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Patrice Wilson of Ark Music: 'Friday' is on his mind [Updated]

Patrice Wilson of Ark Music just wanted to write a ‘kind of sweet' song for Rebecca Black.

Arkmusicstory Last summer, Rebecca Black's mother paid L.A.-based production company Ark Music Factory a reported $2,000 to write and produce a song, and shoot a music video, for her 13-year-old daughter to sing and star in. The result, “Friday,” a track about having friends and being young and how rad it is that it's the end of the school week, was posted on YouTube about a month ago.

The song has logged more than 64 million views, peaked at No. 19 on the iTunes charts, spawned much disdainful online commentary (such as, “I have a replacement for the death penalty — this song”) and inspired countless mockeries. Black has appeared on “Good Morning America” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” been the subject of a parody music video from Conan O'Brien and been declared by Lady Gaga to be “a genius.”

The man responsible for all this hoopla, for “Friday's” unapologetically inane lyrics and infectious beat and the high-gloss gleam of Black's video, is Patrice Wilson, a hitherto unknown musician and producer who arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 from Spokane, Wash., to build a company that he says “was based on the idea of Noah's ark. In other words, a place to gather people together, where they could be safe.”

Wilson, who has a rapping cameo in “Friday,” has remained a mysterious “man behind the curtain” throughout much of the Black brouhaha. Until Friday, that is, when he released an Ark Music Factory-produced “press conference” which consisted of a wide-eyed young woman asking him questions such as “Who are you?”

In the video Wilson comes off as slick, stiff and perhaps a little defensive, a stance that has reinforced a notion that he is a kind of Suge Knight of the preteen schoolyard, harnessing young girls' dreams to his own financial advantage.

But in person, blinking in the white sun outside a Melrose Avenue Starbucks, Wilson is soft-spoken and sincere, with a sad-eyed baby face and a neatly pressed suit and tie. He seems slightly dazed by the chaos and not at all the cutthroat music biz stereotype. On the contrary, he presents himself as a well-mannered, well-traveled and well-educated man — utterly confounded by the wave of hate that his nursery-rhyme-simple, but very catchy, song has recently elicited.

“I remember writing ‘Friday,'” Wilson says. “It was on a Thursday night, but I finished it on Friday morning. And I knew it was silly, you know?”

And here Wilson quotes his own song with his gentle British-inflected African accent:

“‘Tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards.' I mean, everybody knows that, obviously, but I wanted the song to be simple and kind of sweet. People talk so much about how silly or stupid the lyrics are, but pop songs, they're meant to be catchy and to tell things in a simple kind of way. I feel bad that Rebecca has been getting so many people criticizing the song. Because it was me that wrote it.” Black declined to comment for this story.

Raised in Africa by a minister mother and a chemical engineer father, Wilson sang in his mother's church as a child and helped out with youth programs at the local Christian school. Later, he says, he attended medical school in Europe and trained in track and field events for the 2000 Olympics. But he dropped it all in pursuit of his music, an endeavor that would lead him to tour as a backup singer with Eastern European pop star Ibrahim Maiga, to study the business side of entertainment at Whitworth University in Spokane, and, finally, to come to Hollywood.

[Updated, Friday, April 1: The original version of this post said that Patrice Wilson attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. In fact, Wilson attended Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. We have fixed the text above.]

“If you're going to try to make a dream in music happen, Los Angeles is where you need to be,” he says. “If your music is heard in America, it will be heard everywhere.”

It's just this sort of dreamy-eyed conviction that inspired the founding, in 2010, and fuels the day-to-day function of Ark Music Factory. A vanity label of sorts, Ark auditions young talent, many of whom approach the company through their parents. For a fee, usually between $2,000 and $4,000, hopeful celebs-in-the-making are given a song to record as well as time with a producer-engineer (Wilson's partner in Ark, Clarence Jey), a photo shoot, image consulting, a music video and promotion. The singer owns the rights to the master recording, and Ark owns the publishing rights to the song. Considering that low-end costs for major label music videos start around $10,000 or $15,000, Wilson's fees are a bargain.

“I'm getting a lot of criticism saying I'm exploiting rich kids and their parents,” says Wilson, “but find me another company that would do all this at a cost this low. I don't promise anyone fame. In fact, if someone approaches me with their only goal to ‘get famous,' I tell them they're not in this for the right reasons.”

Wilson works with the family to find a song that works for the budding singer, and that isn't profane or age-inappropriate. “I want to give these kids who love to sing and perform a chance to work in a studio, a chance to be in front of a camera and in front of an audience. I'm not in this to make millions. I just want to help these kids make their dreams come true on some level. And I'm not trying to exploit anyone.”

