As today's entertainment landscape changes beyond easy predictability, experience remains a valuable asset — as long as it's driven by adaptability and vision. With a quarter century in the industry as a producer, brand marketer and lauded music supervisor, Next Thing CEO Paul Stewart personifies the qualities of a tech-savvy industry player relevant in the 21st century.
"It goes back to me growing up in Los Angeles at time when surf/skate culture and hip-hop were just starting out with their shared genuine street-level drive for expression," Stewart explains. Paul originally tasted success in the late 1980s with the record label Delicious Vinyl, promoting hits like Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing" and Young MC's "Bust A Move", the very first platinum hip-hop records ever from the West Coast. In the 1990s, the L.A. native founded the street promotions company PMP, promoting acts like Queen Latifah, Busta Rhymes, and Cypress Hill, and building a client list including Sony, Warner Bros. and Universal. After Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons tapped Stewart to open Def Jam's West Coast office, Stewart transformed PMP into a powerful urban music management company, and then an Island/Def Jam-affiliated record label. Through PMP, Stewart discovered and developed multi-platinum musical artists Coolio ("Fantastic Voyage"), The Pharcyde ("Passin' Me By"), Montell Jordan ("This Is How We Do It") and House of Pain ("Jump Around").
Stewart continues to make waves with his latest power move, partnering in 2010 with Lady GaGa's worldwide manager Troy Carter to form Atom Factory Music Licensing, Inc. "I understand what music supervisors need because I've been on that side of the fence, but I also feel the music from a fan's perspective," says Stewart, whose music supervision credits in over thirty films includes Academy Award-winning Hustle & Flow (Oscar for Best Original Song), Four Brothers, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Poetic Justice. "With Atom Factory we're providing film and TV outlets with a curated catalog of songs that's unparalleled, alongside our unbeatable roster of producers, writers and artists."
Streetwise styles with popular appeal? Check. A keen eye for rising talent? Boldface check. Stewart gave future feature-film directors Dave Meyers, F. Gary Gray and Paul Hunter their first shots behind the camera as music video directors, and ran the marketing and promotion divisions of Ice Cube’s Time/Warner-distributed record label Street Knowledge during the launch of the hit Friday film franchise. Stewart partnered with director/producer George Tillman, supervising the music for the Babershop franchise and period piece Men of Honor. Producer and director John Singleton has long relied on Stewart for his film's music needs, from the Tupac Shakur/Janet Jackson vehicle Poetic Justice to the 2005 film Hustle & Flow.
Fundamental to signing Eminem, Dr. Dre and DMX to pioneering on-line music distributor ARTISTdirect, Stewart has long embraced the game-changing potential of digital download sales. Stewart’s long-lauded penchant for finding the right song at the right moment and status as a key player in the rise of hip-hop culture have made him a valued consultant and entertainment marketer for brands as varied as Puma, T-Mobile, and Dr. Pepper.
Paul is proud of his role as an indispensable ambassador for urban culture but insists the best is yet to come. "The music industry and entertainment landscapes keep changing," Stewart says. "It's an exciting time, and I'm committed to guiding those changes while providing the sounds for what's next."