A business built on beats and songs
When Cameron Nelson started Syndicate Music Group in 2011, you could say that music was in his blood. His father, Craig Dion, was on the Minneapolis Sound circuit in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s playing drums and even backing up Mint Condition.
“I was exposed to this industry early on, you know,” said 35-year-old Nelson. “I got my first keyboard for Christmas when I was five years old. As a kid, I rewired my headphones and made a microphone so my karaoke machine had the ability to record. I didn’t even know what I was doing at the time, but I was producing. From that point, it just kind of snowballed.”
Syndicate Music Group makes beats (music tracks used by hip hop artists) and writes songs, which it sells to recording companies and artists. In turn, the company gets producer and songwriter credits for the beats and songs it produces.
MSR: When did you realize you were making beats and the business started to come together?
CN: Probably when my sister and I formed a band. It was then that I realized I’m actually recording tracks. It wasn’t top-tier like what we’re working on now, but I understood the basic concepts early on. Probably when I was like eight, nine, or 10, I was getting the concept. As my experience, knowledge, and my equipment grew, I was able to learn and get to that industry-standard level.
MSR: How does your business impact the community?
CN: So as a part of Syndicate Music Group, we partnered with a friend of mine and we developed a nonprofit organization called No Locked Doors. What we did with that program, or nonprofit, is we started community outreach.
And we did a couple of music programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs—one at Powderhorn and Powell. So we have one running over South [Minneapolis] and one over North. And then there’s an afterschool, summer school type of setting. We meet three days a week and teach kids how to become entrepreneurs. We use the arts— you know, rap music, videos, cameras, editing and engineering.
MSR: What is your most popular product or service?
CN: Music is the main thing—just the production stuff that we create.
MSR: What artists have you worked with that someone would recognize?
CN: I did some work on Mint Conditions’ last holiday album that they produced a few years back called “Healing Season.” Normally, when I produce or sell beats, I put, like, a specific stamp on the beat so you can hear it in the first seven bars of the song. That’s how they can recognize my music and they just listen to the beat. It’s like a little stamp or tag. But I’ve worked with many local artists.
MSR: What has been your biggest challenge in owning a business?
CN: Not biting off more than I can chew with running a multimedia company,
MSR: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?
CN: Just the recognition. I think, honestly, when Mint Condition was nominated for that Grammy back in, I think it was 2017. Helping them out with two or three out of the 10 songs that they had on the album, I think it’s my biggest accomplishment at this point.
MSR: What does success look like for you?
CN: Ideally, I’d like to get some type of production deal. Whether that’s with a record company or some sync licensing [synchronizing music with any form of visual media], where I can sustain it on my own and not have to worry about working nine-to-five. I want to be able to do this full-time and not worry about where the next meal is coming from.
MSR: Did the pandemic change anything?
CN: Temporarily. There weren’t any shows going on for a while. A lot of people had to pivot and that’s where social media kind of blew everything up. These 10-15 second TikTok clips kind of changed the game and kind of changed the music.
But me personally, with the pandemic I was kind of grounded at home, and it forced me to just get creative and find different ways to stay busy and stay working.
MSR: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
CN: I don’t mean to sound corny or cheesy, but if you dream it you can achieve it.
When I was eight or nine, playing drums, I always secretly pictured myself at the Grammys accepting my award. Speak it into existence. Say it so many times that it’s embedded in your mind. Don’t give up. There are those days that things don’t work out. But push through it because those are the moments that count. And that can change your life.