Carla Wallace | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Carla Wallace


Carla Wallace has led day-to-day operations at independent music publishing company Big Yellow Dog Music since 1998. Over the years, she has helped the company's artists earn four Grammys and rack up 30 No. 1 hits. Artists like Meghan Trainor, Jessie James Decker and Dan Agee are currently on Wallace's songwriter roster. She has also been ranked among Billboard's Top 40 Women in Music.

The Mistake:

I got really excited about an artist that someone introduced me to. This guy was incredible, so I took him under my wing and started working with him. I even started pitching a lot of his songs and I had several record deal offers on the table for him, while all along I was still trying to get the deal done. Before I could get the deal done, a larger publishing company came in and signed him.

It was a nightmare. I let my emotions get away and let my passions run. I should have locked the deal down and told no one and signed him. I was just too thrilled about his music.

If I could do it over, I wouldn't have taken him to record labels; I would have signed the deal with him first before I let anyone really know about him. That was early on in probably 2005. I would never do that now, but even then, I was old enough to know better.

It was a nightmare. I let my emotions get away and let my passions run.

The Lesson:

In our business, you have to be passionate about what you're doing and who you're working with, and you have to believe in an artist. But you have to champion yourself first and say, "Wait a minute." You're going to give this person a lot of effort and time and you need to make sure you get the deal in place before you show this person off.

I still get excited. That's my one instinct when I know I've got something that could be great. I have to remain calm because I realize that I don't really have a deal until I have a deal. They can easily walk away or someone else can have just as much passion and excitement for them as I do – and have more money.

I don't regret making any mistakes, and I'm totally grateful that this happened to me. It taught me a lot because this person ended up being a really great artist who a lot of people were aware of. I look at it that at least I knew what I was doing as far as picking out talent. I just didn't pace myself and play the business card correctly. He got away, and we were better for it in the end. We had other opportunities that were opened to us.

Follow Big Yellow Dog Music on Twitter at @TheBigYellowDog.

Pictured: Carla Wallace | Photo courtesy of Big Yellow Dog. 

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