Dooney Battle is the co-founder and head of Tha Lights Global (TLG), a full-service entertainment company which includes artists, songwriters, models, producers, management and Internet influencers, currently based in Los Angeles. As one of the next generation of entertainment entrepreneurs for the Internet age, Battle and his partners have built a one-stop shop for a new generation of social media-driven music stars, with a record label, music publishing, management and touring divisions, manned by an ever-growing management team second to none.
Among his recent successes is Lil Pump, a South Florida native gaining over 10,000 followers a day with 100’s of millions of streams and views across platform releasing his chart topping music via Tha Lights Global/WBR. Another is teenage Detroit rappers Zay Hilfigerr and Zayion McCall, whose viral hit, “Juju on That Beat,” was the most streamed video in the world on Christmas Eve, with 3.8 million views, landing the duo an Atlantic Records deal. Another signing, 14-year-old Rayy Dubb, whose song, “You Lied,”was an online smash, signed with Interscope Records after a multi-label bidding war.
Battle grew up in Miami, the son of a single mother with two brothers. His first interest in the music business came with his stepfather, a member of the Gucci Crew II, whose hit, “Sally (That Girl)” was sampled by the Black Eyed Peas for their gold-certified Top 5 smash, “Don’t Phunk with My Heart.” After attending Kansas State University on a football scholarship. The 28-year-old Battle – who gets his nickname from his biological father, Big Dooney (“They called me Little Dooney,” he says) – discovered six-year-old roly-poly dancing sensation Lil TerRio on Vine, where his “Oooh Killem” became a viral hit.
“Social media was just real different, it’s changed the world of entertainment,” says Battle, who started his first company, Tha Lights, eight years ago, with Timothy Lowery, a music business veteran and Gucci Crew alumnus who knew him as an infant, and its latest iteration, Tha Lights Global, two years ago, with partners Jordan Tugrul.
“When I first saw TerRio, I thought there must be more kids coming up much like him on this platform. Back in the day, you had to get out there and showcase your talent in front of people. Now, I can just sit home and watch kids in Germany or L.A. and see if they have talent. It’s like an open audition online.”
TerRio’s fame spread through associations with other rappers and personalities like Khloe Kardashian, while pro athletes like LeBron James, football stars Tavon Austin and kicker Justin Tucker, adopted his catch phrase or mimicked his dance moves while celebrating scores. His success with TerRio led to a managerial relationship with Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson, handling his merchandising and interests in moving into music.
Battle now has a direct line to live streaming sites like YouNow and lip sync site Musical.ly, as well as social media hotspots like Instagram and Snapchat where he built his own stable of talent, which included a total of 11 personalities on seven platforms encompassing 18.3 million followers. His “boy band” group 5QUAD last year made its way across the U.S. to more than 18 cities on the TLG Tour, co-promoted with CAA and Live Nation, which included dates in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Washington, DC and Dallas, among others.
Battle’s goal is to turn his artists’ impressive online fan bases into success in the traditional media world, helping them transition into recording, films, books, TV, modeling and touring success.
“I’m finding talent faster than many major-label A&R executives,” he says. “I’m finding the hottest things on the Internet before anybody else…. what music and personalities are resonating with fans. My goal is to partner with other people, but at the same time, keep my independence. I want to continue to find and build talent.”
Battle explains he discovered Zay Hilfigerr and Zayion McCall when they approached him to sample his own client @mr_hotspots song, “You yo Daddy’s son” for the hook to “Juju on That Beat.”
“It’s like word of mouth on steroids,” says Battle, describing the way he discovers new talent. “I have these kids coming to me when they see what I can do in terms of growing their following. It’s all about finding pure talent, and spreading it. We know how to take a personality from zero to a million.
“I have a personal relationship with all my artists. When they want to talk to me, they pick up the phone. The majority of my deals are on a handshake. I can look at a kid with 30,000 followers, and see the potential to grow it to 20 million. I have the direct relationships with the platforms to help them reach their goals.”
As Battle looks to the future, he strives to model his TLG company after multi-leveled organizations like Jay Z’s Roc Nation, Sean Combs’ Bad Boy or the Williams brothers’ Cash Money. He also cites such industry influences as Warner Bros.’ Cameron Strang, Scooter Braun, Justin Bieber Shots app developer Johnny Shahidi, Epic A&R exec Chris Anokute, and his attorney Todd Rubenstein. “It’s been a real learning process, and Todd has helped me understand a great deal about this business.”
“I want to build a strong team around me and company that can get as large as it can grow,” he says.