Emoni Matthews is a woman on a mission to change the face of the entertainment industry. An experienced sync professional and creative music agency co-founder, she is the brainchild behind The TBL, a new SXSW-style conference for Black film and TV professionals.
We recently caught up with Emoni to learn more…
Can you talk us through your history in the industry?
I started in the sync world professionally in 2016. However, my most influential internship was with Hunnypot Unlimited with John Anderson and Jeff Gray. They really showed me the ropes and introduced me to a lot of my clients that I still have today. Once I graduated from Norfolk State University in 2016, I moved straight to LA and hustled by working temp admin jobs and working in bars until I landed a position at Extreme Music (Sony/ATV). After two years at Extreme, I transitioned to Rostrum Records to spearhead the creation of Drip Library, an urban production music library, and handled their creative sync.
In 2019 I moved to a startup called House Studios and under their house music group division I was able to music supervise/ coordinate for the Kevin Durant project Basketball County: In The Water that aired on Showtime. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, my time spent at House Studios was short lived. This encouraged me to take that leap and start my own company, Blaze Unlimited. Blaze is a creative music agency that I created with my cofounder Jake Vicious, a Grammy Award winning engineer and a Recording Academy governor for DC.
We focus on helping independent artists get affordable label services without the label commitment. This includes mixing, mastering, artist development, digital marketing, creative rollouts and of course creative licensing services. I really found my niche in these past years and fully enjoy helping young artists learn about the sync industry and monetize their music while maintaining their passion. We also offer music supervision and coordinating services as well.
Why did you decide to launch The TBL?
The TBL (Table) was created in June after Blackout Tuesday. Honestly, I was very frustrated after all the zoom calls and meetings that I attended that day. I felt like there were all these resources that some of our colleagues and executives knew about but did not decide to share or learn more about until the world made us all look at ourselves in the mirror. Therefore, I was moved to create a specific opportunity for Black creatives and executives that really implemented change and true diversity within our sync community and the TV and film community at large. After partnering with Liquid Soul marketing agency and 24 Seven Artist it was clear The TBL was a necessity and missing link for the next Black generation of executives and filmmakers.
“I was moved to create a specific opportunity for Black creatives and executives that really implemented change and true diversity within our sync community and the TV and film community at large.”
Tell us about the conference – what’s the goal? What topics will it address?
The TBL is a fully vetted and curated conference for Black creatives and future executives – that’s what makes us special. Our goal is not to just create opportunities for creatives but also people who are interested in HR, IT, finance and other roles needed to bring a story to life. Each candidate goes through an application process designed to read pass the resume and focus on their talent, potential and goals. We accept three different levels of applicants: high school, collegiate and post-college/professionals. We have an application process because the top 600 candidates who are selected by our internal HR team and recruiting partners do not pay for this conference. Instead, our sponsors and donors pay for the virtual avatar conference experience.
We have in 10 points of interest including acting, screenwriting, business operations (sponsored by Diverse Representation), animation (sponsored by the BRIC foundation), synchronization/music, director/producer, marketing communications, fashion in TV and film (costumers, MUAs, stylists) and editors. They receive an experience that is unlike any other conference because they attend hands-on and interactive master classes taught by industry leaders with the main goal to teach the candidates what they wanted to learn when they were starting out in the industry. Those topics range based on their tracks, but a few things will be taught universal. Financial literacy, how to freelance, networking and the power of their presence are just a few examples of universal topics.
“They receive an experience that is unlike any other conference because they attend hands-on and interactive master classes taught by industry leaders.”
Our candidates also have the opportunity to be interviewed for full time positions add internships by big and small recruiting partners. Last but not least, each candidate will also leave with a mentor within their field. We are very blessed and excited about our speakers. A few highlights are Justin Cornwell who just starred in Jingle Jangle on Netflix, Gwen Riley, the SVP of Music for Peloton, screenwriter of NBC’s This Is Us and Queen Sugar Kay Oyegun, co-executive producer of Netflix’s The Get Down and CBS’s S.W.A.T. Aaron Thomas, costume concept artist for Wrinkle of Time, Black Panther, Justice League and plenty more, Phillip Boutte.
Where can we find more information about the event?
For applications and more information, you can visit our website Thetbl.co
We are also on Instagram @thetblconference
A number of initiatives have been launched to support Black creators in the music industry and other creative sectors. Are we doing enough?
I believe this is a tough question because what is enough? We are on the right path and we should hold each other accountable to stay on that path towards equality and diversity. “Enough” doesn’t seem like a solution, so I hope we do more than enough and try to solve the problem for good and be disruptive by building a new norm and industry culture. This also only happens by allyship and community support towards these initiatives. We can build and create but if the community does not support, it is all in vain.
Drawing on your experience in the industry so far, what needs to change?
I’ve had a very non-traditional path while in the industry. However, I did have a common intro to the industry. I had to be introduced and validated to my current clients and peers by older white men. Although I love my mentors, the referral system really keeps the sync industry from being inclusive. If your community of friends and trusted universities are not diverse then your applicants/candidates will not be diverse.
I encourage our sync entities, small and large, to make a conscious effort to utilize the pipelines and the list that my community and allies are creating. Use them to hire future executives and not just focus on Black musicians and creatives. Use them to take on mentees and interns and be willing to guide the next generation. Give these new initiatives such as The TBL a try and recruit through us. The goal is not just diversity hires. The goal is a shift in our habits, recruiting processes and overall culture. Because that would bring true change with longevity.
“The goal is not just diversity hires. The goal is a shift in our habits, recruiting processes and overall culture. Because that would bring true change with longevity.”
Who are your industry heroes?
I am inspired by many people in the sync world!
In the spirit of Woman’s Month, I’ll mention the women who inspire me.
Gwen Riley is definitely one woman I admire. Not only is she my mentor but she is just a boss. She’s the epitome of being ambitious and going after what she wants with true passion. She killed the Beyoncé deal for Peloton and I just get excited to see her get the flowers that she deserves.
Another woman that inspires me is Morgan Rhodes. She is the true definition of music supervisor. She works on meaningful projects and literally does it for the culture. She also goes outside the box when it comes to music selection and remains a creative through the whole process. She is honestly one of the only reasons I am excited to see Space Jam 2.
Last but certainly not least Yvette Metoyer. Yvette is one of those supervisors who you love because they are pure positive energy and full of compassion. I’m so very proud to watch her create her own lane and dynasty with Sounds in Color Music.