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Series: Money & Music Talks

S2E02 | Background: Free Smith | Money & Music Talks

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.

S2E01 | Background: Eyan Edwards | Money & Music Talks

The crew is back in the official premiere episode of Money & Music Talks, season 2, featuring the first installment of ‘Background’, in which they dive into the story of each team member, each episode. This episode focuses on the CEO and Founder of Artist Financial Program (AFP), Eyan Edwards. Eyan talks about his family ties to the music industry, humble beginnings and how he discovered the money-making strategy that AFP was built on. From waking up in the middle of the night with a crazy idea, to flipping properties for millions of dollars, AFP wasn’t built overnight, and Eyan tells his side of the story.

Humble beginnings

As of today, AFP continues to grow… attracting new brands, label executives, partners and clients all with the shared goal of providing artists and musicians all over the world with financing to pursue their artistic dreams. Unlike a music grant, AFP doesn’t only provide artists with funding but creates total artist empowerment by exposing artists and musicians to AFP’s vast and global resource network as well. This vision started long before the crew got together. Before Eyan met David, Free or Dev, and in this episode of Money & Music Talks, Eyan delves into exactly how AFP came together and became the success it is today.

As the only son of the former Vice President of Capitol Records – Wayne Edwards – (having rostered artists such as MC Hammer, Brian McKnight, Tamia, Bebe & Cece Winans, and more), and a 2 time Grammy-nominated singer, Angel Rogers, Eyan has had great exposure to the music industry and behind-the-scenes insight from the time he was a kid. He saw time and time again, artists making it to the top of their field and then losing everything. At the end of the day, artists are creatives and generally don’t think of the business aspect of their craft. This causes so many artists to be taken advantage of and robbed of the earnings their short-lived careers reward them. As he noticed in his own mother’s life, the money doesn’t last forever.

Recognizing the patterns

It wasn’t until Eyan was forced to close his record label, ‘UNK NEW YORK’, after realizing he didn’t have the funds to pursue it any longer that he discovered how real and sustainable money was made. Working multiple jobs, hustling, Eyan was sleeping on his mother’s couch when he met a real estate developer that would prove to be an integral figure in his journey (and in the creation of AFP).

Observing artists like Jay-Z, DJ Envy, Rick Ross and Meek Mill, Eyan realized that everyone in the music industry that kept making tons of money even after the record industry stopped paying out like it used to, all had invested in real estate. It was from there that he used his talent for connecting-the-dots to develop his own system for flipping houses, soon having access to millions upon millions of dollars.

The origin of the Artist Financial Program

As a college drop-out who had tried every opportunity available, Eyan found that the secret to real sustainable income, was not trying to do everything at once, but focus on one single path and turn it into a cash-cow. But even after realizing a high-level of success flipping properties, Eyan still had his troubles breaking into the music industry. After a failed attempt at partnering with Sony and having his idea “borrowed”, he decided he needed to save his valuable ideas for himself and turn them into something big once he found the right team. That’s when he met David, who introduced him to Free and in turn, Dev… the rest is history.

Moving forward and upwards

Throughout this in-depth, Background episode, the four-man crew discuss Eyan’s journey and praise him for his balance of business savvy and love for the music industry. They then talk more about their goals for AFP, striving higher each year and creating opportunities and empowerment for artists. Artist empowerment, means making artists and musicians money to pursue music careers all while letting them keep their own intellectual property. This is exactly the goal Eyan had in mind when he set out to create AFP. As Eyan, Dev, Free, and David continue to provide artists with empowerment, financing, and resources, they continue to break down barriers as well. With clothing lines in major retail outlets such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdales, and their sights set on one day raising more than 1-billion dollars for artists and musicians around the world, AFP as a whole, understands that it’s all about working together.

With the revamped, ‘UNKNY’ Inc. back on the rise and providing AFP with a full-service media company, record label, and magazine, in which to work with, there is so much more to come in 2019. Stay tuned for more from Eyan Edwards, Dev Tejwani, Free Smith and David Tae as they host regular Money & Music Talks episodes. Next week focuses on Free ‘the dreamer’ Smith, his 30+ years in the music industry and how not to get fucked by it. 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 podcasts