Janelle Monae is Building Her Own Empire

Janelle Monáe wants the world to know that Wondaland Records, the singer-songwriter-producer's new venture with Sony Music Entertainment's Epic Records, is not merely a record label—it's a movement.

Wondaland is "a joint dream in which a group of artists set out to swim towards a boat all together—and in some ways, I'm a lifeguard," says Monáe, 29, the Kansas City native who grabbed our attention in 2010 with her critically hailed debut, The ArchAndroid, and who would go on to become a face of Procter & Gamble's CoverGirl, alongside Katy Perry and Pink. She is also a juror for this year's Clio Music Awards.

Atlanta-based Wondaland reps an utterly cool lineup of acts, including Jidenna, whose debut single "Classic Man" dropped last month.

Wondaland's superstars-to-be, photographed at the new label's home base in Atlanta (l. to r.): Jidenna; Alex Belle, from St. Beauty; Roman GianArthur; Isis Valentino, from St. Beauty; and, from Deep Cotton, Nate "Rocket" Wonder and Chuck Lightning. | Photo: Harold Daniels

Epic chairman and CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid—a longtime force in the music industry who has helped build the careers of stars from Paula Abdul to Kanye West—calls Monáe a "visionary businesswoman" and the talent her label represents "awe-inspiring. I haven't personally witnessed a collective that sounds and looks this special in quite a while."

Adweek asked Monáe about the challenges of marketing new music and artists today:

Adweek: What inspired you to start the label now?
Monáe: In general, I was inspired to start Wondaland Records after seeing there was a big absence of female entrepreneurs in the music industry who understand how to develop and market innovative artists, artists who truly care about community and redefining the creative waters in the music industry. I've always been inspired to do more than just be an artist in the industry and treasured businesswomen such as Julie Greenwald and Sylvia Rhone, and admired artists such as Madonna and what she did with Maverick Records.

I want to be recognized for not only my innovation musically, but for innovations on the business end. That said, this specific record label is the result of a joint effort, a joint dream in which a group of artists set out to swim towards a boat all together. And in some ways, I'm a lifeguard, a master facilitator, making sure that everyone has their own water and space to swim in and that nobody is left behind. Wondaland Records is our boat, our beacon—it's like home.

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