The actor-turned-music mogul gets real about the challenges of running Careless
Today, Careless is running like a well-oiled automobile. With new leadership, the company was able to thrive during the unexpected rise of the coronavirus. “Because of the pandemic, we had to shift our whole business model. Our whole thing was about making music and getting paid to do gigs. I mean, that’s a musician’s life! But no going outside meant no more contact with people. The lockdown really shook everything up. We had to think of ways to move forward given all the restrictions,” said James.
Just like coal, diamonds were produced from the pressures of difficult times. Careless quickly had to evolve. They started off by establishing a company around Lox, one of their partners who would shoot all the music videos for their roster of artists. The company, which they called The Finest, became the label’s video production arm, producing all of their online content and video needs. James says they also found new avenues to help their acts stay visible and relevant during the pandemic. Activities like brand partnerships and podcasts kept artists busy, and the company financially healthy.
Although they found new ways to make money last year, the Careless team never forgot about their original passion—music. Instead of falling into a quarantine funk, they remained productive in continuing to stretch their musical abilities. The latter part of 2020 culminated in the launch of Nadine’s album Wildest Dreams (released last October), which James calls the company’s first big risk during the pandemic. All the hard work paid off, because the response and reception to the album shattered their expectations. “It turned out to be an amazing success,” he shares with a smile on his face.
“She got to make the album that she was proud of, and we didn’t have to compromise the artistry.”— James Reid
A CHILD OF THE REVOLUTION
At the end of the day, what is most important to James is that no matter the circumstance, the identity of their art is never lost. They long to remain a fully independent label without the pressures of having to release anything without their seal of approval. “In the [mainstream] creative industry, if you want to make money, you have to sacrifice the creative side. But that’s not what we’re trying to do [with Careless]. We want the best of both worlds.”
Despite his passion for going against the grain, James admits that he still feels gratitude for everything ABS-CBN has done for him. In fact, he mentions that Careless and the Kapamilya company still do collaborations together. But unlike the old days, they are now able to find common ground, resulting into content that pleases ABS-CBN executives, their legion of viewers, and the record label’s artistic integrity. James has nothing but good words to say about his former network home. He even recalled a milestone for Careless, wherein the studio gave them the opportunity to produce ASAP’s very first outsourced segment. “I don’t think that’s ever happened before us,” he says with fondness.
Still, the young star stands firm on his decision that his life needs to be ran the way he wishes it to be. “I never had a business mindset,” he began. “I was never the one pulling the strings. I was always the puppet! I just did what people told me to do, and I didn’t ask questions. Because of that, I never tried to understand the business side of things. I never knew what kind of position I was in. Until now.” Don’t get him wrong, there was absolutely no pride in James’ voice when he said any of this to me. He was just speaking as an ambitious young man, hungry to make the very best of the good opportunities he has been blessed with. He may seem like a rebel at times, but he has a very clear cause: to change music and chase the artistic life he thinks he was born to lead.
“When it comes to my music and my image, I’m going to fight for things that I want or feel is right. And not just for myself, but for all our Careless artists,” he says with a glimmer in his eye. As we said our goodbyes, I realized that James Reid had finally grown up. He was no longer that teeny bopper poster boy, but now the face of a new musical revolution.