Blxst, Victor Burnett and Karl Fowlkes Talk Indie Entertainment Company EVGLE at SXSW 2023: ‘We Wanted To Build a Transformer’
On Wednesday, March 15, fast-rising rapper blxst and his business partners, manager Victor Burnett and attorney Karl Fowlkes, opened up to Billboard’s Heran Mamo during one of SXSW’s 2023 featured sessions: How Music, Entrepreneurship, & Independence Intersect.
While the three discussed everything from how they first connected to what’s coming up next (“I’m cooking up something big right now,” teased blxst), the conversation primarily focused on the artist’s multi-faceted entertainment company Evgle.
Launched as an independent label in 2018, with Burnett and Fowlkes joining as co-founders, Evgle has since expanded to be all-encompassing – a reflection of blxst himself, who compares his many skills including production, graphic design and more to the feeling of constantly playing a video game – and always leveling up.
Most recently, blxst – who was named Billboard’s 2022 R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Year – released a sequel EP, Just For Clarity 2, through Evgle’s partnership deal with Red Bull Records. Here are the insights he and his tight-knit team shared about how to be a successful entrepreneur and maintain your independence along the way.
1. Build With People Who Share Your Goals.
As Mamo pointed out during the conversation, Fowlkes is the rare forefront lawyer – and, much like blxst and Burnett, never wanted to confine himself to just one role. As he put it, “Lawyers have a vantage point in so many aspects of the business, we all view ourselves as dynamic people… we don’t just do one thing. We’re the type of people who want to run a business, be a lawyer, be a professor… so having those aspirations, it was easy to connect with [blxst and Victor] because of common themes of generational wealth and building something really special.”
And while blxst added, “I always had a vision of making this bigger than me, and having other artists eat as well,” perhaps Burnett best summarized why this trio works so well. “One thing that made us like each other was: we want to own everything.”
2. Hire Believers.
When asked how they built the 10+ person team at Evgle, the three said they sought people who have specific traits: self-sufficient, already working in their craft, and able to walk into an opportunity they may not think they are capable of handling at first. “You have to hand things off and trust, that’s the base of it,” said Burnett.
Added Fowlkes, “People don’t view music companies as start ups, but this is a start-up. So we needed people who believed. Creating a culture where people believe is super important when you’re building any company at the ground stages.”
3. Learn Your LOMO.
Blxst said the debate between remaining independent and signing to a major is a case-by-case scenario, but as it pertains to him, “I wanted to build my own leverage first, I understood the importance of bringing something to the table.”
Fowlkes, speaking like a true attorney, then revealed the acronym LOMO: length obligation money and ownership. “Coming into any partnership you should know those things,” he said, noting that Issa Rae talks about the concept often. “If you want to come in at the highest point of ownership, there’s a lot you have to [do first].”
4. Make Noise.
Burnett, who has a masters in PR and media development, shared his advice for young independent artists looking to break through on their own terms. He recalled something his professor told him that stuck: “Keep your channel noisy. Stay in front of your consumer with merch, pop-up shops, activations. Make sure the consumer is always interacting with your brand.”
5. Start Now.
“Don’t wait 20 years into your career to worry about what’s next,” cautioned Fowlkes. “Jay-Z, Nas, so many have created these channels for themselves, but later in their career. The cultural currency that [blxst is] developing… If you can strike when you’re hot, when you’re at your peak, if we can capitalize at that moment, it’s [game] over.”
6. Manifest Your Goals.
Early in the session, blxst discussed where the idea for the company name came from. “I always had confidence issues growing up,” he confessed. “The eagle is one of the highest-flying birds, but doesn’t fly in flocks … That represented confidence.”