Kerry “Klassic” Abner walked into the Sony Music offices in New York City less than a year ago to pitch an idea he had as head of his consulting agency, Intecoo. “I was just explaining to them where they were missing opportunities and how my agency could help them solve those problems,” he tells Hip-Hop Wired.
By the time he had completed his pitch, the Florida native was offered a job at the label.
“I think Sony’s starting point was based around me and my stamp of entrepreneurship,” he offers. “I got laid off from my last ‘real’ job in November of 2014.”
“I carved out a niche that focused on empowering people that looked like me.”
Abner worked in the marketing department at Turner Communications in Atlanta where he’d developed a knack for research and data collection. After losing his job, he applied this new skill set to his burgeoning Intecoo brand and before long, that grind caught the attention of some influential people in NYC. After taking a week to consider, Abner accepted the position, as Sony’s Manager of Urban Marketing, Social Media & Streaming.
“Yeah, I was excited,” he recalls with a laugh. “Because what they were offering me was what I was trying to do. So I felt like, it sounds sexy. I’m in the business of Kerry Klassic, I’m in the business of myself. So I knew that this opportunity would set me up for whatever else I want to do later in life and my presentation and negotiation is going to be a lot different.”
“Turner was my last corporate job,” he continues. “So between that point and starting at Sony, I spent a lot of time in entrepreneurship, dealing with all of the hurdles while attempting to build something on my own.” Abner, known online as Kerry Klassic, says that he depended on self-education, utilizing YouTube and internet courses while testing theories and ideas inspired by the internet and social media. “Intecoo loosely turned into this influencer marketing agency,” Abner explains. “Because we spent a lot of time working with black and brown content creators and doing everything we could to make sure they are getting the placements that everyone else is getting inside these campaigns for whatever product they’re working on.” He made a habit of following sources like Nielsen insight reports and articles from Forbes magazine, connecting the data points and using these to fortify his work between Intecoo and various companies to include the Atlanta Hawks, which Abner says was one of his most prideful wins. “Seeing my business name and signature next to ‘Chief Marketing Officer’ of the Atlanta Hawks, that was probably my proudest moment because it meant that I could do it. I could stand on my own to feet and bring value to a company that impactful.”
Abner had three goals in mind for Intecoo which still stand today. “I carved out a niche for myself and my work that focused on empowering people that looked like me. Number one: making sure that brands aren’t wasting too much time trying to identify who people are. Number two: bringing diversity and inclusion to the table. And number three: making sure that they were culturally relevant and socially conscious.” His stint at Turner was supremely helpful in leading him down this road professionally, but the marketing manager insists that a corporate background isn’t necessarily vital to end up in the same position. “The thing about corporate is that corporate is always behind culture. By the time it hits corporate? It’s wack,” he admits. “What we can do better is stop trying to lean into what corporate is doing and be more straightforward and strategic about how we package our experience. We always have the cool creative idea but we should take it a step further and show the stats, insights and case studies that prove what I’m saying to be true. This is why the opportunity is often being missed for us.”
Since being hired at Sony, Abner has been given the task of heading Certified, a series of activations that specialize in preserving and selling the label’s Hip-Hop and R&B catalogues. “I’m consistently talking about things that have happened in the past and how to increase consumption of those things. The first activation that I came here with was celebrating Nas’ Illmatic, 25 years [anniversary]. The one after that was OutKast’s 25-year anniversary, Southernplayalisticadillacmusik.” Most recently, Abner led the charge in celebrating the 20th anniversary of Destiny’s Child’s The Writing’s on the Wall and he’s ready for whatever comes next with the label, even as he continues to build Intecoo.
“I’m still doing Intecoo but I’m being a lot more mindful about the type of projects that I involve myself in,” he shares. “It’s in the back seat because of my day-to-day with Sony but now I want to treat Intecoo as a sort of record label — finding really great talent, signing them to my agency and giving them the help needed to ensure that their careers as influencers is going the way that they need it to.”
One of the major points that Abner says keeps new artists from flourishing is the fact that they’re unwilling to commit after expecting and not receiving instant results. “Social media marketing is in real time, so within the next couple of minutes you can see how many likes, comments, shares that post garners. I think that new artists get discouraged because they expect a certain response as soon as something goes live,” he says. “They want the results, they look at everyone else who’s on.”
“They want the result but they don’t want to go through that day-to-day process that got those artists to that point. And maybe even the willingness to cancel out the extra noise with people’s opinions and sentiments about what you got going on and what you don’t have going on. More people need to zone out and focus on being consistent, focus on their craft and getting better and not letting distractions take them off their path.”
Abner also suggests that new artists be resourceful and use what they have available. While acknowledging that managing a social media account is a heavy load for any one person, he offers an alternative. ”I think that the goal is that there are two ways of looking at it: creating content or documenting it. Documenting is an expedited way of doing it because you’re just capturing the moment, right? Instead of having to sit and really break things down into pieces for others to be able to digest it. But I think, if you’re trying to get into a certain position, you need to be public — I used to put on events, nothing too immaculate but things like these fireside chats and conversations with people just because I thought they were cool.”
“I used that as a way to meet people and bring their energy to these experiences. Control your energy, control your mind and what you think about. Get clarity about exactly what it is that you want but also be detached enough to let it happen the way the world sees fit and not the way you want it to happen.”