In fact, when “Friday” started to climb in views, Wilson says he asked Rebecca and her mother if they wanted him to take the video down.

“But they said ‘no,' even though we knew it might mean a lot of attention and a lot of criticism online,” he says. “And in the end, there was criticism, but Rebecca has been great in handling it.”

Wilson shakes his head, looks up into the L.A. sun and suddenly cracks a wide smile. “And the truth is, if you look at the numbers … even though people say they hate the song … really, they love it.”


Viral star Rebecca Black says she's not 'the worst singer,' is working on new single

Rebecca Black talks about 'Friday' on Friday

About (Late) Last Night: YouTube sensation Rebecca Black performs 'Friday' on 'The Tonight Show'

-- Jessica Hundley

Photo of Patrice Wilson of Ark Music. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times.

Comments () | Archives (41)

"Peaked # 19 on iTunes".

Ouch. That stat says as much about main stream America's taste in music as it does about Wilson.

I have much more respect for Patrice Wilson after reading this article, although his cameo in a video featuring a 13-year-old girl is still quite unsettling.

Even though the song and video are an abomination to all that is sacred, you do have to give him some credit about the price he charges. When I heard he only charged $2,000 for then music video PLUS writing the song, I was shocked. You have to have a good amount of talent to shoot a music video, even a really corny music video, for only $2,ooo and have it be of that quality. I'm left wondering how he even makes a profit if the $2,000 goes towards the video, songwriting, photoshoots, and more.

Where in Africa? It's a big place.

Seriously speaking, those kids Ark Music Factory picked do have talent. They are just in the wrong hands. I am furious at how Patrice Wilson handles his business.
"A vanity label of sorts, Ark auditions young talent, many of whom approach the company through their parents." He himself saying:"I want to give these kids who love to sing and perform a chance to work in a studio, a chance to be in front of a camera and in front of an audience. I'm not in this to make millions. I just want to help these kids make their dreams come true on some level. And I'm not trying to exploit anyone."
If he is really sincere in just wanting to give kids a platform to do what they like, why bother auditioning? Obviously, he wants to accomplish something through these kids. Worst still, he made a joke out of Rebecca Black. Anyone can tell from this incident that Patrice Wilson failed as a music producer.

it's a pop song, it's cute enough, and really inoffensive on all levels.

There's no such thing as bad press. The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Doesn't matter what they write about you as long as they spell your name right. In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

That probably has almost as many cliches as the lyrics of "Friday" ... though not quite as many as an average Bon Jovi song.

-- mm

I hate it when people refer to where people are from as simply Africa. There are so many different beautiful countries in Africa, and they all have their own national pride. What country is he from? That's like saying someone is from Europe... or Asia... a little block-headed if you ask me.

I don't understand all the negativity about this. Granted the song is artistically lacking, but so is 99% of the stuff the majors produce. I've heard the video only cost $2000.00, so her ROI is phenomenal. If she's sold $37k in downloads and making another $20k from You Tube, that's a return of 2800%! With the majors only being successful on 2% of the music they release, this shows that the majors are slowly fading into irrelevance with the exception of artists who have absolutely nothing to start with. Did Gaga's first attempts do this well? Please don't try to tell me that Gaga is not a "novelty" artist. Take away all the bizarre costumes ,the expensive videos and let the music stand on it's own. Does anyone really think Gaga has any catalog value? Does anyone really think there's going to be any Gaga sales in five years let alone twenty? If Gaga has 23 million You Tube views and sales of 1.65 million downloads, that's a "click through rate" of 7.2%, so less than 10% of the people who viewed the video thought the track was good enough to purchase. If that's all the major labels can accomplish with their biggest media star, you might as well do it yourself.

I have a hard time believing that Wilson studied the "business side of entertainment at Whitman College" as Whitman is a liberal arts school without business or entertainment management programs. Hmm.

@ chris-you clearly have NO IDEA what youre talking about! he didnt make a joke out of rebecca black. how did he know what the outcome was gonna be? if you were reading the article, he even asked her and her mom if they wanted him to take the video down and they said NO! also, why do you think hes a failed producer? why cant he just be a guy that wants to help kids dreams come true? i agree with the other comment-2,000 dollars for a video, a song and the works is chump change!

this dude is a total liar. there is no business or entertainment program at whitman college. it's a tiny liberal arts school and walla walla (population about 40,000 and hours away from any large city) is the last place anyone would want to go to study entertainment.

