It's name a recognizable in virtually any genre of the music business. Quincy Jones, that is.
And the digital era is ushering in a new generation of the family tradition with Quincy D. Jones III, the son of the Grammy award-winning producer and music legend.
QD3, as he's known (the "D" stands for Delight, his middle name), is trying to make a name all his own by bringing sophisticated urban and hip-hop related video entertainment into the digital era.
Things look good so far. He's partnered with a former Microsoft Corp. executive to launch his company, QD3 Entertainment, and already has cut a number of deals.
There's a first-look TV arrangement with Black Entertainment Television, a video-on-demand channel launched with Comcast Corp., a distribution agreement with Image Entertainment Inc. and a wireless content deal with Amp'd Mobile Inc.
"There are only a few lanes in urban programming right now music and sports, really," Jones said. "We want to widen that outlet: travel, fine arts, things like that.
This week, the company's Web site will launch what Jones III describes as a mix of YouTube and MTV's "Overdrive" site, which includes videos, shorts and other network content. (His partner Paul Campbell helped launch the MTV site.)
"YouTube is a free-for-all and MTV is like a dictatorship," Jones said. "Ours will be a mix; users upload their video but we lead the conversation."
Site users must agree to give QD3 the rights to use their content once it's uploaded, giving the company more content for its distribution deals not that it necessarily needs it.
QD3 Entertainment already has more than 1,500 hours of urban footage in its library, including the Tupac Shakur biopic "Thug Angel," distributed by Image, and the popular DVDs and BET television version of the "Beef" documentaries about feuding musicians, celebrities and athletes.
John Forbes, director of the non profit Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center, noted that as studios have conglomerated, there are fewer overall outlets for urban programming, unless they are willing to make the foray into digital media.
"That means people don't have to pay as much attention to the six or seven major studios to make their movies happen, they will come to the producers once it's out there," Forbes said. "But the downside is that the content won't have the same exposure or cache for longer, and the big money will come later."
A touring breakdancer as a teen, Jones' love of dance led to an interest in music that's given him an impressive resume; he's produced albums for rappers Ice Cube, L.L. Cool J and Queen Latifah.
Despite his musical chops, trying to break into the hip hop world where image is everything and "street cred," or ghetto reputation, is directly tied to perception was particularly tough for the Swedish-born American, whose mother is Swedish model Ulla Andersson.
"The perception was that because I was Quincy Jones' son I wasn't close to the streets, so wasn't well qualified to do hip hop or rap," Jones said. "You can never step into a great man's shoes. I picked my love, what satisfied me as a human, and subsequently success came out of it."
Jones' and his company's success came with the first series of 12 direct-to-DVD documentary releases about hip-hop culture.
A deal with urban content heavyweight Image Entertainment Inc., which has a solid base of African American and hip hop content, precipitated the breakthrough.
The Chatsworth distributor took a chance in 2001 and financed the projects, which were completed in three years. The deal, which is expected to be renewed in a few weeks, gives Image a straight distribution fee for each release, according to Jones.
Barry Gordon, Image's vice president of sales, said that QD3's content stood out in a crowded field.
"Urban programming is not at all an underserved market," said Gordon. "You have to be very selective. It's an opportunity and also a responsibility to filter through all the things out there to acquire the best of what's available."
The "Beef" videos, which first were distributed on DVD, were so popular on the streets that when African American programming powerhouse BET caught wind of them, it bought the rights and commissioned a TV series based on the DVDs, which have sold as many as 300,000 units per release.
"We just don't want to do contrived content, especially as it pertains to hip hop; it's a culture thing," said Kevin Morrison, BET's director of development.
Now, QD3 plans to focus evenly on leveraging the programming in its library and producing new work largely short-form programming with African American roots, including comedy pieces.
The company, financed for now by the founders, friends and family with "less than a few million," said Campbell, who is former director of business development for Microsoft's digital media division.
"We are fortunate that the network of people we can touch with QD's background and my background could really help us," said Campbell, who is looking to complete a first round of venture funding by the end of the year for "less than a few million."
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