When we’re young, we all have dreams about what the future will look like and what we want to be when we grow up. Often, these desires start as fantasies and slowly evolve over time, fading due to reality or replaced altogether by what is stable and secure. For Benoni Tagoe, the President and Co-Founder of Raedio – an audio everywhere company, early visions of the future were clear: he wanted to be young and successful and create impact. In his youth, he idolized Dame Dash, Jay-Z, Irv Gotti, and Diddy, and watching these men flourish in the entertainment industry cemented the idea that ‘being a young, successful, black man’ was attainable. As time passed, Benoni grew into his imagined reality, rather than letting reality dissipate his dream. From working with The Jonas Brothers, an ideal job for any young entertainment professional, to being behind some of the most talked about television shows, podcasts, and music artists, he continuously pushed the envelope. He often credits his success to staying grounded, educating himself in multiple areas of the industry, and being in the right places at the right time with the knowledge and experience to support his drive.
When I asked him about the three greatest take-a-ways from is time with The Jonas Brothers and how it affected his life and career choices, his answers – in the form of advice – were simple and to the point: “believe in yourself, have a vision for yourself, and do not give up.” Many people would’ve called this management job a career peak, but Benoni, instead, saw this position as a launch pad. A forward-thinking person, finding and creating opportunities to build – not only his own legacy but by giving other artists “the tools to be successful” in their own right – became his next ambition. When he met Issa Rae, the construction began. Both Benoni and Issa have a deep “affinity for music” – we’ve all seen how the actress/writer/producer/comedian has woven songs into her hit TV show Insecure, so when they conceptualized their company, Raedio, they knew it had to be more than “just a record label.” It had to be more and give more. And that is exactly what they have done.
When I first heard Raedio explained as “audio everywhere,” I had to ask: what does that mean? Well, everything around us has sound. Of course, music is a motivator – from inspiring your morning workout routine to the pump-up jams that get you hype for a night out on the town. But think further: the alarms in our phones, the music in elevators, even the beeps in our cars or on medical machines. Even though we are used to this everyday soundtrack, we never think about the person or company behind the bings, dings, or alerts. When Benoni and Raedio say “audio everywhere,” they truly mean everywhere. This is programming for life. On the front end, Raedio signs artists to their label and finds them placement in household favorite shows like P- Valley, Godfather of Harlem, Sweet Life: Los Angeles, Love&Hip Hop Atlanta, and Just Like That, to name a few. If you’ve watched any of these shows, you’ve probably noticed that the music seamlessly becomes a character of its own. If you’re like me, you may have even added one or two of these tracks to your getting-ready playlist or craved them while sitting in an LA lounge after midnight. But music supervision isn’t all that Benoni and Raedio do. They offer podcasting opportunities for talent and programs, as well as marketing and branding that gives a “lift to any project or show.”
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I asked Benoni what he wanted Raedio to be known for, and again, it was simple but acute: “to be known as a company that did it a little differently, challenged the status quo, and gave artists the tools to be successful.” He explained that “we are entering an era where the thought process of treating artists fairly is a real thing.” Whether you’ve spent time behind the scenes in the music industry – as I have – or only heard the rumors or read the tell-alls, you know that stardom often goes hand in hand with abuse. But this moment of awareness has created the opportunity for a new-normal in entertainment, where artists are recognized for their whole person rather than the prospect of financial return – something Benoni, of course, has always understood.
Seizing the moment, Raedio collaborated with Google to launch the Creators Program, which will introduce new music, provide underrepresented independent female artists with more industry resources, and boost the representation of women of color in the industry. Recently, Dri Jack and Jae Stephens – two of the collaboration’s selections – released their Eps with a warm welcome from Billboard and care and support from Benoni himself. (By the way, ‘Feel a Way’ from Dri Jack’s The Other Side EP is officially my new nightlife jam!) When I dug into why it is important for Benoni to advocate for people of color, he remarked on his own story: “I didn’t have a lot of figures around me in my personal life, that I could look up to,” he said. For me, a black female designer/stylist/writer working in entertainment, it wasn’t an unfamiliar sentiment, yet it was a profound reminder in its own way. I realized he is truly building a place for people who look like him and sound like him: the characters in the shows he oversees are driven and passionate about their future, battling reality’s woes to hold onto and fulfill their dreams. By creating these avenues as well as new ventures, including but not limited to an E-learning platform, Benoni has become more than a manager, a music supervisor, or even the president of one of the most forward-thinking ‘labels’ of this generation. He is what’s next. He is the future of sound.