Think back. What were you doing when you were 13? Most of us were concentrating on just getting adjusted to life in middle school, but for Lawrence Dixon that was the perfect age to begin his campaign to become a major force in the music world.
Dixon (aka YoungBiz) first got his start in show business by passing out flyers and ushering at local gospel events, but he took that opportunity to learn the inner workings of the event promotions profession. Within a year, YoungBiz graduated from 8th grade and began promoting his own events with eventual Grammy winner Kierra Sheard. The teenage mogul quickly made a name for himself as the “go-to-guy” for gospel events in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. Dixon got the ultimate stamp of approval when Dr. Bobby Jones endorsed his HD Magazine- a globally syndicated publication he started after building relationships with managers and artists in the gospel community.
So after conquering event planning and media, Dixon decided to expand his empire to include almost every aspect of entertainment. In 2003, YoungBiz founded Higher Definition Entertainment, a full service company that has worked with Kirk Franklin, Tom Joyner, Kelly Price, and others. And now Dixon has shifted his sights to also help up-and-coming artists reach their full potential. So while Lawrence is working hard to introduce his clients to the world, DZI: The Voice would like introduce the CEO of HDE. Here’s our latest exclusive Q&A with Lawrence “YoungBiz” Dixon.
Yohance Kyles: What were some of the advantages and disadvantages to starting such an ambitious business as a teenager?
Lawrence Dixon: I can remember being shut down many times. One in particular by the well known gospel artist who I called and inquired about an event. Everything was going great until I guess my voice cracked (puberty) and she asked how old I was. I told her 13 and she told me firmly I need to grow up before I called her (with a few choice words inserted in the convo). I was shocked but I didn’t give up. There were others, who were so inspired by my drive and ambition, in addition to my age that they were so willing to help. There was a long period to where any event I promoted the publicity was crazy because they would sell it as this young protégé doing something positive and productive. My age was definitely an advantage to the popularity of the events I promoted.
I wasn’t promoting violence, anything vulgar. I promoted what my foundation taught…LOVE. I believe that love extends beyond the four walls of the church and is more than one dimension.
YK: You started off mostly focusing on gospel music. Why did you decide to branch out into other genres?
LD: Well, I’ve always felt that music was both emotional and meaningful. Every genre has its place in the world or in our lives. Gospel music was the foundation that catapulted me into other genres. I’m appreciative for such a strong foundation that I can always be grounded on. However, I’m not the type of person to box myself into anything. I enjoyed all types of music respectively. When I decided to promote my first “secular” event (as the churchy people would say- I prefer the term mainstream) I received so much slack and criticism from the gospel community that it somewhat drove me away from it for the longest time. In my defense, I wasn’t promoting violence, anything vulgar. I promoted what my foundation taught… LOVE. Granted who would listen to Donald Lawrence on their honeymoon night? I believe that love extends beyond the four walls of the church and is more than one dimension. When it’s all said and done, money is green and you need to work with what’s working. Unless you are working with the top 5 selling gospel artists, that market isn’t that lucrative. So that along with everything else played a part in my decision. To this day I still get people telling me that I’m compromising and sending out the wrong message to people. Since when is love and inspiration wrong?
YK: What’s your favorite part of being the head of an entertainment services business?
LD: Working behind the scenes making things happen. No one needs to know my name or anything like that, if the finished product is a success and enjoyable to my client and their patrons, my job was done right.
YK: What are some of the services your company provides?
LD: We started off promoting events and now we have grown to offering our clients management, tour coordination and public relation (to a certain extent). I have a network of professionals I work with on a consistent basis. The industry is not as big as some may think. We all help each other out. With that being said, someone helped me so it’s not a problem for me to pay it forward.
YK: You’ve worked with some big named acts like Kelly Price, Missy Elliott, Kirk Franklin, and Dr. Bobby Jones. What did you learn from working with such established artists?
LD: With Missy, that was my first taste dealing with a mainstream artist. I interviewed her for my first issue of HD Magazine. With Kelly, who is still a good friend of mine, she really allowed me to perfect my craft when touring with her over the years. I really enjoy gleaning from those who have been in this game long before I was. I learned what to do and what not to do, along with how to conduct business as well as myself in various arenas.
YK: As an artist manager what do you look for in a performer when trying to decide whether they’re a act you’re interested in representing?
