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Dre London: Music Entrepreneurship Remastered

Dre London pulls influential strings, managing Post Malone since 2014 and creating Don Londrés tequila in 2020. Now, he’s pouring himself a well-deserved drink.

Dre London doesn’t do anything halfway. If he was going to craft his own tequila, Don Londrés, he would have to go to Mexico. He’d never been to Mexico, but the unknown had never stopped him before; traversing America’s southern border in early 2020 was nothing compared to leaving his native UK for New York City in 2008.

Nothing is ever guaranteed, but London needed to go to Mexico to see for himself what was possible. So many of the key elements of London’s professional rise can be traced back to chance meetings — just as nothing is ever guaranteed, nothing is ever truly an accident.

“I believe in preparation meets opportunity, and then in the middle, people call it luck,” London tells Boardroom over the phone from his Hollywood Hills home. “I like to call it being prepared for the luck. When the opportunity is there, you have to know it and see it.”

In 2019, the acclaimed music manager, executive, and entrepreneur conceived the idea for Don Londrés. He didn’t know what it would look like, taste like, or that it would ultimately be named Don Londrés. He had developed a very well-versed palette for quality tequila and believed he’d make the world’s most superior sipper. By early 2020, he met a lawyer who had done business with Francisco González, a master distiller whose forebears were responsible for Don Julio; one thing led to another and London packed his bags for Guadalajara, Jalisco. He drove 90 minutes through idyllic hills of blue agave fields to meet González at his storied distillery.

While touring the grounds, González’s granddaughter caught London on FaceTime with Post Malone.

“She talks to Post on the phone, goes crazy, gets so hype, and tells Francisco that he’s the coolest granddad in the world,” London recalls.

González had never heard of Post Malone, so he didn’t grasp that London was Post’s manager. To González, London was a power player because he made him the greatest granddad in the world in his granddaughter’s eyes.

“It became evening, and I’d been drinking tequila all day,” he says. “We ate dinner and I fell asleep at the table. [González] said that’s when he knew I was his guy, because we didn’t discuss one thing about business. I left without even talking about business. We just had a great energy. It was two people from two different walks of life.”

It’s a tale all too familiar to London.

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***

London used to swear to one and all that he’d discovered “the modern-day Elvis” in a then-anonymous Austin Post.

London has since been recognized as a top manager several times over by the press and his peers. On this afternoon, he’s giddy when asked whom he’s the modern-day version of here and now along his and Post’s record-obliterating journey.

“I’m the new-age era of Diddy mixed with Jay-Z because of the hustle from the street and hustle from the boardroom while being Black,” London says. “Richard Branson, because he didn’t finish school but still made it to be a big billionaire. I’m also doing what Dr. Dre did, bringing an artist into hip-hop — and into music overall — and making him a superstar.”

“Most of the time, it’s not the manager that looks like me,” he adds. “It’s the artist that looks like me.”

None of this team-up has resembled anything that’s come before, and not even someone as staunchly determined and optimistic as London could have predicted the ride kickstarted by Post’s “White Iverson” in 2015, the hit that kick-started his evolution from SoundCloud darling to Platinum-certified eight times over.

Post was born in Syracuse, New York, and raised in Grapevine, Texas, before dropping out of community college and moving to Los Angeles at 18 years old.

London grew up acorss multiple South London neighborhoods — Brixton Hill, Angell Town, Catford. His dreams didn’t fit inside the classroom, which led to Mr. Vickers kicking a 15-year-old London out of school around GCSE exams. He spent his adolescence hustling — DJ-ing, selling houses, playing soccer, studying music, whatever. As a starry-eyed twentysomething, London crossed the pond for New York City.

After five years of relentless grind— including pulling the strings behind early French Montana hits such as “New York Minute” and “Shot Caller” — it was his own turn to take on LA.

These two men from two utterly different walks of life met in early 2014 at an Encino house occupied by young, hungry creatives. There were gamers, producers, and YouTubers, and amongst them, London spotted a future rockstar.

“I had to establish first the kind of person I am for Post to want to work with me, and that was from March until September,” London says. “I nurtured the relationship and showed that I am a plus. That I add value, and I’m not coming to subtract and be a minus. That’s how I go into any relationship. Where do I add to this conversation? How do I add to a boardroom? I have to be a plus. I can’t be a minus.”

London’s impact on Post’s life — and vice versa — can’t be quantified. Save for a few exceptions. As relayed by Billboard in May 2018, London had decided in January 2017 to self-fund the music video for November 2016 single “Congratulations” featuring Quavo off of Post’s debut LP Stoney. He had 30 minutes to come up with $25,000 for lock in Quavo’s participation.

The cash surfaced, and the music video went on to generate nearly 1.5 billion YouTube views. (In yet another poetic twist, London co-starred in last July’s “Motley Crew” video.)

What London and Post have managed to cram between 2017 and 2022 would make anyone’s head spin. The nine-time Grammy nominee’s fourth studio album, Twelve Carat Toothache, recently debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. That’s icing on top of two No. 1 albums — Beerbongs & Bentleys (2018) and Hollywood’s Bleeding (2019), which collectively charted for 359 weeks — four No. 1 singles, and an era-defining discography all before turning 27 years old.

And while Post reinvents pop stardom, London stays entrepreneurial.

On top of spearheading zeitgeisty brand campaigns for Post — Bud Light, Crocs, and Maison No. 9, to name a few — London founded management firm London Entertainment Group, expanding his roster to include the likes of Tyla Yaweh, Dzeko, and J.Lauryn. He also founded the independent music label London Music Group and streaming platform AUX Live.

