If you ask Henny Yegezu about his career, he’ll admit that his accomplishments beyond exceeded his expectations when he started nearly a decade ago.
At 31, Henny has laid a cultural foundation within the music business as the co-CEO and founder of EQT (Equative Thinking), an LA-based management company and label. The EQT team is a team of 10 between LA and New York, with a roster that includes Smino, Masego, GoldLink, Monte Booker, Berhana, JPEG Mafia, as well as a handful of other artists, producers, and songwriters.
“I had no real idea of what I was doing,” Henny said, candidly. “I just knew that I was organized enough, I had enough drive, and really cared about the music. Then, I learned over time to put the right pieces around me.”
In high school, he experimented with being a rapper. Though his dreams of being the talent were short-lived, he discovered that he had a knack for the business side of music.
His curiosity in working behind-the-scenes led him to book Mac Miller’s first show in D.C. in 2010. The show was a success, and Henny quickly got approval from the venue to continue booking. His talent as a savvy concert promoter helped him build relationships with artists and their teams.
But while Henny was green about the prospect of carving out a career, the music industry as a whole was suffering.
“If you’re 27 to 35 years old, we’re the generation who came up when everyone was saying don’t work in music,” Henny said. “Streaming didn’t exist yet, [all the money] was in touring, deals were a lot smaller, and people were saying the music industry kind of sucks. But because we were music fans we stuck with it and figured it out.”
He eventually moved from concert promotion to management. He recalls meeting an 18-year-old GoldLink just days after he graduated from Hayfield High. Henny began developing the budding rapper’s career, leading him to lay the foundation for EQT.
Though confident in his capabilities as a leader, Henny had the foresight to know he wouldn’t be able to build his company on his own. One of his strong points early in his career was his ability to build a team to help fill in the gaps. One of his first hires was Ramya Velury, a boss-ass manager now under the EQT umbrella.
Even with help, creating a long-lasting company in the music industry is no easy task. In order to keep up with the daily demands, Henny had to quickly develop a thick skin:
“Ultimately that’s what’s gonna make some of the best managers who have longevity – the way that they handle situations, and the way that they make decisions. A manager’s value really comes from their vision. There are a lot of things that are more labor-intensive and more time-consuming that can be hired out, but you can’t hire out a vision.”
As well as learn how to keep a level head at all times:
“Nothing is going to go smoothly in any industry, especially in music where the product you’re pushing is human. They could just pick up one day and not do what they need to do. You almost have to be a psychologist. It takes a certain kind of person and a certain level of ambition to say I’m just gonna jump into this even though I don’t really know what I’m doing. So I’m also going to listen, I’m going to take advice from people that know more than me, and I’m not going to act like I know everything.”
And understand how to turn his losses into lessons:
“It does sometimes hurt to think you might be making a mistake on a project you’re super passionate about, but everyone makes mistakes. It’s about being able to take that and learn from it, for the artist and the manager…[Sometimes] you’ll get it wrong more than you’ll get it right, and you have to prepare for that, too.”
With nearly a decade in the music business, Henny Yegezu’s definition of success as a manager and label head has evolved. As a business owner, he revels in the idea of continuing to push culture forward while building a long-lasting entity. More importantly, he’s focused on impacting the lives of everyone he works for.
“That feeling of ‘I changed this person’s life,’ that’s irreplaceable.”