Larry Jackson was mentored in the record industry by Clive Davis and Jimmy Iovine, two of the industry’s most powerful figures. The former Apple Inc. executive, now 42 years old, is launching his own music label called Gamma.
According to those who are familiar with Jackson’s financial situation, he has access to approximately $1 billion in the capital. His primary financial backer is Eldridge, a company run by Todd Boehly. Eldridge has stakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bruce Springsteen’s recording catalog, and the production company A24. Jackson’s former employer Apple, where he spent the previous eight years, and A24 are both investors.
Jackson is reportedly signing artists, despite his reluctance to refer to Gamma as a record label. He has formed a distribution partnership with Snoop Dogg to distribute the back catalog of the groundbreaking hip-hop label Death Row Records, and he has also signed deals to release new music from Snoop Dogg, Usher, and Rick Ross.
Given his resources and ability, Jackson has no choice but to join the ranks of media titans like Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, and Sean Combs.
Jackson is trying to sell his business as an alternative to the major record labels that many musicians feel have exploited them. When artists sign long-term licenses with Gamma, they gain more creative freedom than they would with traditional ownership models.
Vydia, a distributor that puts out millions of songs on new streaming services, has been purchased by Gamma. With this strategy, Jackson can promote his client’s music independently of a major record label.
Additionally, Gamma is investigating opportunities outside of the music industry. In collaboration with the Shade Room, a media company with 28 million Instagram followers, the company is creating a series of podcasts. It is also working on a few film projects with A24.
“It made sense for two Black men to come together to change the face of the industry,” Snoop Dogg said in a phone interview from Australia. They respect and fear me so much that no regular company would want to give me ideas, so I didn’t want to partner with them.
When in Los Angeles, Jackson works out of the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a popular hangout for Hollywood A-listers. Everyone in the establishment seems to know him, including the maître d’ and wait for staff.
He started frequenting the eatery when he was just 19 and working as an executive for Davis, the music impresario responsible for breaking Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys. Davis, in his role as music director at KMEL in San Francisco, was the one who first heard of Jackson. Jackson was expelled from school for truancy because he was always at the station.
Jackson fostered the careers of American Idol contestants Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Ruben Studdard while working for Davis, in addition to the British singer Leona Lewis.
The “science of what makes a hit,” as Jackson put it, was something Davis had taught him. Additionally, what makes the superstar is. He’s great at promoting and maintaining a positive public persona. Jackson was assisted in his fundraising efforts for Gamma by Fred Davis, one of the music industry’s most prominent financial advisors.
Jackson’s dismissal from Sony Group as a result of his conflict with management ultimately proved to be for the best. With the help of Eminem, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent, he was able to land a job at Interscope and work under Iovine, who was instrumental in bringing hip-hop to the mainstream.
Iovine was already planning his next move when Jackson showed up at Interscope. He had seen the record labels lose ground due to the internet and now saw an opening in the streaming market. Iovine and Dr. Dre launched a headphone-manufacturing and music-streaming company. Iovine and Jackson both joined Apple after its $3 billion 2014 purchase of Beats and Iovine’s subsequent employment there.
“Larry has a very unique set of talents he’s obtained over the years,” Iovine said. He is well-versed in both art and technology and is aware of the intersection between the two.
Jackson was responsible for convincing some of the world’s most popular musicians, such as Drake, to make their new music available exclusively on Apple Music before any other streaming service. He then went one step further and secured an exclusive deal for Frank Ocean’s upcoming album, bypassing the record label in the process. Due to these agreements, Apple has become the go-to music streaming platform for many hip-hop fans and many Black consumers in the United States.
Jackson is currently utilizing his extensive network in the R&B and hip-hop industries for Gamma. Snoop Dogg often turned to Jackson for help when he ran into trouble.
Last year, the rapper bought Death Row Records in an effort to resurrect the label that had released his first album, Doggystyle. Since Snoop Dogg believed the company was poorly managed and that he wasn’t being compensated fairly for his efforts, he decided to purchase the label. His songwriting contributions to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic were going unpaid.
He first removed the songs from all of the major music streaming platforms. However, he was confused about what to do next. We received suggestions from other musicians, fans, and streaming services. He was going to re-post everything, but then Jackson approached him about distributing Death Row’s back catalog through his new company.
In order to make the music’s return to streaming feel fresh, Jackson proposed a strategy. One of the first things they did was release some of the album’s skits as individual sounds on TikTok, the most popular platform for finding new music online. Millions of fans have made videos using those songs. There has been a lot of anticipation for their return to streaming for the past few weeks, and now it’s almost here.
Snoop Dogg credited Larry and Gamma, saying that they conceptualized the idea. That’s why it’s important to work with people who aren’t just “yes men” and can contribute to the team.
When it comes to reimagining the dynamic between musicians and record labels, Gamma isn’t the first company to do so. Despite the best efforts of many upstarts, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group continue to dominate the record industry.
But Jackson comes into the game with a significant head start, including backing from one of the world’s largest companies, the support of several major artists, and sufficient capital to compete with the major labels in signing artists. Jackson can now put it all together. He must now carry out the plan.