In other words, they were riding high. According to Billboard Boxscore, Post’s Beerbongs & Bentleys Tour (2018-19) was the highest-grossing R&B/hip-hop tour of 2019 at $75.9 million across 55 shows. His subsequent Runaway Tour was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and still managed to rake in $54.9 million. But by early 2020, Post was burnt out. His pure love for music had been muddied by the unforgiving business. He needed the time and the space to reconnect with his purpose, which he found in the serene seclusion of a mountainside Utah compound.

London could relate. During his early New York City days, he experienced the same sort of dilemma.

***

London moved to New York City with $100,000. Nobody worked harder over the next four years, but without a green card, he wasn’t earning any money. His love for music and his desire to change the hip-hop game bled him dry.

He resigned to his friend’s couch for two weeks, and he was overwhelmed by his U.K. friends insisting he read the writing on the wall and come home.

“I used to play soccer,” London says. “You gotta look at it through a sports analogy. Yo, you just got a bad tackle? You’re not too hurt. Shake it off and go again. I was like, Wow, I could go back to England and go back in time, or I can keep pushing on this journey to make sure the next move is gonna be a win. What was I gonna do? Figure it out, or sit back and wimp? I wasn’t gonna sit back.”

“That time you’re talking about was probably the most important time in my life,” he continues. “I needed that couch for 14 days. I don’t know how many times I slept on it, but I needed to see it. Those were my most important hours in America. I didn’t ever want to ask someone for help, and within two or three weeks, I figured it out and didn’t look back. There’s either results or excuses, and there’s no middle ground. You gotta pick which side you want to be on.”

London empowers his artists to exercise the same agency over their own destinies.

***

“I give artists ownership to shape their career, and I’m just there to add on to that,” London says of his London Entertainment/London Music Group roster. “I let them go in the direction that they want and I’m just the puppeteer.”

Each client is handled differently, because — spoiler alert — every human being is different. London has never been on some quest to discover the next Post Malone because, as we all know, “there isn’t another Post.”

“I look for that gut feeling when you see a star, but the music has to be right,” he says. “You have to have this ear to know that this person can last. Look how many TikTok [songs] have come out — quick singles. Maybe they’ve been big, but none of them have been Olivia Rodrigo.”

Dre London (Photo credit: Dylan Bridgewater)

And on the subject of TikTok, it can’t be ignored that Post took off from SoundCloud with “White Iverson.” London doesn’t care to dilute the potency of the streaming era, especially because he had a hand in changing the industry standard.

In his own words, this is how he sees it:

“Hip-hop used to just be mixtapes. No one could really measure how many people were really listening to hip hop. No one in these big corporations knew what we always knew – that hip-hop was the biggest thing in the world. Streaming services like SoundCloud, like Spotify, were the way they finally realized what they were missing. It went from me walking around Queens on Jamaica Avenue [and] having people selling me mixtapes to YouTube, and then from YouTube to Apple and Spotify. Looking at these streaming services, we can now know trends. We now know what’s the hardest thing that people are listening to because everyone’s used to the model of paying $10 a month to get all their music. That’s what streaming has done — it’s changed behavior patterns for the better, and it’s also made it impossible for people to deny how big hip-hop is.”

So, when “White Iverson” translated into global exposure and solidified Posty as an undeniable talent, London merely saw it as their starting line.

“The first year I was doing all of this, I was not earning no money,” he says. “No one will even think about it like that. Managers don’t put money in! Managers don’t support artists! Most people jump on the bandwagon when artists already have a song, or they’ve got something that’s gone a little viral. No one wants to really actually do the hard work, actually be there from the start, or actually take out their pocket and invest in what they don’t know could be in the future.”

When London commits, he commits. Before taking on a new artist, he runs through several questions in his mind.

How is this artist gonna take off?

Is this artist gonna last more than three years?

Is this a college phenomenon?

Could we build on the phenomenon?

And most crucially, can people grow with this artist?

“People run up to me in the street about Post and say, ‘When ‘Go Flex’ was out, this was happening in my life.’ ‘I Fall Apart’ came, and that song saved my life! I was going through a breakup.’ I hear the craziest things ever,” London says. “Those artists only come around every so often. I recently introduced this up-and-coming artist from the UK to Post, and I was talking to Post about signing this guy to management. He has the same thing [as Post]. It hits your soul where you’re like, oh, yeah, this is gonna be huge, and five to 10 years from now, will continue to be a huge legacy.”

Not long ago, someone asked London whether Post understood the role London plays in his career’s longevity and range. “They were just in the office and being honest, like, ‘I don’t know if Post really knows how crazy and serious you really go,'” London says. “I recorded the person saying it, and I sent it to Post.”

Posty texted back immediately: “You got that passion, baby!”

That passion pushed him to Mexico two years ago, and it’s the most crucial ingredient in everything he does.

***

London views his portfolio like a music chart.

“Over the years, I’ve managed to multitask what’s important,” he says. “I have a top five and a top 10. The priorities will be No. 1. Of course, there’s other things that fall out of the top 10 [sometimes], or there will be a No. 10 coming in hot and moving towards No. 1.”

And looking up at No. 1, Don Londrés is coming in hot.

Eighteen months passed between that fairytale 2020 day in the Jalisco agave fields and London formally partnering with González, and Don Londrés Blanco finally began flowing this month.

“We can listen to [Twelve Carat Toothache] and sip Don Londrés at the same time!” London says. “The timing of Post’s album coming out the same time as my tequila, there’s no way I could have planned this. When the stars align, things are meant to happen in the right time. And the stars aligned.”

Last Sunday, London boarded his private DreVision jet to fly amidst the stars overnight and landed in time to be the keynote speaker for Monday’s Music Managers Forum at London’s Curzon Soho Cinema.

When he first left home for New York City, he was called crazy. He was expected to come crawling back to England before long.

When he comes back across the Atlantic now, though, nothing more needs to be said.

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