Raising the Bar in the Entertainment Industry
By Jessica L. Dupree
Editor Darlene Aderoju
Los Angeles native Jonathan E. Coleman has established himself as one of Hollywood’s top event producers. The music executive has been instrumental in some of the most renowned industry engagements like the Grammys, Billboard Music Awards and the American Music Awards. Throughout his decades-long career, Coleman has held several notable positions including talent manager, live event producer and talent producer for TV shows on some of the most distinguished television networks.
Not only has the entertainment tycoon produced Kanye West’s Sunday Service — he’s also contributed to The Titan Games hosted by The Rock on NBC and The World’s Best featuring celebrity guest judges Drew Barrymore, RuPaul and Faith Hill on CBS.
Coleman frequently brings invigorating ideas to his productions. He’s wowed countless crowds using high end equipment to create amazing illusions and he knows a thing or two about ultra-light beams. Now, the event producer chats with Heart and Soul Magazine about his time working on Kanye West’s Sunday Service and shares some of his career milestones.
You have consistently produced incredible live events for more than a decade. How difficult is it to be innovative and create shows that are different each time?
Consistently, wow! That’s such an honor. To be quite honest with you, it’s been rather easy. God has given me the gift to be able to look at situations and offer a view that’s groundbreaking and futuristic. That’s exactly how I attack each project, by finding out how I can relate to the target audience and how I can grab their attention. The best way to get their attention is by being innovative, groundbreaking and forward thinking. It’s a blessing to have that type of ingenuity come naturally.
What would you say were your three most innovative events?
Kanye West’s Sunday Service is at the top of the list because in that space, that’s what was required from my employer from the first day — to be innovative, think outside the box and to always consider the audience and their experience.
Working with BET and red-carpet specials is always eventful because each year, we have to figure out how to be different and relatable. We also have to be sure not to do what we did the year prior to keep our audience engaged. We also keep the artists engaged when they’re on the red carpet. That has always been a joy and highlight.
I think my work at West Angeles Cathedral was very impactful because we took what other people would look at as church productions and we transformed them into first-ranked productions. There were times when we created full musicals with rotating stages and we had
people flying through the sky. This was taking place in a church. Our audience was 5,000 people in each setting and hundreds of thousands of viewers watching online. I would always challenge myself to take the productions to the next level to show that Christian people can produce things on a high-end level.
Your position requires you to constantly compete with yourself. What is your process for raising the bar and becoming more creative and innovative?
That’s a great question and a big part of my process is staying in tune with the needs of the audience. It’s very important as a producer that you stay current with the needs of your audience. That’s the only way you’re going to be successful with being innovative and properly communicating the resolve that you want the attendees to have when they leave. I stay current with social issues that affect humanity and I think about the types of conversations I want the audience to have when they’re leaving the event. It’s very important from the very beginning that I’m zeroing in on those needs and making sure that they come out in the production.
As far as competing with myself, that’s how I do it. Over and over again, I stay current with the issues at hand. I believe that as long as I meet that need, I will always win. And when I win, we win.
You’ve had a hand in the selection process for the singers of Kanye West’s Sunday Service. As the talent manager, what traits do you look for when auditioning performers?
I am a part of an amazing board along with Jason White, Nikki Grier-Daniels, Anthony McEastland, Steve Epting Jr. and Philip Cornish. We form the creative team, there is nothing that one does all by oneself, we do it together.
From the beginning of Sunday Service, the foundation of the choir was a conglomeration that was put together between Jason White and I. What we looked for in singers was different this time. When Sunday Service came, we attacked it differently, we took a completely different route.
We knew the client was different. Choosing these singers was about understanding the client. We always looked for the best vocally, but we looked for individuals who were open-minded and who had a certain vibe. They were open to life and growth and it was something Jason White looked for particularly, to see how they could be molded to become one. What we didn’t expect was how they would transform us and the amazing journey we would embark upon.
Now I’m going on record to say they are one of the best collectives of singers ever.