I would just like to comment that this Patrice Wilson did not graduate from Whitman College. The Patrice Wilson that did graduate in 1993 is a women.

Um...already been said, but there's no major that's business or entertainment related at Whitman College...so in summary...LA Times sucks at vetting their info.

I'm African, and Africa is wide(Second largest continent after Asia).. So, where exactly in Africa? Plz

the mentioned singer from Eastern Europe,Ibrahim Maiga,doesn´t come from Eastern Europe,it´s Middle Europe actually and I not sure if he is a singer at all.....

@ lindsay
"How did he know what the outcome was gonna be?" That was why I said Patrice Wilson failed as a music producer! If he were professional enough, he would have expected the disastrous outcome of his work. He apparently doesn't understand the music industry and doesn't want to listen to advise, churning out songs based on his and maybe his partner's opinion. A complete novice acting big.
It was from the realisation of his own stupidity, that he asked to have the video removed.
"Why can't he just be a guy that wants to help kids dreams come true?"—Because he's not qualified to do so.
I'm strongly against Patrice Wilson and the way he manages his business.

So she did a song, and a music video. Good for her.When we can acheive our dreams who cares whether anyone else judges? She should take some classes to strengthen her voice, but who can say they sung a song and had a music video without selling their body or soul?

@Elizabeth Wierenga-Lee

Maybe.. he was actually a she! GASP

I'm ashamed of the L.A. Times. Not only for reporting false statistics and exaggerating his quotes, but just how biased this 'interview' was in general. Obviously they were trying to make a statment by being the first 'Non-Ark Music Factory' media outlet to interview Patrice Wilson, however I have to wonder A) How much they paid him to do it and B) The amount of conditions that was made before they could publish any article of him. This is pathetic, it's almost as if he's using them to talk/lie to the world for him.

And for the people who blindly follow anything that's in the written word...most of us aren't mad at Rebecca Black, despite the fact we clearly don't like her singing. We're mad at the people who produced it, the people who accepted the money, the people who wrote the song, and the people who paid for this 'childish project'. In short, we're blaming Rebecca's parents and Ark Music Factory management.

“And the truth is, if you look at the numbers … even though people say they hate the song … really, they love it.”

eh. No. I hate the song. Personally I have nothing against Rebecca Black (maybe her voice :/) but the song itself is just incredibly stupid, in which was made by an incredibly dimwitted, dozy moron who doesn't know how to write songs.

And the truth is, if you look at the numbers... even though people say they hate the song .... really, no wait, they still hate it.

The song is a joke but I don't see why you'd be "mad" at anyone over it, unless you're some spoiled rich rock star who's afraid you're going to lose some money to a bunch of no-talent half-baked song ideas with lame videos filled with dreamer little kids whose parents each paid a grand or two for it.
I see this as sort of like a Sweet 16 party with a "Live the Rockstar Dream" theme. Laughably stupid, yes, but it's just kid's stuff, Nothing to get mad over.
Let the kids have their fun. If the parents want to pay that much money just to make them feel famous, why not let them? I've lived and worked in Hollywood for a few years myself and this kind of silliness is everywhere.

Patrice Wilson is so ignorant and stupid, he didn't realise his other name 'Pato' means 'duck' in Spanish! Job well done for trying to be cool, duck!

Has anyone ever heard the song "Firework" by Katy Perry????? Not only did she WRITE that song, but she's an ADULT and performed it. It's THE most idiotic song ever and I am actually a fan of Katy Perry. "Friday" is performed by a 13-year old and is for people that age and younger... I have more problems with "Firework" than I do with "Friday".

People... this is a kid singing. Give her a break. We endure worse on American Idol auditions. Music is supposed to be fun, remember? Is anyone truly hurt by this song? Some of the biggest one-hit wonders of all time have been silly songs. Itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini, ring a bell? Is Ark Music Factory any different than the thousands of demo studios in LA, NY & Nashville that making a living helping people do the same with a song? For the level of detail in that song, that's easily a $1000 to record (and that's not to write a song). Then a video like that for $1000 is a bargain. $2000 for a custom song and video... that's a steal. That's chump change. You can't say Ark Music Factory is ripping anyone off. Demo studios, song coaches and the like, polish a lot of turds (but they don't say that to their clients). That's a lot of what that business is. It's giving people a service that they want (and need!). But you don't judge or shoot down anyone's dreams and tell them they suck and should quit. Every one has to start somewhere. A no talent today could have a lot of talent next year. These guys helped this girl and charged a very modest fee for it. It went viral. You can't predict that. I'd rather see some happy song go viral than some negative song go viral. There's no real harm here. So why all the hating?

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