Neil Dominique is ready to conquer the next chapter of his life. Once the assistant of Puff Daddy, Dominique later evolved into an all-star manager, grooming the skillset of R&B star Bryson Tiller and songwriting savant Pardison Fontaine.
Now, he looks to become a music titan with his burgeoning imprint #JUSTAREGULARLABEL. After signing a partnership deal with Interscope Records, Dominique is ready to etch a lane for himself among neighboring JV labels TDE, Dreamville, LVRN, and more.
"Neil has been able to identify and develop some incredibly exciting artists, and we're looking forward to working closely with him and his team to launch them into the world," said Nicole Wyskoarko, EVP/Co-Head of A&R at Interscope Geffen A&M.
Interscope's svp of A&R and creative director, Randall "Sickamore" Medford, seconds Wyskoarko's thoughts and lauds Dominique for his commitment to improving daily: "It's been amazing to watch Neil's rapid ascension from Chairman's assistant to entrepreneur and #JUSTAREGULARLABEL CEO. There's absolutely nothing regular about his passion and ears. He's starting off hot with Ryan Trey and Nia Sultana, But it's only the beginning of a long relationship."
Dominique is looking to add more talent after St. Louis polymath Ryan Trey dazzled with his EP, A 64 East Saga, and Brooklyn singer Nia Sultana captivated listeners with her dulcet vocals, but outside the hip-hop and R&B spheres. "Don't be surprised if you see me come with the next major pop star or the next country star," he confidently proclaims. "I'm a lover of music. Anything that hits my soul is something that I want to be a part of."
Billboard caught up with Dominique to speak on his decision to partner up with Interscope, advice he's received about running a label and what he's looking for in an artist.
Why was Interscope was the best landing spot for your label?
My background really comes from management. Never in a million years did I ever think that I'd be owning a label. I really have to give a shout-out to Interscope because they're the first people to really put that into my vision like, "Yo. We see what you're doing on the management side. You're not really losing. Everything you sign on the management [side] is a win. How about you learn about ownership? Let's do this thing with the label."
To be honest with you, I was still a little bit hesitant -- because I wanted to focus on building a management company. But when I started taking meetings, I was like, "Wow." Me as a manager -- you know when one person wants you, you gotta shop around and go to everybody else. So I was talking to the Atlantics of the world, the Def Jams, and everybody else who started offering me deals. I started really studying the labels. I'm a student of the game, anyway. So it was different.
I'm so used to looking at deals for my artists, but now I'm in that state. For the first time, I kind of felt what they felt and it was like you can't really rush into the decision because it's so long-term. So after dissecting each label, and deciding who would be the best for me, I just looked at Interscope as a label that was actually built on doing partnerships.
When you look at a lot of the success that they have -- whether it's a Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, or a Summer Walker, they all come from the joint ventures that Interscope chooses to do. I saw that Interscope built a whole company based off letting their JVs continue to do what they do, and they'll be that support system to really push it out there to the world. That's why I felt like Interscope was the best for me.
You chose a pretty interesting name for the label with #JUSTAREGULARLABEL. Why go that route?
[Laughs] So the management company is called #JUSTAREGULARDAY. I like to keep things cohesive, I looked at #JUSTAREGULARDAY being an umbrella with everything that falls under it. We'll still carry our mission statement, we'll still carry our swag. So we have #JUSTAREGULARDAY, the management company and that's day-to-day work. So #JUSTAREGULARDAY for us, we can do this thing in our sleep. We also have #JUSTAREGULARPUBLISHING, #JUSTAREGULARLABEL, #JUSTAREGULARTECH and #JUSTAREGULARINVESTMENTS. There's a lot of things on the horizon.
With you joining Interscope, what is it going to take to elevate your label's artists like a Ryan Trey and Nia Sultana to that J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Summer Walker stature?
Doing exactly what we're doing now, what we have been doing, and just taking it up a level. When I signed to Interscope, it wasn't really scary. A lot of people were like, "You wanna go there? You got a rapper and a R&B singer. They have Kendrick and Summer there. It's going to be hard to break through." But no, not really. You just have to be confident in music.
I think Interscope helped a lot of those artists get to where they needed to get to, but a lot of them already had planted the seeds that they needed to even get Interscope's attention. I felt like we've done that even prior to Ryan signing the deal independently. We were doing 14 million streams on his record. He had over 600,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. So those seeds were already getting planted due to my experience, my knowledge and my relationships in the industry. So when Interscope came in, it was more like somebody [came to] pump the steroids into it. I love the label, I love all the artists we have at the label, and I just want to put points up on the board the same way all these other JVs are.
Have you been able to tap into any one of those leaders of the JVs at either a Dreamville, Top Dawg or LVRN for advice on how to run your label?
Yeah, you know me. One of the things that I really pride myself on in the industry is starting off as an assistant for Puff [Daddy] and being able to just be in certain rooms and build relationships. Before I made the deal, I made a phone call over to everybody over there to just pick their brains. Surprisingly, I spoke to IB [Ibraham Hamad] from Dreamville, I spoke to Tunde [Balogun, from LVRN] and I believe I even spoke to Top [Anthony Tiffith at TDE] briefly. They honestly just had nothing but good things to say about the label -- which made it more comfortable for me to really seal the deal, and bring on my two artists Nia Sultana and Ryan Trey.
We know about your success on the management side with Bryson Tiller and Pardison Fontaine, but what are you hoping to incorporate from those experiences and bring over to the label?
I think I'm one step ahead of the game when it comes to running the label because I ran my management company like a label. That's why it's kind of easy to make that transition.
When you're signed to JUSTAREGULARDAY, you just don't get push-paper managers that just pick up the phone, answer emails and do your schedule; we're really hands-on. Regardless if there's a shoot in Tenneseee or Vegas, we're there with the artists. Whether it's a hot city or bad city, we're there. We're in the studio from A-Z with the artists. We're not only just managers, we're also A&Rs. We're in there picking beats. We're finding records and really hands-on into this thing. We're doing everything from clearing records to finding features. So pretty much everything a label does from the digital to the DSP stuff.
I'm really just going to bring all my practices from the management tip over to the label side and being able to be in the building to have the conversations with the Nicoles, and the Sickamores of the world, I'll be able to learn more and really just be able to evolve from what I already have and what I already know.
What kind of artists are you looking for? Do they have to possess a certain skill set?
First thing I look for is tone because I understand tone is the most important thing to a record. If you got the right tone that can just cut through, we can work on everything else. Then, I try to see if you really understand melody. Tone and melody are the first starts to a record.
As far as genre-based, I think everybody thinks because of my success in the R&B space with Bryson and because of my success with Pardison Fontaine in the urban space, that everyone thinks I'm just a hip-hop guy, the urban guy, but I'm looking for everything. I'm looking for melody. I'm looking for talent. Right now, I'm currently looking at a couple of Latin acts, a couple of Afrobeats acts and I'm also looking at some people in London right now overseas. I'm just a music guy and I'll never put myself in a box.