Meet Armani Colón of Black Imperial
I’m originally from Suffolk, Virginia and graduated from Virginia State University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s in Marketing. While choosing a major I wanted something that wasn’t so constrained, something you could take with you no matter what, and a wise man once said “no matter what industry you’re in, you’re always in sales”. With a firm understanding of basic advertising and marketing principles I figured I could be successful no matter what industry I chose to pursue. That was my logical, business minded side.
But I always had a passion for the arts, specifically music. I marched in my high school and college marching bands (I play the trumpet and can read sheet music) and you can ask anyone that’s close to me, I’m ALWAYS singing and rapping. Having been raised in a two parent, middle class home (at the time) I thought no one would take me seriously as a music artist until Kanye West hit the scene and proved you could make enjoyable music while not constraining yourself to any one topic. Once I saw it could be done, I became obsessed.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2014 and for the first two years I kind of was just running around, learning about my new home, getting acclimated …until one day I finally sat down, took a USB microphone and connected it to my old MacBook Pro and started to record freestyle records over other more established artists’ beats. I released them on SoundCloud and a good friend of mine, who is a singer, heard them and then introduced me to his engineer. From there, I practically lived in the studio and recorded whenever I could. I’d even come and sit in on other people’s sessions just to learn how to conduct myself in a studio environment and get some inspiration. And I’ve been at it ever since.
No, it has not been a smooth road haha. Really wouldn’t make much of an interesting story if everything just fell into place, right? I’m not exaggerating when I say the whole journey has practically been a struggle, Los Angeles is an extremely competitive market, especially for the entertainment industry. Being an out of towner, you have to pretty much destroy any preconceived notions you have of the city to truly survive. Thinking you’re just going to go out and perform at an open mic and Dr. Dre will just so happen to be in the audience ready to offer a recording contract is akin to winning the lottery, not impossible but highly unlikely.
The music industry is probably the most affected by the social media boom. The perception has almost relegated it to no more than a hobby, and can you really blame anyone? Go on Instagram right now and you’ll see people who call themselves models, actors and influencers’ all releasing music. They didn’t specifically call themselves musicians or see themselves as musicians, they see everyone else dropping songs and it looks “fun” so they give it a shot. And if you constantly witness this, I wish I could use a different phrase but I can’t think of one, it almost cheapens the brand if you will.
So …imagine a bunch of people that don’t necessarily share your passion for what you’re doing but have more money and resources to create the product but treat it as a hobby and the masses are exposed to this pattern over and over again to the point the brand is cheapened. You’re pretty much living in perpetual struggle just to differentiate yourself from all the other noise out there.
The company, Black Imperial, was founded out of necessity. My business partner, Marc Jackson and I entered this industry with two solid goals: 1). To turn a profit, 2). To remain independent. A lot of people believe you have to be a super star or well known to make any money in the music industry and that’s simply not the case. Black Imperial was created as an all around entertainment company, but we primarily focus on music (for now).
There are a lot of independent musicians out there who are missing out on a lot of money earning potential because they simply do not know how to properly run the business side of things. While we are still learning every day, we’ve spent countless hours on just research alone. How to properly register a business with the government, how to collect all your royalties, the little ways your songs can earn money that no one tries to necessarily hide but aren’t very forth coming with the info, we had a desire to learn all of this. And we have. And we’re continuing to learn more every day.
I’d like to say the thing we’re most proud of is still being here and doing what we love. Working a 9 to 5 job and starting your own business/pursuing your passion takes about equal amounts of time and effort. Where I see most people fail is they devote too much time to their 9 to 5 while they treat the other pursuit as a hobby. And if you treat it like a hobby it’s going to remain a hobby. What sets us apart is we’re not treating this like a hobby or something we do after we’ve clocked out for the day. This is 24/7, 365 days a year. We’re always in constant communication. Always creating. Always learning something new with paperwork and the business side. Ultimately the goal is to help other independent artists who need assistance with realizing their full potential, we’re hoping we can carve out a new path to success as an independent music company that others can follow.
Personally, for me, success is being happy doing what you’re doing in this life. I’ve met a lot of people and I’d say damn near 80-90% of them have complained that they’re not fulfilled in their current career field. They wanted to try and do something else but they lacked the drive to make it happen for themselves so they’re “stuck” so to speak. I never wanted to be or feel stuck. I may not have always known what I wanted to do with my life but I knew I didn’t want to do something because society told me that’s the way it’s meant to be done. And what does society know anyway? They change their attitudes toward subjects every decade or so.
Success is also freedom, freedom to do what you want how you like with minimum opposition (because let’s be honest, thoughtful and healthy opposition is needed for growth). I never lost my sense of teenage rebellion and I absolutely hate being told I have to conform. If you tell me I have to do something a certain way I will devote my time to find an alternative way to get it done, not to show you that it can be done but to show myself that it can be done.
Success is something I’m constantly chasing, but in that endeavor I scare myself sometimes because how many times have I passed success with out realizing it? Was I too honed in on my own version of success that I’ve missed out on other opportunities for other successes? Questions like this plague me constantly but I need the freedom to pursue these answers in the manner I see best. I don’t like authority, just let me do me. I promise I won’t raise too much hell along the way.