In addition to working on upcoming albums by Sean "Diddy" Combs, Mary J. Blige and Toni Braxton, songwriter/producer Rodney Jerkins will appear as mentor/head judge on MTV's new reality series "Starmaker." Created by Combs and reality show guru Mark Burnett, the show is slated to run this summer. While a premiere airdate is still being determined, 10 episodes have been taped thus far.
Aspiring solo artists will live together as they compete for a record deal with Combs' Bad Boy label and the opportunity to have Jerkins produce one or two songs. "Starmaker" contestants will perform in front of an audience each week as they also strive to sharpen their performance skills, handle photo shoots and deal with paparazzi. Jerkins will lead a panel of three regular judges with a different guest judge joining each week.
"When I was first asked about doing this, I thought, 'Oh no, another talent show,'" says Jerkins. "But the show has since proven to me there's always more talent out there that needs to be discovered. They just need a platform.
As for his transition from hit-making producer to judge, Jerkins notes it's "about being real. I'm the most frank person you'll ever meet. Simon ["American Idol" judge Cowell] doesn't have anything on me," he adds with a laugh.
Turning back to music, Jerkins says Combs is "really trying to push the envelope" on his upcoming Sept. 22 release, "Last Train to Paris." Adds Jerkins, "This album is so different and refreshing. We're definitely having fun."
Having contributed eight original songs for the soundtrack of the Walt Disney film "Confessions of a Shopaholic," Jerkins is now writing a song for the upcoming Lee Daniels theatrical production, "Precious." Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, the film stars Mo'Nique along with Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz and will be distributed by Lionsgate. It's due in theaters later this year.
Jerkins last spoke to Billboard in 2008 about co-founding a new online venture called Music Mogul (Nov. 22, 2008). The site features social networking functions, online games and uploaded videos of users performing as they compete for a three-song demo deal with Jerkins' Darkchild Productions. The first winner will be announced in May.
In the meantime, Jerkins recently signed a deal to executive produce nine albums for Extreme Music, the worldwide production music library unit of Sony/ATV Music Publishing (billboard.biz, March 4). Jerkins says he plans to reach out to Teddy Riley, Dallas Austin and other producers to collaborate on the albums over the next 18 months. The first three are slated for second quarter 2009.
"We all have to tap into new ways of generating revenue streams," says Jerkins who joins Quincy Jones, Hans Zimmer and Snoop Dogg on the Extreme Music roster. "We need to get our music heard not just on the radio but through television and films."