Cahleb Branch, head of Money Power Respect, works at his desk.
How much does it cost to book GZA from Wu-Tang Clan? Or Lil Jon? Or Nicki Minaj?
Cahleb Branch knows, because his company, Valley-based Money Power Respect Entertainment, books international shows for them, among a slew of other well-known hip-hop artists. But beyond that, the five year-old company's established an innovative, all-encompassing business model for local hip-hop acts. Branch puts Phoenix acts in opening slots for national acts; handles merchandise production, promotions, video, and graphic design; installed a state-of-the-art recording studio at the MPR offices in Old Town Scottsdale; and works hand-in-hand with the ASU Herberger School of Music to procure interns and get feedback on local artist releases.
"It's a well-oiled machine that we're building," Branch says.
There are four local hip-hop acts on the MPR roster: Cut Throat Logic, The New F-O's, Mathmadix, and The Mob Fam. Over the past few years, Branch has booked his bands to open for artists like Young Buck, Too $hort, and KRS-One (the latter two have also recorded on tracks with Cut Throat Logic). There's a whole process in place when it comes to new albums. When one of the MPR artists records a new record, Branch brings it to Dr. Richard Mook at ASU's Herberger School of Music, who then lets his students review the albums for extra credit. Branch says the student feedback also helps determine the final song list on the albums.
Once an album's released or a show's booked, MPR sends out a street team to plaster areas with fliers and posters. But they also reinforce promotions online and through phone apps. "It's looked upon as guerrilla marketing," Branch says. "If you're on the freeway and see a poster, or you see a flier at a coffee shop, then you go online and find things on Facebook, it reinforces."
MPR uses technology like the Moby Chip, which allows people to take a photo of a digital stamp and link to content online through their phones. "We're embracing the technology completely," Branch says. "We basically catch the consumer where they shop or eat or hang out."
Engineer J-Beam works on a drum beat in one of the MPR studios.
In January, the company moved into some swank offices in Scottsdale, which include a recording studio (complete with reel-to-reel and digital equipment, twin turntables, and a separate vocal booth), and a full apartment for visiting music artists to stay in. The lobby includes leather couches and a giant, flat-screen plasma TV. When we visited the offices, the TV showed a promotional video for MPR that included props from Rick Ross and Warren G.
All they need now is a new website, which Branch says is in the works and will launch at www.mprent.com soon. The site will include a point of contact for booking acts, as well as MPR's other services, which Branch says are open to the public (but the posh offices are not; appointments are required). "Being on the waterfront, in walking distance from shopping and nightlife, is wonderful," Branch says of the office location. "If you sit in the office and look through the blinds, it's easy to close deals on the view alone."
Niki has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and PHOENIX magazine, and is now a full-time freelancer.