2 Minutes With ... Imowo 'Veli' Udo-Utun, Partner at Sounds Music and Entrepreneur
Imowo Udo-Utun, known as Veli, is a Philadelphia-based entrepreneur music executive, and artist manager with an international footprint. Currently, he's a partner at Sounds Music Group, guiding artists Cochise and 3Breezy. Clients have been a part of a 3x platinum record, two platinum records, three gold records and a gold album. His past management projects have included working with viral sensations PP Cocaine, StaySolidrocky, 645AR and BFB Da Packman.
In addition to Sounds Music Group, Veli built his own company through managing friends and putting on live shows in the Philly area. Eventually, Veli Brand was born, centering around the mission of finding "who's next" artists and providing them with a platform. This led him to book many top-selling and Grammy-nominated artists such as Rod Wave, DaBaby, Lil Tjay, $not, PNB Rock, Luke James, YBN Cordae, Rico Nasty, Iann Dior, 24KGoldn, Tierra Whack and Cam'ron, among others. Since 2015, Veli Brand has put on more than 100 shows, featuring 250+ artists and 15 tours across 18+ cities.
Veli is also an active investor in hospitality brands, and an advocate for entrepreneurship while creating environments for community building.
We spent two minutes with Imowo to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.
Imowo, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Here, we call it Uptown. Now though, I currently live in South Jersey.
Your earliest musical memory.
My earliest music memory was being the biggest Lupe Fiasco fan growing up because people said I looked like him.
Your favorite bands/musicians today.
On the rap side and without naming my clients, Shy Glizzy, 454, Future, Brygreatah and PNB Rock (RIP) are my personal favorites. I listen to a lot of RNB and alternative too, but none are consistent enough to name. I have a playlist with a ton of different options.
One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on, and why.
One of my clients, Cochise, dropped his major label debut album last June called The Inspection. The process and branding behind this album and rollout was perfect. This project was crucial to Cochise hitting that next step in his journey and becoming a real hard ticket sell when it came to touring.
In my opinion, the project couldn’t have dropped at a better time. It ended up being Cochise’s highest charting project to date, and it led to us doing a world tour in the fall of 2022 that was over 85 percent sold out. The press around it was also at a peak, as Cochise was announced as part of the 2022 XXL freshman class right as the album dropped. Not only were fans buying tickets and screaming word for word, but they were also dressing up in the inspector uniform that Cochise branded for the album. 100 percent mission accomplished.
A recent project you're proud of, and why.
We (Cochise) recently did a partnership with Rocket League, which is one of the biggest video games in the world today. It was a full partnership, so not only was Cochise's music integrated in the game; but his likeness was as well. We were a part of a two week event, where gamers could win Cochise-type skins for their cars such as decals, wheels, flags, theme music, etc. We felt that it was a great next step for Cochise as we built him into a superstar. We were able to introduce him to a large demographic through a medium that he enjoys most—gaming.
One thing about how the music world is evolving that you're excited about.
I'm excited that authenticity is coming back to the game. For a while, I feel like numbers became the end all be all. In reality, the pulse of "what’s hot" relies on the people (fans). Without real people, you don’t have anything. You may be able to fabricate some streams (which I highly suggest you don't do) ... but if you can't have people buy into your story, want to be you, sell tickets, and make meaningful connections outside of streaming then you won't last.
Someone else's work, in music or beyond, that you admired lately.
Ty Baisden (Brent Faiyez MGMT)—I admire what he's been able to do in the independent space with Brent. It's admirable to see the way he's built the Brent Faiyez business from the ground up. Karl Fowlkes (Co-Founder/COO of Evgle)—Karl is a fabulous lawyer and I admire him for the work he’s done with Blxst; as well as how Karl has built his brand outside of music. Making money now is cool, but how you use that money to expand your portfolio is the true test. Karl is an inspiration for that.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
I read this book during the pandemic, so not "recent" per se, but really worth noting. You Can Negotiate Anything was life changing for me. If not anything else, it was a mindset adjustment … like I can truly have anything I want.
An artist you admire outside the world of music.
He's a music artist, but also a visual artist as well (so hope this counts). I would like to give love to Mir Fontane. I have one of his paintings in my house. His work is amazing.
Your favorite fictional character.
Ace from Paid in Full. I feel like I embody him in my nature and the way I move throughout life (minus the drugs and killing—haha).
Someone worth following in social media.
Jr McKee (jrmckee.co). JR’s IG feed is full with gems for artists and music professionals alike to scroll and dive in heavily to.
Your main strength as a marketer/creative.
I think I have strong innovative and instinctive traits, but I think my biggest strength is the ability to put people around me that I trust with those marketing decisions.
Your biggest weakness.
I need to work on trusting others. It's hard to let people in your bubble, but I know I need to learn to do that in order to truly expand on a global scale.
Something people would find surprising about you.
I am shy and have anxiety. A lot of my friends from back in the day are amazed at how I have been able to become the face of a company. They are also surprised that I made it in the music business!
One thing that always makes you happy.
Two things are tied for no.1—Knowing that my family is proud of me, and knowing that I've directly helped a ton of people live out their wildest dreams.
One thing that always makes you sad.
Knowing that life as I know it, and the people I love in it will one day not be here. Sometimes you wish you could freeze time.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music business.
I would have probably found a way to be in sports somehow. I've been around sports as a [football, basketball, baseball, etc.] player and fan since I was 9 years old. When I first got into college, my hope was to be a sports broadcaster.
2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.