How Donte Fletcher Got His Start and Became His Own Boss
Today, in the digital age, many up and coming people in the music or entertainment industry are young entrepreneurs who utalize a combination of technology, education, and networking to their fullest ability. One person that is making his dreams a reality is Marlyand native Donte Fletcher.
Donte Fletcher is an audio engineer, studio owner, and entrepreneur living in Hyattsville, Maryland. He recently spoke with us about how he got his start in music and fashion. He’s been involved with music since he was in 3rd grade. Before high school he played clarinet, trumpet, and taught himself to play piano. Production didn’t come until after high school. After high school he fell more into the music but still wasn’t chasing it. He really just wanted to produce and make beats. Always planning his next move he realized the engineer makes good money and you can go to school for it. The plan was to major in audio engineering and make money from beats on the side.
After attending New England School of Communications (NESCom), he fell in love with engineering and putting songs together. But it's not just the music he has a passion for, it's also fashion. As a self-proclaimed hustler, it doesn’t matter what he sells whether it be music or clothes. Putting his lifestyle on the clothes was an outlet and it seemed to connect with some people. Today, many kids underestimate the difficulties in doing this. It's more than putting a logo on a t-shirt; even on his own clothing, Xskwizit Lifestyle, the tagline is “More Than a Brand.”
While interning in New York Donte decided to put the clothing line on hiatus for about a year to master engineering and get where he needs to be in music. He’s not done with clothing though. He plans on releasing new designs in the future. The clothing isn’t about the quick flip he says, it’s about longevity and just trusting the process. He credits his small success of turning a profit to being authentic.
He says it’s not about the money. He was in the hole for the first 2 years after starting the brand.
"there are things behind the scenes that cost you."
It’s the experiences and the people who wear them that matter to him. Although not the most popular clothing brand, the fact that people he doesn’t know are buying makes it worth it to Donte.
After graduating from the NESCom he moved back to Maryland and worked various odd jobs including bagging groceries only making tips, and working on a pizza truck. He was interning at G-Town Studios for the summer but decided to make a major move come September. He packed his bags with a friend to interview for a position in New York. His friend was tattooing out of the hotel while he sold his clothes out of the hotel. The interview was only 5 minutes. Interning at the Cutting Room Studios in New York was the eye-opening experience he needed to get motivated for the future. After meeting bigger artists and learning from the studio manager for a few months he knew it was time to start his own studio. A major artist he met before leaving was Ryan Leslie, as a shoe collector he noticed Ryan’s shoes. After hearing about a crazy deal in the studio, he decided to sell all his shoes and open a studio in Maryland.
At first he still worked at G-Town and Audio Illusions. Now, he’s working in his own studio. He fell in love with the freedom of having your own studio. And when it came to deciding between a place to live and a studio, he chose to invest in the studio. The choice was clear: if he could only afford one or the other, the studio was more important because you can always find somewhere else to sleep. The risk was worth it.
After opening up The Trap Factory, major artists from the area went from being an idol of Donte's to a client. DMV area rapper Lightshow has worked with Donte on a few tracks recently.
Building relationships and networking is key. It's all about who you know and Donte took full advantage of that after sending a snippet through to Lightshow’s associate. After being a fan for years it was time to work with the man. "They were looking for engineers so I sent [Lightshow] a snippet . . . I think it was the "Cut It" remix we recorded, when we mixed it he said it was going straight to the clubs."
When it comes to starting a creative company today Donte says you should stay authentic. But also, figure out what it is you want to do and find a way to get it yourself. Find the right avenue for you.
As far as influences goes he says, “Jay-Z, his whole demeanor. Pharrell and Ryan Leslie, there's a bunch, just how people move. I read a lot of books and information is key.”
When asked about Hip-hop today and the outlook for the future Donte says it isn’t just trash, but it’s not what you’d love to see either. For some, he knows the talent and trend setters are especially around DC. “It’s too much swag, too much culture. It’s on the up and up, I like it.”
When I asked what his favorite part about being his own boss was he said it’s the freedom and creativity. There is no definite way to do anything. A typical weekend schedule could include sessions from 7PM-3AM, then working live sound from 7AM- 3PM and going back to the studio after that.
He doesn’t need to be famous and known by everybody, but says to be known by his favorite artist would be an achievement. To be up there mentioned with Rick Rubin, Kanye and other producers.
“To be great is to be timeless...I know we can’t live forever, the goal is to create something that will”
As far as short-term goals he tells us to be on the lookout for the artists he’s working with now like Lil Big Borther, Al Chike, TaeLives and others.