Courtney Stewart on success in the music industry: “Don’t follow the dream. Set the dream.”

Founder of Right Hand Music Group spoke to students Oct. 3

“The key to being successful in this industry is making good music,” said founder of Right Hand Music Group, Courtney Stewart, as he spoke to a group of students from the Bandier Program.

Stewart, who manages R&B breakout star Khalid, shared his thoughts on the evolution of the music industry and the lessons he’s learned as both a manger and producer.

From his youth in Atlanta to his college days at Alabama State University, Stewart always had an interest in the creative and performing arts. In college, he created his own music and sold the CDs on campus.

“I created a culture,” he said.

After graduation, Stewart worked as an independent manager for R&B star Bobby Valentino, who emerged on the musical scene in 2005 with his hit, “Slow Down.” At the time, Stewart said, radio was an artist’s best way of gaining public attention and fame. But as social media and music streaming services began to change the industry, it was a challenge to transform Valentino from a radio star to an internet star.

Those changes affected not only how an audience noticed an artist, but how managers found their artists. Stewart found Khalid, one of his biggest clients, through Twitter. At the time, Khalid was a high school student posting videos of himself singing while his friend played the guitar. After Stewart and his team came across these videos, he flew to see Khalid for himself.

“I was blown away by his songwriting skills, but more so how articulate he was,” said Stewart.

Khalid’s hit single, “Location,” placed him on the mainstream musical scene. Much of the song’s success came from social media sharing after celebrity Kylie Jenner shared the single with her followers—over a million of them—on Snapchat and Instagram, Stewart said.

While his roster has gained attention and acclaim, Stewart hasn’t let fame or hype go to his head. “Faith is my everything, it’s how I stay grounded,” he said.

His advice for aspiring music producers: “Pick your best 10 or 15 beats and shoot your shot.” He recommended sending the tracks to various artists, music companies and producers.

Stewart spoke candidly about how risky the music industry can be.

“It’s a show business. Anything can happen,” Stewart said. “Don’t follow the dream, set the dream.”

Jewél Jackson is a sophomore communication and rhetorical studies major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.