300 co-founder & CEO Kevin Liles has been speaking about his incredible life and times in music in a new interview.
The executive talked about his storied career – which saw him start off as an artist before working at Def Jam and Warner Music and starting independent music company 300 Entertainment alongside Lyor Cohen – with Music Week editor Mark Sutherland in an online panel for MIDEM Digital on the importance of independence.
“I’ve always thought like an independent,” he said. “I always thought it was my water that people were drinking and my pens and paper that people were writing with. I’ve had an independent mindset my whole life.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t have partners or that you’re doing it by yourself. It means your work ethic is not that of an employee, it’s of an owner.”
300 has become a modern day powerhouse, helping the likes of Megan Thee Stallion and Gunna to stardom, and Liles said he and Cohen had created a truly artist-first company.
“I thought I was working for the money, the cars and the accolades,” Liles quipped. “And then, around 40-something, I realised that what I was really searching for was freedom. Freedom to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and who I want to do it with. And I wanted to give that freedom to the creative artists, to have a place where you’re free to be a risk-taker.”
I thought I was working for the money, the cars and the accolades, but what I was really searching for was freedom
Kevin Liles, 300 Entertainment
Liles has formed a decades-long partnership with Cohen, since they worked together at Def Jam, where Cohen (now global head of music at YouTube) was label president and Liles an intern.
“I’d get to the office early,” Liles reminisced. “And then the next day, he would come in a little bit earlier, so the next day, I would come in even earlier! In the end, we had to settle. I said, ‘I want to be where you are – and if you come into the office before everybody else, why am I better?’ We worked it out, we’ve been friends for 30 years and we’ve built something very special together.”
The full video keynote is available below.
In it, Liles also discusses everything from the Black Lives Matter movement to his artist career – which famously saw his group Numarx’s song Girl You Know It’s True covered by Milli Vanilli (and subsequently turned into a massive global hit) without his knowledge. That moment was to inspire Liles’ career as an executive.
“Prior to that, I wanted to be in the music business,” he said. “But after that moment, I wanted to be in the business of music. I recommitted myself to learning everything and to not let what happened to me happen to someone else. It changed the direction of my life.”
Other topics covered include the coronavirus pandemic and the time Liles was kicked out of the Def Jam office for organising a wild party at a museum – without taking out insurance.
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