Colleen O’Brien ’22 is growing her talent management agency VisionVerseSoundz

headshot of a student in a black sweatshirt

Colleen O’Brien ’22, a Newhouse student in the Bandier program, is the CEO of VisionVerse Soundz (VVS), a venture that is putting a new emphasis on ownership within the music industry. VVS is an artist management company focused on helping hip-hop and r&b artists become profitable by helping the artists develop and promote their art and their brand.

The target market is fans of both hip hop and r&b within the age range of high schoolers to 35-year-olds. To get both artists and these customers, Colleen sees social media, playlisting, blogs, and researching different opportunities such as TikTok as her path to market. When she started managing the artists, her artists told her she should have something she can call her own, to show all the work that she is putting in behind the scenes. This sparked the idea to create VisionVerseSoundz.

Her plan for 2022 is to gain traction for each of her artists and start aggressively networking within the industry. Finding more people to work with to add to her team is essential for growth and getting more business.

Colleen values are generosity and transparency which she employs in conducting business with her artists. Colleen sees herself as a visionary because she sees potential in people and wants to set them up for growth. She describes her mental process as, “If I can see the ingredients, I can bake the cake,” which can be applied in a management sense too.

Growing up, her parents restricted her music taste such as rap.  From the outside perspective, rap can come off as demeaning to women and promoting violence which is what her parents associated with the genre. However, Colleen was captivated by it from her first listen because of the cleverness in lyrics, wordplay, and overall fun fast-paced vibe. As Colleen grew older and more independent, she gravitated towards rap more because of the diversity of the genre, overall lyricism, and rich history.

When launching her venture, she considered the problem of artists getting in a bad contract because labels and other entities become greedy instead of doing what is right. Many artists at the start of their career are not financially or legally literate so labels, managers, and other business executives sometimes can take advantage in a legal sense.

Colleen feels that technology is the trifecta of trends, assets, and challenges. Technology is constantly evolving which requires us to constantly keep up and understand new developments. Thus, it can bring forward new opportunities. Colleen and her team would not be able to make the sounds if the tech were not currently out.

When considering distribution, none of her artists would have music out on the platforms that promote growth if it weren’t for today’s modern technology. Consider Lil Uzi Vert who began as a sound cloud artist and now fills concerts and stadiums to see him perform for thirty minutes. The Internet is a great equalizer.

Colleen became an entrepreneur by solving issues to problems and then taking that mindset towards issues going forward. She became one through practice. Throughout her life, Colleen has found freedom in the autonomy of creating things on her terms.

Colleen’s Pillars of Wisdom are:

1. Consistency is important

2. Communication is important

3. Customer Discovery is vital before you reach out to anyone

When looking at other managers and the way they do business, Colleen believes understanding the advantage of each artist under management can allow for better deals. She gained feedback from artists, engineers, and producers about their problems and struggles along the way.

Colleen manages four rap and r&b artists each with their own unique sound and distinct lane. The first artist signed under VVS was Lav.Lew, a melodic rapper that wears his heart on his sleeve and reps his hometown proud, he is a storyteller and embraces the Florida sound, with a style like Lil Durk, Rod Wave, or Roddy Ricch.

The next artist VVS signed is Shan.X, an r&b singer from NY that has created her own unique sound by blending elements of hip hop with r&b, her sound resembles both Summer Walker and Rico Nasty styles.

Cay Slatt was the third artist to join the team, with a strong New York sound Cay attacks drill rap with his own approach focusing on versatility and work ethic, every song goes hard, his style resembles Pop Smokes and Kay Flocks.

The last artist to be signed is Noso1o, reigning from Baltimore, Noso1o is extremely versatile in styles, more recently embracing the Emo rap subgenre but he switches up to pick up the intensity on a few tracks, his style resembles Juice Wrld, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lil Baby, and Lil TJay.

Collaborative communities are incubators, and progress is made through growth and experimenting with innovative ideas and new ways of doing things that require a supportive environment. For her to manage her label, Colleen keeps her eyes open, and she listens to people telling her what they want to do and tries to think of a way for them to do that thing while working with others. She emphasized trying to tackle problems with unique solutions. Colleen leaves readers with one quote: “Live life each day so that you won’t regret it tomorrow.”

Story by Brandon Henry, Blackstone LaunchPad; photo supplied