LD: The “it” factor. If they have “it”. It’s like a magnet that pulls me to want to help out anyway I can. Drive and determination is also key. A lot of new artists or people who want to entertain whether it’s singing, rap, or dance sometimes have a hard time focusing on one task and executing that before moving on to the next assignment. I totally understand because my mind is all over the place as well – coming up with new ideas and plans. However, I’m still young, but over the years I found out that if you have a plan/task and you stick to it, finish it and perfect it before moving on to the next then you will have more success in whatever you do.
YK: How did you hook up with B. Slade?
LD: I call him Ant (short for Anthony) LOL. I’ve known him for a few years now. He was actually the cover story for the last issue of HD Magazine that was published. I got the opportunity from his publicist at the time to interview him and I jumped on it – mainly because I was such a huge fan. In the interview we instantly clicked and just had a real conversation, forgetting about the fact that this was an interview. That became the most popular and requested issue still to this day. The years went by and things changed but we still remained in contact. From there we built a business relationship and once again, we clicked and we were on the same page. I understood his vision as some didn’t. My willingness to help a friend and see him reach his highest potential landed me a spot on his team.
YK: You’re also working with rising online sensation Zephaniah. What are the plans for his career?
LD: Zephaniah is a great talent and has so much potential and music the world needs to see and hear. We are still in the development stages of our business relationship, but I’m sure the world will be seeing him sooner than later.
YK: Do you have any artistic talents or have an interest in being a performer yourself?
LD: I can hold a note or two LOL. I’m very musically inclined believe it or not. Not many people see or know that side of me, mainly because I enjoy behind the scenes. I’ve taken lessons and played the piano amongst other instruments from the age of three until my junior year in high school. I’ve written and ghost written a few songs and actually sold a few to some pretty big artists. Secretly, I think most managers and people who work behind the scenes have a desire to be on the stage but for me I’m totally cool with making their dream come true. Not to say that you won’t ever see me in the album credits of your favorite artist’s number one hit one of these days (hint hint).
YK: Outside your own artists, what musicians do you enjoy listening to?
LD: Anyone who knows me knows I am an absolute Chaka Khan, Prince and Patti LaBelle fanatic. I’m a sucker for soul music (music that you can feel). I enjoy The Clark Sisters, Lalah Hathaway, Mariah Carey, Marvin Winans, Rance Allen, The Yellowjackets, and others. From the “Old School” I love Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin. From the “New School” I enjoy the classic R&B groups like Dru Hill and Jodeci and of course Janet Jackson. From my school, I enjoy Frank Ocean.
We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start from scratch. Being so young, we can NOT lose the sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
YK: You’re a participant in the NOH8 campaign. Do you think marriage equality recognition is possible on the national level in the near future?
LD: I believe that two consenting adults and committed individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be allowed the same “privileges” that come with being married. Understand that being married is not a right, and the privileges that come from marriage are not a right, but they should be given to all who commit to be in a monogamous relationship. Unlike divorce, unlike adultery, gay marriage or unions hurt no one. I’m very disappointed in churches that preach God’s love, and then vote hate. There is nothing wrong with not tolerating intolerance and intolerant people, but that doesn’t make it not hypocritical. The problem is that because our nation’s made up of more than one religious group or one religious philosophy, applying a single group’s laws to the whole country is contrary to the whole freedom of religion thing.
The argument against gay marriage is entirely religious in nature. Simply put, if you’re anti-gay marriage, don’t marry someone of your own gender. Fifty years ago, it would have been equally unthinkable to ordain a woman as a priest or pastor in any mainstream religious tradition. Some of them have evolved; some continue to fight the tide. In the end, this is what determines the survival of a religion (or anything else for that matter): its ability to adapt, to evolve, and to respond to a changing environment. Anything that chooses to resist change to the death will eventually do just that. We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start from scratch. Being so young, we can NOT lose the sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
YK: What’s next for Lawrence Dixon and Higher Definition Entertainment?
LD: Right now, I’m planning my company’s 10 year anniversary event scheduled for this June. I’m inviting current and past clients to come and help us celebrate. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years to be bigger and better than ever. I want to eventually move into television somehow. I have a few ideas I’m talking with a few networks about so we will see where that goes. I’m just now starting to get back into promoting events; I’ve focused so many years on touring that I want to see if I still have my touch LOL. The 10 year anniversary event will be the first event I’ve promoted in about 5 years. I also want to eventually go out and empower youth. So the sky’s the limit.
For more info about Lawrence Dixon and Higher Definition Entertainment click it
To connect with Lawrence follow him at @youngBiz1
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