As a respected A&R and marketing executive, sought-after manager and hit songwriter in his own right, J.R. McKee has capitalized on the innate gift of visualizing every possible outcome before any move he makes. It has led to him contributing, either creatively or executively, to songs that have sold close to 40 million records. McKee has also emerged as a pioneer in the developing DSP/Label Relations space, working to bring artists like Rod Wave and Lil Durk to new levels of success during his tenure at Todd Moscowitz’s Interscope-backed venture, Alamo Records. McKee’s approach and understanding of the streaming business not only led Alamo to quadruple its revenue during his first six months as Head of Digital Sales & Revenue, but also led to Interscope reviving its Geffen branch to support Alamo’s growth.
After leaving Alamo in late 2020, McKee kicked off 2021 poised to educate and empower music entrepreneurs. He partnered with renowned executive Troy Carter to create a model that will revolutionize the relationship between independent artists and their distribution partners. “I told Troy I wanted to create a company that gave artists the support they needed and still allowed them to keep full control of their careers,” McKee explains. “His response was, ‘Tell me what this company looks like so I can give you the tools to build it.’ The distribution company, Venice, aims to push artists into the future of the streaming business & create entrepreneurs. We will offer artists every service they need and our partnership contracts will include nothing they don’t.”
McKee’s success with Alamo was the direct result of the promise he showed as a music executive even as a teenager. In fact, his position with the company was crafted specifically for him at the suggestion of Interscope EVP Joie Manda, who facilitated McKee’s first deal when he was just 19. Beginning his career in music before he was even old enough to drink, McKee quickly understood the importance of starting with a vision and building everything else around it. That singular approach has allowed him to help shape the careers of multi-platinum GRAMMY® Award-winning artists, songwriters, and producers, ranging from K Camp to YFN Lucci to Jacob Latimore and Denisea “Blu June” Andrews [Beyoncé, Rihanna], to name a few. “It starts with the music, which allows you to create the vision,” he explains of the mindset that defines his imprint, Family Ties Entertainment. “With everybody I work with, I develop a vision around what they’re already doing, then build a lasting brand around the vision that embodies what they stand for on a bigger level.”
After hosting parties while studying at Mississippi State University and finding himself touring alongside rap duo Cadillac Don & J-Money in support of their 2006 hit, “Peanut Butter & Jelly,” McKee launched Family Ties in partnership with producer/songwriter Leland “Big Fruit” Clopton. Among the company’s earliest signings, rapper Tha Joker emerged as “the second most popular artist ever on MySpace,” allowing McKee to introduce a new industry paradigm by making the artist’s mixtapes available on iTunes—a first for the industry. In 2008, Bu Thiam tapped McKee as Head of A&R for his Bu Visions imprint, allowing McKee to also lend his expertise to multiple Def Jam projects, including 2011’s critically-acclaimed Watch The Throne. Still juggling his role as a manager, McKee aligned songwriter Blu June with Rihanna and Future to co-write the platinum-certified “Loveeeeeeee Song” from Rihanna’s 2012 GRAMMY®-winning album, Unapologetic. McKee’s signing of K Camp to Family Ties Entertainment saw his skills as a music executive soar to new heights. Under his guidance, K Camp went from buzzworthy independent to internationally recognized, multi-platinum success thanks to a profitable joint venture with Interscope Records.
McKee’s mostly independent success has inspired him to create a path to music entrepreneurship for both aspiring music executives and up-and-coming artists alike. “As a lifelong entrepreneur my mission is to create more entrepreneurs,” he says. “And now that we’re in the streaming business that has become more attainable than ever. There is so much information out there for artists to now be able to take control of their own careers.” In 2020, he launched the online masterclass Streaming Business 101, a course that uses case studies form McKee’s own career to teach students the opportunities available in the Steaming Business, tricks and hacks to grow streaming numbers organically and how to grow and maintain a fanbase that leads to steady and sustainable numbers.
While work calls him to spend time on both coasts, J.R. McKee, his wife and two daughters call Atlanta home. His passion for sharing knowledge often finds him dropping jewels and offering guidance via Instagram, ClubHouse and LinkedIn.
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