Clarence Avant is an American music executive that is often referred to as The Black Godfather. He has also worked as a film producer and is considered to be something of an entrepreneur. He has an estimated net worth of $50 million and a closer look at how he has earned this fortune is taken below.
Early Career In Music
When he left school he had jobs in a law directory and as a store clerk at the New Jersey branch of Macy’s. He knew that neither of these jobs was really for him and he accepted a job as a weekend manager of the Teddy P’s Lounge night club in New Jersey. According to Variety, it did not take him long to realize that he had a talent for the music industry. This would not be as a musician, or even as a talent scout, but as someone who could make sure artists were getting the best possible deals.
It was around this time that he first the man that would go on to become his mentor, Joseph Glaser. Not only did he guide him as he was just starting out in his career, he also gave him an asset which today contributes a fair bit to his net worth. When Avant went to work for Venture Records, he moved to an area of Los Angeles called Baldwin. Glaser believed that he would be more successful if he lived in a wealthy area – namely Beverly Hills. Avant could not afford a house there but Glaser lent him the money to make the down-payment. When Glaser passed away he wrote in his will that the debt should be written off. Today it is estimated that the house could be worth as much as $10 million.
Venture Records Inc.
Venture Records was a joint venture with MGM Records and it was founded to be an outlet for soul artists who were signed to MGM. As part of the role he played for this company he became the first person to engineer a joint venture between an African-American artist and a major record label. There were many times during his career that he worked hard to ensure that people of color were well represented in the music industry, and this is one of the reasons why he earned the nickname ‘The Black Godfather’. During his time with Venture Records, he helped Al Bell to negotiate a deal to sell his record label. The deal was eventually made for $4.3 million and Avant would have received a percentage of this as his fee.
Sussex Records Inc.
Avant remained in Los Angeles after Venture Records came to an end and founded Sussex Records Inc. This company ran for six years before it was forced to close because of financial issues. This may be one of the only companies he was involved with where he lost money. He had recently also bought a radio station, but this was very poorly managed and never became profitable. All of the assets of Sussex Records were seized and sold by the IRS in order to pay off Avant’s tax debts.
Despite the financial situation that the Sussex Records found itself in just before it closed down, Avant still managed to achieve things with this company that he remains proud of. The failure of the the label did not cause any lasting damage to his reputation and he remained a well-respected figure in the music industry. There is also a good chance that he would have learned a lesson about overstretching himself by taking on too many ventures at once, and this led to him making better financial decisions later in his career. One of the main achievements that the label has was signing Bill Withers when he was still an unknown artist. Two of his best known songs, Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean On Me were released when he was signed to Sussex Records.
One of the most successful films that he produced was Save The Children which was released in September 1973. The film was released by Paramount Pictures and Avant worked as the executive producer. Filming took place at the Operation PUSH Black Expo in Chicago and featured footage of black children who were malnourished, along with performances by musicians who were mostly people of color. The New York Times reported at the time that musicians such as Issac Hayes, Marvin Gaye and the Jackson Five were just some of the acts that took part. The Premiere of the film took place at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
He remained involved in the music industry after the demise of Sussex Records by forming another record label called Tabu Records. One of the best known artists that were signed to this label were The S.O.S Band. The producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis also worked for this label. This duo are better known as Jam and Lewis and they have produced records for stars such as Janet Jackson as part of Tabu Records. Avant would have benefited financially from this success because it would have increased the income of Tabu Records as a whole.
One of the most recent projects that he was involved in was a Netflix documentary about his life which was entitled ‘The Black Godfather’. The Guardian explains that he had experienced people trying to persuade him to write a book about his career for years, but he decided that he would rather tell his story through film. He was also sure that he wanted Reginald Hudlin to be the director. Hudlin originally thought that the film could have been made in around a year, but he underestimated the amount of people that wanted to talk about the impact Avant had on their lives. The amount of money that Avant would have made from this film, but it did prove very popular and so it is likely to have made some contribution to his net worth.