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Building His Empire

Building His Empire

From albums to barbershops, Joe Flizzow’s latest entrepreneurial venture is the School of Music which promises an enriching musical experience for all.

Award-winning hip-hop singer and songwriter Johan Ishak, better known as Joe Flizzow, is as much an accomplished entrepreneur as he is an artiste. 

His latest venture is a music school, categorically named School of Music, located at Malaysia’s first enrichment mall The School, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya. It has not been officially launched yet but has been accepting students of all ages and backgrounds for about two months.  There are already more than 80 students who walked in and signed up.

School of Music is not your conventional music school. With a hip and swanky ambience, classrooms named after rock stars, a large dance studio, a recording studio and DJ counter still under construction, it spells an element of energy and fun, just as Joe intends it to be.

The courses available include pop rock guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and vocals, as well as piano and pop violin. There are a variety of dance classes such as Creative Art Movement, Street Jazz, Hip Hop and Bboys.

“We plan to introduce DJ training courses soon, not just for those who want to enter the profession but also for younger people who have an interest in it,” says Joe, citing that being a DJ is one of the most lucrative professions in the music industry these days.

“We have similar fundamentals as most other music schools. But what we differ is that our teachers are experienced artistes, musicians and producers from the industry,” he says, but declines to reveal any names at the moment.

When asked what spurred him to start a music school, Joe answers that one should not underestimate the educational benefits of music.

“Growing up, I really looked forward to my music classes. Music education is important because it teaches something that school does not teach you. The set up of our educational system is test and exam-based. Music education not only enhances one’s cognitive skills but also teaches you confidence.”

Above all, he wanted to venture into something new, something that is his passion.

“This school is for anyone, we accept students from 5 to 85! We want to give everyone the chance to learn music in a fun and conducive environment,” he says.

School of Music, being set up by professionals in the industry, would offer something different from the rest. For instance, Joe says while other music schools give out certificates during graduations, they would `immortalise’ the moment in recording.

“During our graduations, we would record the performance into a music video on MP3 or CD, so that it would be something memorable and [to be] proud [of] for the students.”

Joe has exciting plans for School of Music. They include having collaboration with international schools for accreditations, master classes conducted by well-known international artistes, and live DJ sessions with some top DJs in the country.

“We will also have a Board of Advisory containing people from the industry – award-winning producers and songwriters, and graduates from top music schools in the world,” elaborates Joe. “Some of them are people who have helped me grow as an artiste - my mentors who have guided me along the way.”

For the setting up of School of Music, Joe and his business partners are grateful for the support and funding fromMyCreative Ventures, a government initiative to finance business ventures in the creative industry.

“We approached them and shared with them our business plan for the school. They liked it and we became one of their recipients for funding. I would encourage new creative start-ups to approach MyCreative Ventures which offers good loans and incentives,” adds Joe.

Besides setting up the school, Joe is back in the studio again recording a new album. At the same time, he has been very busy with his barbershops. Joe's chain of barbershops is one of the first to revamp the barbershop concept to appeal to the generation of today. He discloses that he would be opening a seventh outlet in Wangsa Maju later in October.

“As an artiste, I have always been on the business side of the music. Being a businessman in the music industry gives me the flexibility – not reliant on a recording company or another party for my success,” says the founder and CEO of Kartel Records.

His passion for music has not wavered over the years but he says what’s changed is the landscape of hip hop – it’s become more acceptable although the stereotypical view of a hip hop artiste still exists. One of his missions is to change the perception of the general public on hip hop.

In July this year, Joe went for a two-week course at Harvard Business School. Sponsored by the Malaysian Film Development Corporation (FINAS), he attended a short course on the Business of Entertainment, Media and Sports at the American university in Boston.

He says it was an invaluable experience and the course opened up his eyes and mind to many things in the entertainment business.

“In the music world, there is no such thing as a guidebook. There is no school you can go to that makes you an artiste. Whether you can make it or not, it depends on you.”

“I see myself as a big fish in a small pond. The music business is not a multi-billion ringgit industry but someone has to do it,” he says. “From the business point of view, I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I hope the small moves I make will add up to something.”

For School of Music, his hope is simply this: that he is able to open up more branches of the school in other states, so that more people can learn music.

By Chow Ee-Tan