This week I got the chance to sit down with Milan Ackerman, VP of 36Brickhouse. Their client roster includes Waka Flocka Flame, Southside, Azizi Gibson, Our Neon Dreams, and Ben G. Milan has been a driving force in expanding his clients music into new verticals outside of entertainment. During the course of the interview we discuss promotion, forecasting trends, and how to follow your passion.
How did you first get involved in the entertainment industry? How did you go about getting to where you are as the VP of 36Brickhouse?
Good question man, I’m fortunate to be in a place I want to be and have learned a lot on my journey.
Music is something that inspired me from day one, and I knew that I needed to be surrounded by it since a young age.
I come from a very musical family, so i guess it’s been in my blood. I had to find my niche in the industry before I could set out on my journey to accomplish my goals. I started promoting and producing hip hop shows at a young age, started with one, and parlayed one into ten. I graduated from a promoter into a booking agent, which is where myself and business partner Brick Bronson, connected with Waka Flocka Flame. Through trial and tribulations and constantly grinding I built an extensive network within the music business, which in turn opened the door for me to continue to grow within it.
Who were some of your mentors and what was some of the best advice you got from them?
I’m very fortunate, one of my mentor’s is the closest person to me, my business partner Brick. He’s definitely someone that took me under his wing and gave me an outlet to be myself and pursue my passions. We’ve been doing all types of businesses for years, I’d classify us as serial entrepreneurs. Mentors in my life have come in different forms, some are family members and some are entrepreneurs I’ve looked up to.
I’m all ears and I’ve been extremely patient with my approach. I listen more then I speak. I’ve always taken a student’s approach in the game, rather then making the mistake of approaching business as a sense.
Brick really instilled in me that opportunity is limitless if you believe in yourself, and surround yourself with people who are just as passionate as you are, and share a vision. Entertainment was a niche that creeped up on us based off our relationships within it. We organically got into management from booking and consulting entertainers / influencers, at which point we founded 36BRICKHOUSE, a Booking / Management / Consulting firm to facilitate the demand we had in the market.
Brick taking the time to help me achieve my dreams is a big part of the reason why I look for opportunities to nurture young talent. I’m in a unique position to provide them with an opportunity to flourish in an industry that they’re truly passionate about.
It all became clear to me when I met my first intern, Lloyd Ellis. Who now has graduated into one of my day-to-day assistants, and did I mention he’s still only 17 and still in high school. When I first met him he was 15 years old. The kid maneuvered his way into the right circles, building an extensive network in a matter of months, something that people who’ve been in the business for 10 years strong have not accomplished. It first hit me when Waka had a show in Boston and he was back stage with me, and he brought his 24 year old cousin to hang out. His cousin could not even fathom how his 16 year old younger cousin not only pulled this off in his home town, but that he actually had a personal relationship with Waka Flocka and his management team. I never even thought of that, I always surrounded myself with older people that inspired me. It was seamless and he became part of our team very quickly. I’m sure his teachers, friends, and possibly family are not even sure what he does yet. However his niche is PR, and curating creative content. I’ve brought him under my wing, just like Brick did with me. I can confidently say that what he’s learnt and experienced over the past couple years, no school or textbook could ever accomplish.
This is the stuff the inspires me man. This is the real life How to Make it in America, when you physically put in the groundwork to get where you want to be. As soon as he graduates high school, he has earned himself a full time job with our company.
Waka Flocka Flame has moved from being a hip hop star to also being a force in electronic music. Can explain how you guys went about accomplishing this? How has that venture into EDM been for you?
Let me start off by saying, Waka is definitely one of a kind. Ever since inception he’s been a trendsetter. The transition into electronic music was very organic. We’d be overseas in the club and hear a track with just his ad-libs on it but no rapping, and everyone was going CRAZY! He had no idea but these international DJ’s had been remixing his trap records. Waka was inspired to break barriers and create a new lane in this space that was still untapped. His approach was almost as seamless as his start in rap / hip-hop. He entered the game with a sound that did not exist, with all producers that no one had ever heard of. You look back 4 years later, and everyone has evolved into the sound he created. All those producers that he introduced to the world and that helped create his sound, are now the top producers in the world. We’ve been touring now non-stop for the last 4 years, Waka did 300 shows last year. After spending numerous summers in Europe and taking in the culture, we all learnt very quickly that the electronic space was something we were going to dominate. That fall Waka went on tour with Steve Aoki and Borgore. The cross over between both worlds became very successful and refreshing.
36Brickhouse has been signing several new artists. What can we expect 36Brickhouse to be in 5 years?
You can expect us to have our own label / imprint. Incubating the next generation of big stars in entertainment. Also watch out for us in the tech world, we are coming out strong this year with some amazing new start-ups. We recently signed some very exciting clients. For example, Jeremy Greene, CEO of PingTank. He’s an artist, songwriter, and tech entrepreneur. When people think of the Brickhouse we don’t want them to narrow us into a box by thinking we only do music and entertainment. We are a foundation that incubates anything and everything creative.
What advice do you have for young people trying to get where you are in the management business?
Man this business is a game of chess. It is not for everyone. If you have a passion and you feel it in your gut, pursue it no matter what. I also learnt very quickly that a passion is not always a business. That also goes for an idea. Make sure your business is straight before getting to deep into your idea. When you take a step back, always take two steps forward. It’s how you handle yourself through adversity that will determine your outcome.
I failed many times before i ever succeeded, and I still do. Learn from your mistakes. Own up to yourself when your wrong, and stay positive no matter what you’re doing. Do not be afraid to fail! And have fun with it, life is too short for regrets.