Running a Record Label with Royce Monroe
Royce Monroe is an executive to know in the Atlanta music scene. From engineering and production know-how, to understanding the full (and sometimes rocky) terrain of the music industry, Royce can dispense wisdom, pose a thoughtful question, and flash a genuine smile in one breath.
Royce, General Manager of Generation Now (DJ Drama, Lil Uzi Vert, Jack Harlow) video chatted with Xposure Music’s Sydney Hubbard on topics from the power of collaborations, the art of recording great tracks, and running one of the coolest labels in the music business.
Royce’s foray into the music industry started out in the radio world. With a mother and brother both employed by a radio station, Royce found himself inside station walls at an early age. What started as a gig born out of proximity and familiarity, soon became an intense passion. After graduating high school, Royce pursued mass communications in traditional college, but soon realized that he was just racking up loans without much progress. It was then that a friend introduced him to Full Sail, and Royce made the bold decision to enroll in their recording arts program. Armed with a degree and $5,000 in his pocket, Royce moved to Atlanta ready to make his mark in the music industry. He worked at Guitar Center while interning at V103, a prominent radio station in Atlanta. Royce's hard work paid off as he secured a job at the station, but unfortunately, the person he worked for was let go, and his job fell through.
Royce ultimately landed his first career role at ASCAP, where he gained invaluable insights into the intricacies of royalties, paperwork, and the business side of music. After several years at ASCAP, Royce decided to return to engineering, but this time with a major label. He landed a commission-based salary job with Atlantic Records, where he worked with emerging artists and industry veterans alike. Royce's unique combination of technical expertise and business acumen allowed him to work with renowned artists and producers, further establishing his reputation as a trusted professional in the industry.
Things were going smoothly as a part-time engineer and ASCAP employee when suddenly, a little drama entered the mix. After a meeting with DJ Drama and his team at Atlantic, DJ Drama’s general manager at the time gave Royce a call, saying DJ Drama was looking for a talented studio manager with an engineering background. It soon became clear that DJ Drama wanted Royce, who created a 90-day plan for a clean, stress-free exit from his role at ASCAP, and began his ascent to General Manager at Generation Now.
As the General Manager of Generation Now, Royce continues to make a significant impact on the music industry. His multifaceted background and experience in various aspects of the business have given him a comprehensive understanding of the industry and the ability to make informed decisions.
It’s worth noting that DJ Drama recently released his highly anticipated, star-studded album, I’m Really Like That, on March 31, 2023. It has been met with positive critical acclaim and has an insane roster of features. Check it out:
Most importantly, perhaps, is the way Royce has learned how to make the right moves in the music industry.
When asked what artists (and aspiring music industry professionals alike) need to learn about managing their career he doesn’t hesitate: “People politics is the biggest thing. For example, how to move in a room. In this business, it's like you have to get control of your influential abilities. From a negative standpoint, you can call that manipulation, but it's not really. In any situation, you need to assess the room to see the energy and kind of understand what roles are organically being played there.”
People politics is just the tip of the iceberg though, and Royce emphasizes that he has to know he can count on the people around him, too. “I tell my interns, ‘By you being an intern, I am deciding to believe in you and I don’t know why yet.’”
“The biggest thing is just me being able to trust you. If I can trust you and you trust me to lead you, I'll take you wherever you want to go.”
On foundations of interpersonal skills and relationships built on trust, Royce has a few more important takes on maneuvering as an artist these days. First, he reminds talent that a record label is not the “end all, be all,” and may not be right for everyone. An artist can easily join a label only to find that their record isn’t working, they aren’t receiving the attention and promotion they thought they would, and they find themselves in a form of debt known as an advance.
“You needed the record label before because the music industry wasn't direct to consumer. You couldn't get your album in a store on your own. As soon as this business became direct to consumer and technology shifted, there's no reason why you should be chasing an organization.”
He’s also adamant that a successful artist is one who understands the entire ecosystem of the music business: from live performances, to royalty payouts, distribution, and publishing. He uses the construction of a new building to illustrate his point, explaining that you wouldn’t want your electrician to know nothing about plumbing as he installs lighting above and around the kitchen sink.
Royce is a trusted professional in the industry, and when the topic of collaborations arose, we wanted to know who he would love to see appear on a track together. We could have never guessed he would say Drake and Harry Styles, but it all made sense when he added, “You know why? Because those two don’t need each other to grow. Collaborations shouldn’t be necessary for either artist. That’s what makes it a great collaboration.”
Royce's dogged determination to excel leads him to constantly research and stay updated with the latest industry trends, always striving to understand the nuances of the music business. When he talks about Generation Now, he is clearly a man on a mission to build a powerful legacy from what is already an impressive label imprint.
It’s not all numbers, charts, and competition floating around in Royce’s head, though. At his core, Royce wants to help people.
“Being able to look myself in the mirror and know that I'm making a difference every day? That's big. Even with Xposure, it’s more about the people than anything. At the end of the day, it's really about having a chance to be a voice for a person that hasn't gotten all the way into the industry yet.”