Arguably the most difficult task of any job is selling an idea. An idea can’t be held, it can’t be quantified in the moment – it’s a gamble. In the world of music, you’re selling someone a 7-2 offset in a world of million-dollar-backed royal flushes. So when Doneshia Rhodes (talent manager of Jeffonia “Ms. Ebony J” Wynn of Cincinnati’s 101.1 The Wiz) asked the class to do just that? It wasn’t pretty. Without rehearsal, the students had to stand in front of the class and deliver their brand and identity in 30 to 45 seconds. What might be the most important lesson thus far had students fidgeting, clamming up and their confidence slouched.

Each student fell short of the hypothetical million dollar investment. Onyx Johnson froze on the spot, much to Lee’s dismay. Aprina Johnson was a little all over the place. Hiram’s “Bad Girl” pitch had some structure but then drifted and droned. The rest of the students followed suit, giving their own breathy pitches punctuated by an abrasive amount of “likes and “umms”. To be fair, Onyx went up one last time and put together a more cohesive presentation than his first at bat.

Rhodes was easy with her language, but heavily suggested that there was a lot of room to improve. She wants them to develop their pitch almost like a performance. The students need to be able to pull this out of their pocket at any time. Lee, on the other hand, was more direct.

“If a guy walks in who racks in a hundred-million dollars, would you tell him that?” asked Lee in an almost rhetorical fashion.

“I definitely wouldn’t do it the way I did it, but what I had in mind? I would do it.” Onyx replied. The other students mumbled similar doses of honest humility. Most said they’d ‘revise’ it.

“I’m gonna be honest – I wouldn’t give you no money. I wouldn’t.” Lee said. He addressed their lack of eye contact and confidence. He brought up that these representatives do not care about them, that’s what the pitch is for in the first place.

Cincinnati Music Accelerator
Photo by Simion Collins of Riversky Productions

In previous interviews, Lee has always maintained that Cincinnati musicians aren’t savvy enough with the business half of their career. It’s pretty much what he set out to fix with this program. He claims it will then trickle into other benefits like monetizing a local music scene. He asserts that musicians have to know how to sell their idea, protect their brand and content, and market it, not just promote it.

“Promotion is short term, marketing is long term.” Lee would always fall back onto that statement

For the rest of the class, Rhodes educated the students in which ways they need to carry themselves over a variety of networks. Social media versus pitching to an A&R or label representative. Nitty gritty details were discussed such as the quality of photos they post to Instagram – yes, if you have a pixelated image, it could impact your credibility. They had a back and forth about how often you should post to social media and what kind of content to each platform. Twitter is in-the-moment or short musings that reflect the artist, while Instagram is a perfect place to tease an upcoming show or clips of a new single. Students walked home with a lot to take in, probably all planning how they’re going to restructure their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud accounts.

Cincinnati Music Accelerator
Photo by Simion Collins of Riversky Productions

What question begs to be answered is if students can truly walk away with enough knowledge and content to market themselves after six weeks of classes. Two hours each Wednesday with in-between events such as photo shoots, studio time and more. With next week being the fourth class and the performance being on the sixth, it’s going to be an interesting process to see play out. One thing that is for sure is that Lee is truly pulling at every string he can to make it happen.