Recording Connection mentor Shamel Hughes talks Branding

shamel-hughesQuestion: How do you go from being an impoverished young kid living in Brooklyn to being a sought after, in-demand audio engineer?

Answer: You work really hard and you focus on BRANDING.

Shamel Hughes is a sought-after Manhattan-based freelance engineer working primarily in hip hop and R & B.

Recent work includes heavy hitters like Musiq Soulchild, Elle Varner, K. Michelle, and Busta Rhymes.

Shamel is a hard worker, constantly pushing himself forward to improve this craft. However, above everything else, it’s Shamel’s keen sense of branding that has enabled him to achieve success.

And wouldn’t you know it, “branding” supercedes anything in print or media. For Shamel, branding is also about achieving a signature sound. Speaking about his early days of just starting out and building a clientele he says:

 I knew that my sound would beat anyone else’s at my level. Maybe I couldn’t charge $75 an hour per job but I could charge $30. Because I knew that I could definitely give them something better than anyone else at that price-point, I was making a killing. I was doing a lot of business because my rate was very very fair at the time. I worked like that for a while until I noticed my skill set evolving and improving, and my project list and my client list started to come up and be lot more heavy hitting…I started being more confident in my brand as a business, a sound, as an engineer…[and] I started charging more. ”

I made sure I made my engineering was like a brand. You have to be compensated for your skill set. I made sure I was always good, or I was always on top, or I was always the leading edge when it came to engineering…I was trying to figure out how to be Tony Maserati how to be Dave Pensado. I was trying to learn how to get to those guys. I was pretty much saying to myself, ‘I want their job.’ If I’m not working with Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, I am not where I need to be. That’s the kind of artists and clients I want to take.”

Interestingly, Shamel’s love of music was borne from a love of poetry, spoken word, and rap which ultimately led him into Djing at the age of 15. An entrepreneurial mindset would soon follow.

I started making these cassettes…When I was on the streets, I was selling mix-tapes, I was making a lot of money at a young age…I got really creative when CD’s started hitting the market. I started building computers to actually duplicate CD-ROM’s, which wasn’t really available unless you really had the money to do so…The technology wasn’t accessible at the time for people to do it. It was just me and the bootleggers that were selling mix-tapes that were novel or original…I was already making money and doing things on my own as an entrepreneur.”

Today, Shamel helping the next generation of would-be audio engineers get their foot in the door and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset that will work in today’s music industry. And although he doesn’t need to mentor, he finds it enriches his life.

I’ve done different things, I’ve been here, I’ve been there, I’ve created, I’ve toured, all that stuff. Now I’m in a position of giving knowledge back. I really think that’s the coolest part of it all because I feel great doing it. We can go in my past life and talk about all the crazy stuff that we did when we was kids but I think me doing what I’m doing now is a way of giving back to everyone. As people we should always be teaching others to do better. That changes people’s lives. I like that. That’s a satisfying thing.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Learn more about Shamel Hughes at

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