Jacob York

Interview with Jacob York: How to Successfully Change Careers

For many, changing careers can be a frightening experience. If you plan correctly, this may ease the angst. Jacob York is a successful entrepreneur that spent decades in the music industry, and decided to switch his career and jump whole heartedly into the film industry.
Written By: Adam Higgins

“There’s never a reason not to keep your word."

Watch any open credits to your favorite films. As the film lures you into the story, a list of actors’ names appear on the screen. You will also notice the title produced by appear too. Giving credit where credit is due. A producer is responsible for making the movie happen whether via financing or day to day activities.

Jacob York, a film producer, founded Electric Republic, a media company that creates independent films.  In 2015, Electric Republic released their first theatrical film Brotherly Love in 250 theaters. Brotherly Love is a classic West Side Story-esque, a intricate love story set in the violent climate of Philadelphia, and casted to appeal to millennials. Brotherly Love is precisely an example of the type of content Electric Republic wants to produce. The niche is quality films for millennials.

Electric Republic is a childhood vison of York’s that did not materialize until decades later. He spent the majority of his career in the music industry producing and managing artists. He spent years developing key relationships in the entertainment industry by brokering film deals for his music artists. York has an ah ha moment and decides to make a career change. He leverages his network. Taps into initial childhood dream, and jumps into the film industry.

“I remember when I was ten I wanted to create this thing called Electric Republic. I had this concept in my head that anything that needed to be plugged in, I would help to create content for it.”

York, a Brooklyn native is a born entrepreneur. His mother and father was both entrepreneurs. Often working with his mother who was a CPA, on accounting and balancing ledgers, or working with his grandmother in her restaurant gave him the springboard to be an entrepreneur.

“Having a couple of jobs as I got older, I realized I didn’t like listening to people,” he says laughingly. “Being an entrepreneur was the best course of action for me.”

York spent the early part of his entertainment career working in marketing and event promotions. He was bated into the music industry by a professional diminishing his current marketing promotions job, and stating event promotions was not real entertainment. That challenged York to dive into the music industry.

The proximity of relationships is his segue into the music industry allows York’s career to flourish. He interns with his first cousin, Kedar Massenburg, who had a management and production company at the time, and later went on to be the president of Motown Record in the late 1990s.

While working and learning under Massenburg, he meets Lance "Un" Rivera. Meanwhile, his long time next door neighbor and friend, Notorious B.I.G’s career starts to blow up like he thought it would. The men collaborate together, and York helps produce the early Junior Mafia and Lil Kim projects.

“I always liked to build. I always liked to create. The music industry gave me opportunity to create these marketing strategies and records.”

After starting and selling Untertainment that he co-founded with Rivera, he moves to Atlanta. He freelances as a consultant for major record labels, and was responsible for or involved in 85% of the music deals made in Atlanta between 2001 and 2007.

“I had to learn the business itself. You have to understand the politics of the business. How the industry is structured? How the industry buys? I had to learn.”

Soon York starts to fall out of love with the music industry. The love dissipated as it became less about creating and more about business transactions.

“I said to myself ‘I made the money. I built reputation. I’ve made the mistakes. So now it’s important for me to look at the future, and take on this Electric Republic thing I always wanted to do.’”

York’s transitions was not abrupt disconnect and reboot. Rather it was a slow and methodical transition over an eight year period. He collects all the necessary data points and devises a calculated entrance strategy into the film industry.

First step was education. Music business is different from film industry. Although he has produced several music videos, music videos production does not directly correlate to film production. 

“I had to learn the business itself. You have to understand the politics of the business. How the industry is structured? How the industry buys? There’s more mediums for movies then music. I had to learn.”

He reads several books regarding the industry.

He also marries the theoretical application from the books with practicality by visiting film sets. Many of his colleagues made the transition to the film industry too. He leverages networks, and spends days on sets, which immerses him into the film production process. On set, he has the ability to ask questions and observe first hand. He can visually see all the roles and responsibilities of each job on the set.

Next step was to establish a business model. Using prior knowledge from the music industry, he devises a plan to bring the similar independent music mind set to film making, and Master P the film industry. The key is to make the film lucrative for the buyers. The resulting strategy is to create $2 million independent films. With some independent films costing $20 million, the Electric Republic price point makes an easier pre-sell to buyers.

“I wanted to dedicate the content mostly to millennials. I felt they were under programed, and a low hanging fruit. I grew up watching Love and Basketball, Coming to America, Sixteen Candles, and Boys N the Hood. I don’t see that content being created for that audience as much as it should.”

In 2014, Electric Republic produces a direct to Netflix film, Percentage. The crime drama was on consistent play amongst NetFlixers, and became number one in 2014.

The music and film industry is known to be the epitome of a cut throat business. The key to York’s consistency and success is his word and convictions.

“There’s never a reason not to keep your word. A lot of people talk about work ethic, and that’s all great. But I think you stand by what you stand by. If I say we’re on the same team, we’re on the same team. Someone can offer me $100 million on the other side, but I’d stay with my team. Maybe that prevented me from being a billionaire, but I can sleep at night.”