In this Owner’s Illustrated Interview that took place sometime in 2005-2006 but was never published Nick talks about how he transitioned to call his own shots when it came to film and music. Even though it’s an older interview it’s still an insightful read inside the workings of the entertainment industry as well as Nick’s mindset as a mogul.
To the casual fan, Nick Cannon is Mariah Carey’s husband. To those of us who follow enterprise, he is a mogul who has been scripting and creating his own series since he was sixteen. Nick Cannon is 30 now and his long list of success include movies, radio shows, recording albums, clothing lines and now his most influential role as Chairman of the most popular network among teens, Teen Nick. Recently renewing his contract, Nick not only orchestrates from his corner office, he gets in front of the camera for award shows and his own late night shows, The Nightlife.
This is while he hosts America’s Got Talent for NBC and his own morning radio show for CBS Radio. And if this list of responsibilities is not enough, he just recently launched Ncredible Entertainment where he is developing movies and working on developing a multi-media comic book series with Simon & Schuster.
Did I mention he and his wife Mariah Carey are expecting twins? Some time ago we caught up with Nick on his journey to his current position. He provided some critical insight into his thinking that can portend things to come? This never-published exclusive follows:
ED Note: Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey welcomed 2 healthy children- Moroccan & Monroe into the world on their Third Anniversary April 30, 2011
OI: Man, What’s Happenin’?
I go by the name of Nick Cannon a.k.a Mr. Mogul a.k.a The 20 Million Dollar Man
OI: You said the 20 Million Dollar Man. Please elaborate on that
Within the last year of everything Ive been doing, that’s how much I’ve accumulated. So you know that’s what we worth for the ’05-’06 popoff.
OI: ’05-’06 popoff it was like_
We’re trying to step to up in 07
OI: So it was an eight-figure salary in the 20-million dollar range accumulated from the various hustles and enterprises under the Mr. Nick Cannon, the mogul, mogulization….I’d seen it in Teen People about you getting this paper. Let’s delve in and start to break this 20 million into pieces. Like what are some of the ventures that you have going on? We know the movie Underclassman which is like a production that you did if I could be corrected, right?
Yeah that was my joint
OI: So break it down, what were some of the different ventures that you had your hands in to accumulate that 20 mill?
Like I said, out of the Underclassman, that was the last movie I produced and wrote and you get a couple of meal tickets out of that..At that same time, Wild N out being the number one show in cable out of the demographic it represents..There’s a few meal tickets in that too.
OI: We didn’t even talk about the DVDs
Yeah, the DVD sales and what have you….then at the same time I own a clothing line, PNB Nation, that you know is worth roughly five to seven million. And then we gonna take that even higher this year…if y’all not familiar with it. PNB is one of the first hip-hop clothing lines to really step it up….We about to have a store on Melrose in Cali….
OI: Melrose in Cali…that’s high net worth. Melrose, you understand what type of money moves out there…
It’s gonna be real official so you gotta get that. And then you know, from there, just a lot of other movie deals I’ve been putting together. Then obviously, my record company, my record deal. I have my own label now Can I Ball Records/Motown/Universal and…that’s a good situation, with a couple of tickets in there, too. I mean, you know Slyvia Rhone personally putting her hands on the deal, it gotta be a priority, it gotta be some money moving around.
OI: Now, I remember just following your career…of course everybody knows about the Nickelodeon…How’d you get (going) right there?
Man, I basically started off doing stand-up comedy. That was my thing and still is to this day one of my first loves. But that’s what got me in the door and that’s what got me that business mind state to kinda think to I gotta produce and operate my own show, because when you’re a stand-up comic , you produce your own show every night. You write your own show every night. You promote your own show every night. You gotta make your own flyers. You gotta get out there and get your name known and stuff so that’s a hustle if you ever had one. So just doing that at a young age, So just doing that at a young age 15, 16 years old, traveling, you know the country and stuff, doing different comedy clubs at a young age. I was just able to pick up on that business mind to where…I’m my own product; I’m my own brand and I gotta build (it).
OI: That’s like the crux of it…marketing yourself as your own product. (When) was it that you started recognizing that…Nick Cannon, that’s a brand name…They hear Nick Cannon on the flyer-I gotta heck him out. What were some of the elements that made you understand yourself as your own product and your own brand?
