This episode, the second installment of Money & Music Talks ‘Background’ edition, focuses on Free ‘the dreamer’ Smith, his 30+ years in the music industry, peaks, valleys and how he came to realize his veteran status within Artist Financial Program (AFP). Free, Eyan, David and Dev also discuss the importance of helping yourself before you can help others, not falling into the traps of the major record labels and give advice to young artists on how they can prepare themselves for the inevitable valley’s that come with peaks of success in this business (or in every business).

Free ‘the dreamer’ Smith: the come up

The multi-dextrous president of UNKNY, head of music for AFP, all-around music liaison and head of the Urban department for Metropolitan Groove Merchants (MGM) has many different jobs nowadays, but it wasn’t always this way. From skipping school to teach himself multiple musical instruments, to being “raped and pillaged” by the music industry, Free has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. In this Background edition of Money & Music Talks, the crew gets deep into Free’s background, discuss life-lessons and talk plans for the future to continue to empower artists looking to make it big in the music industry.

Since he was 13-years old, Free has been working in the music industry, slowly learning it’s ins-and-outs. He would skip school at a young age to learn multiple musical instruments, then moved onto performing and later worked with major labels, such as Elektra, to hone his production skills. After 38-years within the industry, Free now sits atop a high point in his career as an integral part of ‘the four horsemen’ (consisting of himself, Eyan Edwards, Dej Tejwani and David Tae), as the musical veteran voice of AFP. Free also heads the Urban department of the global distributor, MGM and runs their artists and repertoire (A&R) division.

Flipping the music industry on its head

After being “raped and pillaged” by the music industry, Free looks to turn his negative experiences into positivity for the next generation of struggling artists. AFP uses their knowledge, experience, and expertise to create artist empowerment with their music grant, of sorts. Unlike conventional music grants, all you need when dealing with AFP is good credit history and a vision. They provide the funding, cash-flow and networking resources.

Artist empowerment is created not only through funding, but career advice and distribution as well. Through their global resource network, artists of any genre are set up to succeed. As Free puts it in Money & Music Talks S2E00, “we don’t discriminate”. The goal of AFP, contrary to what “dumb-dumbs” write online, is to help artists. Free goes on to talk about having an ear for talent and gives a little background on UNKNY’s, first signee, Phaze Jackson, through AFP.

Peaks and valleys

“When you’re playing Madison Square Garden and 22,000 people say ‘Ay yo Free you understand!’… that’s pretty much a peak”.

After outlining some of the high points in his career, Free goes onto explain that the money doesn’t last forever. Many artists and musicians feel that their fame, fortune, and those $30,000 checks will never stop rolling in. The reality is, that the money can stop at any point, and that’s why a program like AFP is so special. Free has learned the hard way, through experiencing valleys that come along with peaks of success, he’s learned the value of smart investments.

Don’t get fucked

As Free puts it, “no one gives a fuck about you as an individual”, and the music industry will take everything from you if you don’t have a solid team around you. Some of the key advice Free gives to young artists out there who are yet to experience ‘the highs’, is to have self-worth, be humble and don’t sell yourself short. Investing in something solid like real estate is sustainable (not like selling drugs). But most importantly, own your own intellectual property so you can continue funding yourself, long after any record deal would last. AFP is allowing you to do just that.

Seeing it first hand

After discussing Free’s life, how he’s learned to be okay with being “selfish” in order to help out the people around him and having to figure out a way to put his 4-kids through college, the AFP crew discusses business. They lay out exactly how they turn artists into worldwide brands with their connections, tours, distribution and Dev teases ‘social-proof’, coming up in his own episode of ‘Background’. As always, there are big things coming from AFP, so stay tuned for more from Eyan, Dev, Free and David as they host regular Money & Music Talks and ‘Background’ edition episodes. Make sure to follow the team’s journey on Instagram, subscribe to the AFP YouTube channel and download new episodes of Money & Music Talks wherever you get your podcast.