TAMI LATRELL is a multi-platinum, GRAMMY-nominated songwriter with Sony/ATV Music Publishing who's written for artists such as the late Whitney Houston, Keyshia Cole, SWV and Monica to name a few.
In 2018, she transitioned into the business side of the music industry and launched The Mezzo Agency, a music publishing administration and licensing company that discovers unclaimed royalties, catalog management, music licensing and creative services for songwriters, producers and indie artists. Her administration roster includes writers such as the late Rev. Paul Jones (I Won’t Complain), CeCe Peniston (Finally), QuikV (Taylor Girlz) and El Jefe (Queen Naija). Newly added to the roster in 2020 on behalf of J. Walker & Associates law firm are gospel greats Stephen Hurd and Micah Stampley, and Billboard chart topping hip-hop artist K Camp’s 427 Entertainment, LLC (Blessing, Lottery).
She is most popular for her Youtube channel which has amassed over 670k views on music business tips, and understanding music publishing.
As a voting member and music advocate of The Recording Academy, Tami also contributed rallying efforts alongside Congressman John Lewis in support of passing the Music Modernization Act. She is also a founding member of Women In Music-Atlanta.
How did you get your start in music? What or who inspired you as you were just starting out?
I started out in 1998 as part of a girl group in my hometown of Houston, Texas. Two years later I became a solo artist and signed with an indie label. Growing up I was inspired by my family, both parents were musicians and performers but of course the greats - Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Prince, Luther, Anita Baker, SOS Band and Earth Wind and Fire. Then later Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Brandy and Monica and the whole Bad Boy era. I sang at talent shows and studied music in school. I loved the 90’s!
What is something that you know about the music industry now that you wish you had known when you first started?
I think it's important to position yourself whether that means moving or changing your circle where your musical gifts can really be challenged and your talents cultivated. I also wish I would have understood the value and leverage of music publishing when I was younger. I had no clue what I really had, I was just having fun and loved writing songs - until I almost lost it all.
You’ve worked with both traditional publishing and publishing administration -- based on your experiences, what is the most important thing every creator should know about these two types of publishing?
From my experience with a major music publisher, I was afforded opportunities to meet with labels, we were always doing writer retreats and sessions, plus we were tapped in to a network of other producers and songwriters I would have probably never met without the deal but you do have to give up your ownership and could possibly ending up owing a lot of money if you don’t recoup your advance. These days, an admin deal with agencies like mine gives you opportunities to collect on royalties that you wouldn’t normally know are out there. Plus with the internet, access to opportunities are abundant, producers and songwriters can be scouted and introduced through social media, and we are able to create licensing opportunities just like the majors. The difference is, writers maintain ownership of their publishing and copyright. Our commissions in this business model come from the work we place and administer, license and the royalties we find on their behalf.
How did you find out about Songtrust and how has your experience been so far?
I discovered Songtrust about 3 years ago. I had a few clients asking about how to collect their Youtube royalties and they trusted me with finding the answers. Songtrust was the answer! Since then, I’ve collaborated with the ST team at several music publishing workshops and webinars to spread the word about how awesome indie music professionals can benefit from the platform. They get my business model and I’m grateful for how supportive they have been with what I am building.
You recently started the Mezzo Agency -- What inspired this and what does the Mezzo Agency provide to creators?
I can truly say Mezzo was a manifestation fulfilled. I envisioned a space for both budding music creators and established music creators who didn’t care to be locked into major publishing deals to have an agency where their catalogs are being properly managed as they create and release new music and their royalties are being claimed and distributed without us owning their copyrights and publishing. They put in the work creating it, so they should own it. Period. We manage a few huge catalogs so split appropriation when dealing with lots of writers is of the utmost importance to ensure accurate payouts. Our team works with royalty management and licensing partners also to make sure songs are not only being properly registered and claimed, but also shopped and licensed. Since we’ve launched we’ve placed songs with Tyler Perry’s Madea's Family Funeral, BET Networks, ABC/Disney, American Idol and PBS documentaries to name a few.
In honor of Women’s History Month, what advice do you have for female DIY songwriters navigating the music industry?
My advice would be to take advantage of all the access to resources about the business of music because we surely didn’t have that back in the day. We are no longer in an era where creators are just making music. It’s a must that you are familiar with also being a music professional. Another word of advice is that no one owes you anything. Your talent may have gotten you in the room but how well you perform and your ability to adapt and thrive as things change is what will keep you in the room. Lastly, know your worth and that is enough.
You’ve written for a lot of well-known female artists including Whitney Houston, Monica, Keyshia Cole -- how were those experiences? How did you find yourself writing for them and/or what is your writing process like?
On Whitney Houston: Imagine being a freshman in your college dorm and your mom calls you saying Whitney Houston is on the radio singing your song “Whatchulookinat”- and you had no clue the indie label you used to be signed to sold it to her. That was my intro into the music business at 18….What they didn’t know is that I owned all my copyrights to my songs, so I got my publishing and luckily I am able to eat off royalties forever - BUT this story happens too often and a lot of writers aren’t so lucky. Please protect your intellectual property music creators, learn the business. Stay woke!
On Keyshia Cole: I penned “Fallin Out” for Brandy actually. Soulshock and Karlin felt it would be a great ballad for her comeback. But Ron Fair heard it and the rest is history. I loved his final production and changes, especially adding the orchestra. That wasn’t in the demo.
On Monica: Sony ATV called me asking for a song for Usher to sing on the Best Man Holiday closing scene. Fatboi, Atozzio and I wrote “Anchor”. Usher passed on it. Monica heard it and cut it the next week. Monica’s got that southern hospitality vibe that meshed well with my vibe from Texas so from the time we met she was personable and very kind while we worked on the song. I appreciated how she kept the majority of our arrangements and trusted in what we delivered. She was someone I looked up to when I was younger so to work with her and even to write for SWV and Whitney - who are all legends, is an honor for me.
Education is a big part of your strategy -- what is your approach to educating like-minded creators about music business?
I always tell writers “a good song will find a home” but when it gets placed, is your ownership secured so that you get paid? My platform primarily covers that type of educational content and I do consultations also. I’m also equity holder for a music tech company called The LABZ that automates music ownership while creators collaborate, generates split sheets and much more, all in one workspace. Last year was focused on building Mezzo and things started moving very fast so I conducted more consultations with clients one on one and spoke at a few music business workshops and conferences too. I’d been doing videos about the music industry since 2012 so it was long overdue for me to shift gears. I plan on getting back to more content and recent interviews will be released on my social networks and website this year.
Lastly, what is your go-to song or album lately?
I’ve been vibing to Lucky Daye - Painted on my chill days, it’s colorful and warm. I appreciate D’Mile’s production and instrumentation too. I’m the “listen to the full album all the way through” type.
Take control of your publishing. Maximize Songtrust for your songs and business.
We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful.