Kevin Liles is President and Chief Executive Officer of KWL Management, a holistic talent management company, founded in 2009. Through a personalized, 360-degree artist management approach Liles pioneered as an executive at the world’s largest recording companies, KWL Management empowers elite talent to make the jump from artist to global brand through diversification and partnership development. He views personal relationships as the core of successful brand building, inspiring him to launch KWL to assist an intentionally limited roster of talent to reach new heights personally and professionally.
Rising from unpaid intern to head of global record label, Liles has one of the most storied careers in entertainment. His ascent began in 1991 as an unpaid intern for Def Jam and through a meteoric rise within the organization, by 1998 was named of President of the Def Jam Music Group. During his tenure as President, Def Jam revenues doubled to $400 million through the diversification of the Def Jam brand, artist roster, and channels.
Following the merger of Island and Def Jam in 2002, Liles became Executive Vice President of the new company. By providing leadership sensitive to both the bottom-line and the freedom artists need to create, Liles was instrumental in the leap of artists from “performer” to “global brand,” leading this transformation for many of the biggest names in hip-hop, rock, and R&B including Jay Z, Kanye West, Hoobastank, Ashanti, and Ludacris. In 2004, Liles joined Warner Music Group as Executive Vice President and served on the executive team that took WMG public. He led WMG’s innovative “360-degree” strategy for enhanced artist partnerships, overseeing expansion of the traditional record company role in the artist’s career – encompassing fan clubs, ticketing, endorsements, licensing, TV production, and merchandising – expanding the limits of an artist’s career, while also trailblazing a way forward for recording companies as a business model formerly built around CD sales underwent dramatic change.
Liles is widely recognized for his commitment to civic engagement through education and community development as a way to share and give back to communities that helped him along his way. He is founder of Kevin Liles for a Better Baltimore, which invests in his hometown, and the Make It Happen Foundation, providing under serviced youth with business training and exposure to higher education. He serves as a board member/advisor to Ogilvy & Mather Diversity Board, New Yorkers for Children, Junior Achievement of New York, The Executive Leadership Council, The SEED School of Maryland, Harbor Bank, and HealthCorps. He is the best-selling author of Make It Happen: The Hip Hop Generation’s Guide to Success.
Liles attended Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md. on an electrical engineering scholarship, bringing his studies to a close just short of graduation to go on tour.