To be your own brand, you really have to step out there and you have to be unique more than anything, and one thing in the game of comedy, I was unique ’cause I was the youngest kid out there. There was nothing else out there for me. I was 15-16 years old, on stage getting it popping so I realized…you get a buzz started…’you hear about this young kid? you hear about this little kid? he’s doing stand-up. He wild. He funny’ And then people start to know your name. So once you get your name known, that’s building your brand. …After you go from there, you really transcend into building that name up. Why do people need to come see you? What is in your show that you’re getting it poppin’? What makes people really understand this is something that-‘I can’t miss it?’ You need to have that ‘I can’t miss it’ thing. So that was just perfecting my show and perfecting my craft so once I perfected my craft, you know I didn’t have to promote myself anymore because people were coming into clubs to see me…and once they came to see me…that’s when it really took off because it was producers, casting directors, and things like that and that’s how I got involved in the Nickelodeon situation and a lot of the movies, getting in business with Will Smith and in the music and all that stuff.
OI: You were traveling….to get to these comedy clubs in LA. Where were you coming out of?
I was coming from San Diego. Well I was living in North Carolina.
OI:….Down that I-5
Yeah and then I moved to San Diego and I would at sixteen, drive up on the 5, like you said, to get to Hollywood and get out there and get it poppin’
OI: So you was willing…..at 15, 16 to (drive) that 130-140 miles from Diego to get out there to LA just to be in the mix. Every week, every day, that was your mission. So that was some hustling from a young age, that hunger, that ‘I want that’. How’d you come across Will Smith?
He’s seen me do comedy. He had my tapes and he called me into the office. He was like “Yo, man I gotta work with you. You remind me of me.” and all this other good stuff and he was like “you got any ideas,” and at the time I had been writing. I had been writing…writing for a couple of Nickelodeon shows. I was about 17 at the time. You know, I was the youngest staff writer in television history so I…wrote my own show and I was like…I got this show right here and he loved the idea and we went and sold it to the WB and then from there that kid of built that relationship. The show never came out but it still kinda created that precedent.
OI: So the players were able to get on the back door end like that here’s what they working with…
Right, right. Absolutely. So, you know, from there it created the relationship. It kinda created the buzz in the industry and made the Nick Cannon name even bigger and then that’s when I went back to Nickelodeon and then from there that’s when stuff trickled out…
OI: But where’d you learn the skill…’cause even writing TV, that’s different than writing a rhyme…where’d you learn the skill to write your own?
Just being observant, you know what I mean. Obviously, like I said, I was always a funny kid and everything like that and could write my own jokes and stuff and so…I’d be doing the warm-up at different shows like Keenan and Kel and All Thant and stuff and I’d be hosting in the audience and I was like….i can write that stuff and I would go by the writers room and pay attention and see how they’d do everything and I’d just start speccing out my own joints and turning them in. Pretty much it was on point. They was lovin’ the ideas. They was lovin’ the voice. I was an original voice. I had that younger mind that they was trying to reach, so it was definitely something that was of value to them so we just kept on pushing and it was like trial and error, just learning and you know it was on-the-job training type of thing.
OI: So…Drumline…you were like 18.19 and then I remember your first album…that was under Jive. How did that come about?/strong>
That came about ’cause like I said, I was getting involved. I had started a record label at Nickelodeon- helped Nickelodeon start Nick Records and I was the only artist on the label type of thing and so when Nick Records merged with Jive so that automatically put me on Jive and then I started working out there. The first album was crazy ’cause I got a chance to work with all those different people from like R.Kelly to Diddy to you know, Pharrell. We went real hard on the first album so it was definitely a good look.
OI: So, okay then, how did the Drumline situation come about?
That was just another thing where I created a name for myself and…the people at Fox kinda called me in and they were really excited about me. They thought it was a good look and obviously, I had to do a read for it and everything and itpopped off and came off smooth.
OI: What we’re trying to get at is how’d you segue from Drumline? You were just an actor then. How’d you segue from that? What was the first movie you produced by yourself?
