(CBS DETROIT) – Two Detroiters have been selected as inaugural fellows for the American Association of Independent Music as part of their first-ever Black Independent Music Accelerator program. The initiative aims to benefit Black voices in the independent music community.

Verse and Hook – a Detroit-based creative agency that creates a unique experience through music and advertising – was founded by Jay Norm and Miso Brown, who have stood as silent weapons behind the creative, music and cultural aspects in many notable brands. The two are responsible for what you’ve seen and heard on Pepsi, Jeep, YouTube Music, PayPal and Bacardi, to name a few.

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Jay Norm and Miso Brown, co-founders of Verse and Hook.
Credit: Justin Milhouse

As part of the program, Norm and Brown will be provided with memberships to the American Association of Independent Music and will have their annual dues subsidized.

Growing up, Brown said when he was a teen all he wanted was to work in music.

“I started working with some of the street promo teams running in the city by people like T da Penmp (sic) and Wolff. At the same time, I was working at a local weekly newspaper, MetroTimes, as a promo intern, doing marketing and events for them. Through networking and really putting in some hard work, I was able to get an opportunity to intern at Universal Music and that eventually led to me getting hired at Sony Music as a marketing rep where I stayed for a few years until getting the itch to become an entrepreneur,” said Brown.

As for Norm, he wanted to be a DJ in the early 2000s but was interning for a local newspaper.

“At the time, I was interning at the Detroit Free Press as a graphic designer and found out about music production software from some of the other interns. A few years making beats for local artists and designs for local companies led me to some opportunities in New York where I honed those skills. From there my two passions merged and years later I found myself both in advertising as a creative director and in music as a producer signed to BMG Chrysalis,” said Norm.

The two made their first company, SIREN, in 2013 with no plan, and not knowing anything about what to offer as services.

“All we knew is that we wanted to help artists make a living and put their music out for the masses. We went through a lot of growing pains and trials by fire, from minor paperwork headaches to having to rework misaligned partnerships, but without those early years of bumping our heads we would’ve never been able to grow into what Verse and Hook has become.”

Brown and Norm are two Black men dismantling the creative space as Detroit natives with an extensive portfolio, and with the announcement during Black Music Month, they explained what the fellowship means for the trajectory of their career.

“With the fellowship, we saw it as an opportunity to foster a network of support that spans both the country and globe, and we’re glad we were right. Having relationships with, and access to people who are doing similar work in places you can’t be is phenomenal. That support gets your artists those new fans and that exposure that’s invaluable when you’re launching that new project or promoting a tour. We’ve already been afforded opportunities to network and collaborate with other BIMA fellows on future projects and do a sort of “horse-trading” of services and support. Things that might’ve taken us months to complete before, are now just email conversations to get completed, and that’s amazing.”

They added, “Our people have so much representation in front of the cameras, and on the fields of play, but when you start looking at the back offices of these companies, we’re not there as much as you’d think. There needs to not only be more BIPOC A&Rs, but also product managers, royalty and rights management admin, HR admins, etc.; having that inclusion and internal advocacy helps these artists grow, which makes their projects grow.”

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The Detroit natives are all about giving back to their city. Right now, Verse and Hook are focused on creating opportunities with brands and then curating the best independent musicians and artists for those opportunities. They have future plans to cause “all kinds of monumental changes for musicians and creatives in Michigan.”

“Because we’ve spent so much time with artists, we understand that one of the main conflicts with being a professional artist is that the money isn’t always there. We want artists to be paid for their art. It’s a lot easier to make that great album, or paint that big mural, when you aren’t worrying about keeping lights on and food on the table. So one of our main focuses is attaching artists to licensing opportunities, which fortunately has received much more exposure over the last few years as a viable way for artists to make money, but there are still so many that don’t know the first few steps to start or have the network.”

The two say they would also like to bring more attention to Detroit’s music-based economic developments and try to advance opportunities to add to the billion-dollar music industry.

In additional efforts to give back to their community, Verse and Hook are in the ideation stages of creating a nonprofit that will focus on exposing children to business strategies and the music industry at earlier ages. The nonprofit will also develop ideas for policy to advocate for things like tax incentives for the creative community in the city.

“There’s a lot on our future plate, and it’s all focused on Detroit!”

As for the annual conference, the founders of Verse and Hook see it as “a fantastic opportunity to not only be exposed to new music and artistry but look at the indie music market as a whole and identify what trends are here to stay and what strategies are being used to get the next batch of artists to the top.”

They also believe in approaching things with a “student-first” mindset.

“You can’t create something meaningful without understanding some intricacies of the subject matter. Listening to what the industry leaders are doing and focusing on helps us refine which of our services are most viable for us to offer, and learn which new strategies we can begin to implement for our artists.”

And when it comes to creatives coming behind them, Verse and Hook say there are three things to remember.

“First, there will be bumps in the road, so teach yourself to buckle in, ride it like an off-roader, and have fun. Second, stay as nimble as possible. When you only do one thing you close the door of opportunity to do everything else at the same time. And third, don’t be afraid to send that cold email, text, make that phone call, etc. The worst that whoever you’re contacting can say is ‘No.’ which can sometimes feel like an ending, but then you have an answer, and from answers, you can make things happen.”

For more information on Verse and Hook, visit here.

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