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Meet Mark Kelley: Gabby Gabbana’s Manager and a Multifaceted Entrepreneur with a Passion for Music a

Updated: Mar 6

Meet Mark Kelley, a multifaceted entrepreneur and manager of Gabby Gabbana. He learned the ins and outs of the music business and fell in love with the opportunity to work with great artists and carve his own path. Today, Mark is a respected manager and entrepreneur, balancing his love of music with his passion for business.

Where are you from and how was life growing up?

I’m from the DMV. Life was a little difficult but I’m grateful for the lessons. As a kid, I’ve experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse. All of that. But it’s not like today where you have so many outlets to get help. There was no internet, Facebook, or Tik Tok to report what’s going on or any of that. We just had to deal with it. Through it all, I remained an honor student in school and tried to stay out of trouble. I asked my Mother what it was about me that enabled me to go through what we went through and still succeed at a high level. She simply said I was always driven. That was just who I was and still am. I graduated an honor student and found myself homeless at 18, a year later. Lots of lessons, though. I had to grow up quickly. I had to make bad decisions to find the good decisions.

What got you interested in the music business?

I was always interested in business. My mother was a business woman and my father played the organ in church. So, I’m like a combination of them both in that respect. I started out playing the piano and organ at 13. I taught myself. I sang at a talent show in my early 20’s and someone suggested that I take being an artist seriously. I started that journey but realized being an artist wasn’t for me. Then I started producing tracks. I enjoyed that until I started seeing samples and midi loops playing the same chords and progressions I learned to play on the piano. The new young producers could do things with software and beat machines that I couldn’t do. So, I decided to learn more about the business side since I had been in the finance industry. I found a mentor who taught me the business side and I fell in love with it. It allows me to still dabble in the music side but I get to carve my own path and work with great artists.

What kept you motivated starting out?

Since I didn’t want to be an artist, I still wanted to be around the music. I liked working with artists and seeing nothing turn out to be great records. Once I stopped producing and joined the business side, the motivation was getting “inside”. So, I basically had three starting out points. I love the business. I love watching the charts and the growth of the record. I love watching the numbers. Starting out, the drive to get to the top and get that “hit record” was all the motivation I needed to keep going. My mentor told me, “If you stay open, there’s a chance you get a hit record. If you close your doors, you’re guaranteed to never get a hit record”. I took that and ran with it.

How did you meet and begin managing Gabby Gabanna?

I met gabby threw one of my record promoters. He called me and asked me if I wanted a female rapper. I wasn’t sure if that was the right move for me but I was willing to listen. He had Gabby in the car with him on speaker phone. She introduced herself. I asked her if she would meet me for lunch and talk. She agreed. We met the next day in Charlotte. She told me her story and I was more interested in helping her reach her goals than anything. She probably could have told me she wanted to be an astronaut and I would have still helped her. She seemed very genuine. She had gone through some trauma in her life but she was still trying to pursue music and acting. So, I locked arms with her and here we are.

Tell us more about your record label?

I had a label called Alley Noise. I wanted the label to attract raw talent from the street level. Build up artists from the beginning. I then thought that didn’t fit. So, I was watching a Marvel movie and I became interested in the life of Odic, Thor’s father. That’s where Odic or Odic force comes from. Odin. I saw a lot of myself in the Odic character. I also saw that Odic was a musical pattern. So, I decided to name my label Odic Records. If you study Odin, and you get to know me, you’d see similarities.

In your experience, what is the key to developing a newly found artist?

Lots of money and patience. Period. That’s it that’s all. If you don’t have the necessary relationships, money can get them. If you don’t have the plan or know how to manage. Money can help you navigate through this business until you meet who will help you reach your goals. If you don’t have the money, good luck.

What would you look for in discovering new talent?

An incessant desire to be loved. Lady Gaga said it best. “ I live for the applause”. If the applause doesn’t send goosebumps up and down your spine. This business is not the right business for you as an artist. You must want to be seen by everyone. If you’re hiding, it won’t work. Artists want to treat the music business as if they were actors in a movie and can go home until the next audition and movie project. That doesn’t work in the music business. You must have a deep desire for public acceptance. Sounds weird but, in my opinion, its true. Self-promotion is almost as good as any promotion I can do.

Can you name any people who have been inspirations to you during your career?

Thomas McGee, my mentor. He got me started on the business side. Michael Matthews, he worked my first records at radio and we developed a friendship. All my artists have taught me something. I think Gabby has taught me the most about the mental makeup of an artist. She was the first artist that I’ve managed so it’s been a learning experience.

If you could work with an artist besides Gabby, who would it be?

I’m, actually, in the process of potentially signing two new artists to the roster. I won’t say who they are until they actually sign. My daughter wants me to work with Kevin Gates. He came up in a conversation I had with an industry executive. I don’t know him but that would be interesting. When it comes to working “with” an artist but not signing them, I think Lil Baby would be a great feature. There are some lesser known artists that I would work with but I wouldn’t put their names in this article.

What type of advice would you give to someone looking to get into management or the music industry in general?

That depends on what they want. Do you want your own label? Have your own money. Get the necessary relationships that will move you forward. Watch out for those who offer “services”. There are tons of people that offer all of these services that don’t amount to anything. People name-drop and use their prior affiliations with the majors to siphon money from unsuspecting artists and independent executive. I call it the music industry underbelly. One thing my mentor told me. If they don’t work for the majors anymore, chances are they cant do anything for you because the majors wouldn’t equip them to compete going out the door. If you want to manage an artist. Know they will be like your child. They will need the same thing your child needs. Attention, discipline, money, direction. And they will be rebellious at times depending on what type of relationship they have with their parents. Notice the red flags in their behavior and personality. Look at how hard they work without you. If they’re saying, “Man if I only had his money or their backing or their machine, I would be this or that!”, RUN! It’s just an excuse. For someone trying to get into the music industry in general, go to where the industry is. It’s most likely not in your town. It’s not in the clubs. It’s in the office buildings in Nashville, New York, LA, Atlanta. If you’re the type of person that says, “I don’t want to work for anybody”, this isn’t the industry for you.




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