Welcome to A2IM’s Featured Executive column, where we highlight executives making moves and supporting the growth of the independent community. To submit yourself or a friend for a potential feature, fill out this form.
From recording studio owner, International DJ, and award‑winning music producer; to a music publishing and royalty collection guru, Theo Ellis has over 20 years of combined music industry experience. He has helped collect royalties, oversee projects, and broker deals with some of the most talented songwriters in the industry.
An advocate for artists rights he founded ProSound Media in 2014 with a mission statement of “Empowering Musicians Everywhere”. With an international roster of recording artists and producers, ProSound Media harvests the talents of legacy and emerging artists in Hip Hop and Pop. ProSound Media is Black-owned and operated, and is an innovation hub for all things music and social innovation.
Hey Theo! Can you tell us about how you got your start in music?
Music has always been my first love. Most people on the creative side know me as a Dj/Producer, but I’ve done it all over the years.
After High School I attended Specs Howard School of Broadcasting, after which I worked in radio for a couple years as a board operator. Eventually I found myself hanging out in studios. I was lucky enough to get hired by one of those studios.
My job was to build their sample library for post. Eventually I worked my way to assistant engineer and also started learning music production. Around that same time I read the 1st edition of Donald Passman’s “All you need to know….”, I was hooked on the business of music after that. I learned about music publishing and cleared my first samples in 1999. It was a trial by fire.
Eventually friends would ask if I would help with their publishing. Reluctantly I did and slowly more people began seeking my services. I went from helping artists get registered with PRO’s to clearing samples for them, helping them track down unclaimed royalties, and providing sync opportunities. Eventually, I started offering more and more services for creatives and now are able to provide almost any service an artist or label needs.
Are there any projects you’re working on or company updates that you’re most excited about?
Through the University of Michigan‘s Urban Institute for Racial, Economic, and Environmental Justice (UIREEJ) I recently partnered with the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village (SBEV) to develop a curriculum to teach the youth in Flint, MI about the business of music.
Every kid wants to be the next Jay-Z or Beyonce, but how many want to be the next Kevin Liles or Sylvia Rhone? SBEV already has an amazing program which covers the creative side of the business, including a full recording studio. This program would aim to compliment the already outstanding work SBEV does on a daily basis.
Is there a success story or career milestone that you are most proud of?
The quickest sample I ever got cleared involved a Danish singer, a Belgium record label, and a major publishing company in the U.K. I was able to get the sample cleared (start to finish) in a little over 2 weeks. Even better was the fact I negotiated clearance fees of ZERO and a very fair split on publishing and the master side.
I wish I could say I was the next Deborah Mannis-Gardner but the reality is sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!
Outside of your work in music, do you have any other hobbies/ particular areas of expertise/interest etc.?
I have a never ending quest for knowledge and during the pandemic I took advantage of not being able to travel by going back to school. I’m currently enrolled at the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management working on my MBA with concentrations in Marketing/International Business. Over the summer I was fortunate enough to lead a research project funded by the Economic Development Administration which studied the affects of Covid 19 on the live entertainment sector. That was an experience I will never forget!
I also still enjoy making music, and Djing when I get the chance. You can usually catch me Djing at Sun7 during Midem!
Anything else to add?
Never forget where you came from and always treat others how you want to be treated. The toes you step on today may be the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.