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EIU 360

Cultivating Talent

Music producer reflects on career, championship days.

For Scott McGhee, there is no such thing as a normal day in the office.

He doesn’t spend his days locked in an office cubicle. Instead, the Eastern Illinois University alumnus constantly searches for the next “talent” to grace the music industry.

His “normal” day of searching for the next big name while managing his current bands includes organizing the sound, helping create the demo, managing the finances, producing the merchandise, preparing the live shows and even picking out the style of his musicians.

“I deal with every aspect from top to bottom,” said McGhee, referring to his involvement with each band as a music producer.

It’s no surprise that McGhee’s day is a whirlwind of music, creative decisions and style transformations. The ‘80s graduate of EIU is the president of McGhee Entertainment, a music producing company with locations in California and Nashville, Tenn. Throughout his career, McGhee has helped managed acts including KISS, Ted Nugent and Night Ranger with his brother, Doc McGhee. Other names also include Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and Skid Row.

“I am involved with every part of the process from the beginning till someone hears the group’s song on the radio."

McGhee acknowledges that managing talent is a team sport with individuals from merchandising to the backstage sound team involved in the process. McGhee, a former Panther football player, is more than familiar with sportsmanship and teamwork after his years at Eastern.

From 1977-1980, McGhee was the Panther’s sure handed receiver during the team’s final Division II years. His legacy as a player includes earning third team All-American honors as a senior during the NCAA Division II National Championship game. He also was ranked second in NCAA Division II in pass receiving yards.

Reflecting back on his days on the field, McGhee fondly remembers his teammates as they achieved something they never thought possible — getting into the ’78 national championship game.

Before the championship, the Panther football team entered the ‘78 season with a 16-year string of consecutive losing seasons with only two winning seasons since 1951. It’s no surprise that McGhee referred to Eastern as his “Notre Dame of the Midwest,” which created an opportunity for a group of “everyday” players to create their own Cinderella story. Even though the team lost the championship game, McGhee credits his legendary football years for teaching him everything from applied skills to promotion.

In his EIU career, McGhee is also ranked among the top 10 for touchdown receptions and career receiving yards. He ranks in the top ten in single season receiving yards and single season touchdown receptions, as well.

After graduating from Eastern with a marketing degree, McGhee even played two years in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts and one season with the United States Football League (USFL) in Houston.

An injury led McGhee to his brother’s company, McGhee Entertainment, which Doc McGhee helped Scott McGhee begin his career in the music industry by allowing him to travel on the road with the merchandising team. His brother started the company because of his passion to record music.

Today, as Scott McGhee searches for talent, he always remembers what it feels like to be a small fish in a big world as he meets with young talent.

In gauging talent, McGhee relies on understanding what people want in the marketplace. He’s always looking for what he calls the “it factor” (or the definition of what he’s looking for in a star). For McGhee, after years in the industry, he knows when he sees that “it factor.”

Currently, McGhee manages 10 to 12 bands that report to him directly. That’s not counting the 40 to 50 projects and 20 employees he manages too.

His experience in the industry has taught him not to rely on luck.

“I don’t find that there is luck, but tipping points for musicians,” he said. “We create our own luck.”

As McGhee approaches each situation, he gives it what he calls a “360 perspective.” He looks for what is interesting and important, because in today’s society, everything is urgent, he said. Especially, in the entertainment industry where there is a need to release great quality with speed, he said.

This growing necessity for quality never leaves McGhee as he approaches each of his “normal” days with the skills learned from his championship days.

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