: Passion, vision, work ethic, team-building, planning, talk-to-do ratio, learning from failure, giving back, risk-taking and thinking outside the box.
Maxing every opp & business boot camps | Mathew says the first challenge of running your own business, regardless of the industry, is identifying and understanding the needs of your customers. “Exceed their expectations and give them a superior product.” Another challenge is putting together the right team. “I’m somewhat ‘hands-on’ with my businesses. I’ve learned the importance of developing my staff’s skill set.”
The music biz innovator advises maximizing every opportunity. “Keep overheads low; that’s money that could be going into your pocket. Life doesn’t give us the opportunity to change what has happened… we can only be positive, learning from our mistakes and moving forward. Let your business be one that you are passionate about. When you live your passion, you never work a day in your life!”
Mathew speaks at conferences worldwide and holds a professorship at Texas Southern University, where he has taught Entertainment, Recording and Management courses for nine years. “I’m inspired by my students. When I see their potential to impact the world, I’m motivated to be an even better teacher.”
His hot new online enterprise, The Knowles Institute for Entrepreneurship, Entertainment & Music Business, will teach essential skills on everything from marketing and communications to e-commerce management and kick starting a business with crowdsourcing. “It’s an e-learning platform which will have 900-plus courses,” he explains. “More to come!”
Business growth & travels | “Early on in my career, I grew too fast, causing logistical, cashflow and growth problems and losing focus on my core business. Now, however, I’m in the business of downsizing as I’m 66.”
So, he’s kicking back a little, but up until recently, 50% of his travels were international. The challenges to running a global business? “Travel and time zones for telephone calls. When I travel domestic or international, I take only a carry-on bag. It’s important to have airline club memberships, TSA and Global access, to get through security check lines. I always travel with my wife now, which makes it more fun, except when she is shopping!”
How does he keep fit and healthy? “Age doesn’t matter to me. I ride an exercise bike 4-5 times a week, eat lots of fish, fruit and veggies, and have reduced meat consumption. I try to reduce stress as much as possible.”
Chillin’ in Cabo… | When it’s time to switch off from A&R for well-deserved R&R, the music magnate heads for his vacation home in Cabo, where he owns a timeshare. “We love the weather, the people and the food! I’ve owned a timeshare for years but my wife and I love staying at Las Ventanas and recently shared our four-year anniversary there. I also love Italy, Greece and Barbados. It’s very hard for me to switch off unless I go somewhere where my ‘phone doesn’t work, though!”
Musical musings… Blushhh! | The next big thing in music? “Blushhh Music, the first-ever rap female trio with two rappers and a vocalist.” The latest girl group to sizzle off Music World Entertainment’s hot plate is doing well. “They’re now filming a reality show.”
Since the show will be from Bunim/Murray Productions, the Emmy award-winning production company behind Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the Blush girls look set for sensational international stardom!
How will the music industry evolve? “The digital evolution’s impacted the way we purchase and experience music. The industry evolution, in my opinion, means we will SEE music rather than just hear it. Video will change the way we experience music in the future.”
Still to come… | Mathew has starred in TV reality shows including MTV International’s Breaking From Above, while his movie credits include executive producing the No.1 box office hit, Obsessed and there are plenty more projects in the pipeline for this legendary superstar-maker and prolific philanthropist. “More teaching, public speaking, TV and film projects… Destiny’s Child projects…”
“Dreams and passions are synonymous to me. Never give up!”
Where does he see himself, and his businesses, in five years’ time? “At the top!”
Mathew’s top tips for readers looking to make it in the music industry:
- First and foremost, it has to be your passion
- Focus on one area of the business or artistry and become great at that. Then you can branch out
- Build a team
- Practice, practice, practice
- Realise this is not microwave success. It takes a minimum 5-6 years to get traction
- Dreams and passions are synonymous to me. Be prepared for mistakes, failures and rejection, but never give up
- Follow me on social media!
For further information about Mathew’s book, The DNA of Achievers: 10 Traits of Highly Successful Professionals, visit his website at http://mathewknowles.com, where you can also find a free article about his Walmart Strategic Partnership.
Follow Mathew on Twitter: @MathewKnowles
The Knowles Institute for Entrepreneurship, Entertainment and the Music Business: https://knowlesinstitute.com/
Music World Entertainment has several hugely successful recording imprints under its umbrella, including Music World Gospel, the largest African-American Gospel label in the world. www.musicworldent.com
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