The first movie was actually The Underclassman. Once Drumline was a success and Love Don’t Cost A Thing was a success, it kinda gave me a precedence in the industry to kind of do whatever I wanted so I wrote my own script…once again writing my own joint and went and shopped it to Miramax and they bought it.
OI: You don’t have to get detail specific but…a deal like that… lets say, a person writes their own script, you go to somebody like Miramax,now Miramax is Disney…but how is a deal like that structured? Peope want to know about- when they say so-and-so is a producer of a movie…how is a deal broken down? How does the money move?
It’s a few different ways. Sometimes you can get like a vanity deal where jsut because they want to be in business with you they throw you the title. This person was executive producer.
strong>OI: But you’re not really getting the money…
OI: They just…it’s in the deal. That might be a term they give you to make the deal a little bit bigger, but in my case, I feel like I was really a producer, hired the director, put everything together. That’s a whole different process. That’s really producing, on the back end. You get a check up front because obviously I was the star and the writer, but then as a producer you get a check on the back end as well and that’s where you really want it.
OI: Explain the back end deal cause you know even now there’s a lot of people with the street DVDs, with the documentaries, like, man, I got a script, I’m trying to go to Hollywood. But then how does the back end part of the deal work?
the back end part is pretty much a percentage deal after so much money is made off the gross and all of that, you get a chance to get out there and kinda break up the net…with whoever else has a percentage or has points on the back end and you get so much…A 20% deal is a phenomenal deal. If you can get…20% on the back end-if a movie ends up making 20 Million profit- which is an okay profit in a movie…
OI: We’re not even talking about the DVD. We’re talking about just from the box office
From the box office. You get money from the back end of that…Then the same thing, you can negotiate your DVD and get your back end of that. And it”s really just getting a percentage of the dough of what the movie actually made, which most people don’t get because you get paid upfront in movies, but if you get the back-end that’s long term paper.
OI: Let’s say, you do your U.S. Premiere, then they talk about the international premiere. How does that work right there and how is those deals structured? What is the difference in like the U.S. film and the international film?
The U.S. is a small percentage of the world when you think about it. Like it’s a lot going on here but if you’re an international superstar that’s-I think the U.S. is maybe like 20% of the movie-going population of the world. So imagine-you know cats is making paper in just the U.S. is just a small market. Even though we make the most films, it’s still people all over the place so you get an international release it’s out of here.
OI: So with The underclassman did you also produce the soundtrack? how does that work? How does that interact with the soundtracks?
That’s one of the reasons I started my own label…and really get involved in that because the soundtrack game is definitely a game where it helps promote the movie but then at the same time it’s a whole (other) business venture in itself because the music is so well promoted by the movie company that you can slide a soundtrack up under it. If the movie’s successful, the soundtrack is going to be successful. So it’s just really bundling in there and getting involved with that and clearing the rights in your negotiation and everything like that and really…understanding the economics of how much to make the record for based on how much they making the movie for and things of that nature.
OI: Break those components down…for example Will, they’re doing the ATL project right now. Then T.I. has an album and they have a soundtrack to that…So how does that get figured out, like, ‘okay, here is how much this budget is for this movie; here’s what the soundtrack is gonna be like.’ In the initial movie budget is the soundtrack budget included in that? Is it a separate…
Mah, what ends up happening, depending on what the movie company is, but if you have a movie company, the movie company can go anywhere they want to, to give the soundtrack, so actually record labels have to pay the movie company for the actual rights for the soundtrack. But then it goes back and forth because sometimes-it’s always they’re throwing money back at each other because then the record company’ll go to…after the soundtrack is finished will go back to the movie company and be like ‘we need help promoting this, you know we need you to put money into the soundtrack..’ So what ends up happening, as myself like as an artist or someone who’s a producer of a film-if I’m involved with a film saying, well in my deal like ‘I want the soundtrack too.’ I want you to give me that so I can go sell it to any record company that I want to.’ So being that I have my own label already, it’s like once I’m negotiating a movie, in my contract i ask for the soundtrack and then I take the soundtrack and put it on my own label and get a budget for that and then based off that – So that’s pretty much , whatever the record company wants to put out the soundtrack for- based on the movie, they’ll do that.
Source: Owner’s Illustrated/text: Nick Cannon Archives