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Ellerbee’s unconventional way of dealing with artists comes from his mother who taught him and his two brothers and five sisters survival techniques and from mimicking Motown founder Barry Gordy’s work ethic.
“My background is in fashion, but I always wanted to have a learning institution where people who look like me could come and get what Berry Gordy put out in the 60s—education, stimulation, knowledge of how to exist in this music business.
“My mother believed in me when no one else did and I had an appreciation for what she taught me. I never knew we were poor,” Ellerbee said. “My mother did what she had to do to get the family to move forward. She did what she had to do and I am not mad at her.”
He’d always had a fondness for drawing, sketching and sewing. Ellerbee began selling women’s clothing during his early teenage years. At the age of 16 he began modeling and raised enough money to go to Paris where he stayed for two and a half years before returning stateside and graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
After graduating, Ellerbee began selling his wares, which consisted of prom dresses and one-of-a-kind clothing, in high-end department stores like Lord and Taylor.
Ellerbee’s foray into music began when he was blessed with the opportunity to meet four-time Grammy winner James Mtume who wrote the hits “Juicy Fruit,” “Never Knew Love Like This Before” and “Killing Me Softly.” Ellerbee met Mtume through his wife who was a designer and would frequently attend Ellerbee’s fashion shows.
He ended up working for the couple, designing Mtume’s album cover and ultimately managing him.
Mtume had a production deal with Sony Music and Ellerbee got the chance to manage some of Mtume’s artists. That led to Ellerbee scoring the major motion picture, “Native Son” which had Oprah Winfrey in it.
Ellerbee has noticed a lot of changes in the entertainment business during his 40 years in its trenches.
“I’ve seen the demise of the industry. We had numerous record companies and we had a Black music division and we don’t have all of that anymore,” Ellerbee said. “Now there are a lot of independent record companies out there for young people trying to get record deals. African-American music is heading back to real music with real singers. There’s a whole lot of money to be made in this business, you just need to know how to play the game.”
Ellerbee is currently working on a reality television show for VH-1 which will tell the ins and outs of the often fickle music business.
“It will be an entertaining show that will serve as an educational tool to show people what happens in the music business and what it takes to stay in this business,” Ellerbee said.
When he’s not talking about the new reality show, Ellerbee can be found working at Double XXposure.
“I work seven days a week. I do everything at Double XXposure. I don’t have a business manager. I write my own checks. I sign my own checks. I wind up doing everything from marketing to crisis management. My company is like a supermarket where you can go down the aisle and select the information and the expertise that you want,” Ellerbee said.
(For more information on Ellerbee or Double XXposure visit www.doublexxnyc.com.)
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