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How to know if an artist has what it takes to become a star

When Island Records Founder Chris Blackwell sat down with Yahoo Finance’s Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, they discussed his “instinct” for picking an artist out from the crowd.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: You've discovered so many important artists. We mentioned Bob Marley. Of course, there's Steve Wynwood and later U2. How do you know, Chris, if an artist has what it takes to become a star?

CHRIS BLACKWELL: Well, you don't know. You have an instinct really of how you feel-- how you feel, basically what they are like. And you get a feel of them. And also, you know, they would have in some cases a manager. In some cases, they don't have a manager.

If they had somebody who was a really good manager that was always a key and important thing because my role was to work with them, to pick the music in a way, to in some cases, be involved a bit with the music. That the manager was somebody really who needed to be responsible for the artist's life in a way and business. So a lot a lot would really depend on that.

ANDY SERWER: So you really put Bob Marley and others-- Bob Marley and the Wailers-- other reggae groups out onto the national-- international stage, I should say. What is it about reggae as opposed to some other international music that was so compelling to the world? I mean, in other words, why did reggae click when you worked with some other African acts and they didn't resonate the same way?

CHRIS BLACKWELL: Well, for a start, reggae is pretty much in English. And a lot of the African artists, they didn't speak English. So that would be part of it. But some-- I think that would be the main part actually.

ANDY SERWER: Interesting. What is it about artists and authenticity? You know, some people are posers, right? Some people are the real deal. Is that ultimately really important for an artist to be an authentic individual?

CHRIS BLACKWELL: Well, it's-- I sort of operate on my instinct, you know? And so it's-- that means you sort of really getting a feel for what you feel that artist is interested in and what they're about. If you feel, you're on the same track or if you're in different odds.

And it's all of those elements which are important. That you need to get a feel, is that something that you're gonna be able to work with, and get along with, and have pretty much the same direction you're aiming? So I would say that would be the main thing.