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Go with the FLO | Marcus Johnson Mixes Music with Wine Mastery

photography courtesy of Marcus Johnson

Flo Wines by jazz musician Marcus Johnson
Jazz musician Marcus Johnson hits the right notes with his FLO wine venture.

Some people might look at Marcus Johnson and see a successful jazz musician with more than 15 Billboard charted albums. Others might look at Johnson and see a winemaker whose FLO wines were named one of the 10 best celebrity wines by USA Today. But Johnson looks at himself and sees a therapist.

“People use my music and wines to feel better, and for me, that’s therapy,” Johnson said.

And he should know growing up with a mother, father and stepfather who were all involved in psychology and therapy. Perhaps more important than being exposed to the healing arts as a child, was the glimpse Marcus Johnson got into the importance of running a business.

jazz musician and wine maker Flo Wines

“Coming from the family I did, I was always aware that there were two sides to their practice. In addition to counseling people, they had to know how to run a practice, balance their books and pay taxes,” explained Johnson.

It was seeing the backend of their businesses that drove Johnson to focus not just on making music, but on education. He pursued an undergraduate degree in music and business at Howard University, and his law and MBA degrees from Georgetown University.

In 2010 he was nominated for the prestigious NACCP Image Award.

entrepreneur Marcus Johnson of Flo Wines

“I wanted to make sure I understood the inner workings of being an entrepreneur in the music industry,” he said. “It’s not just about being in music you have to understand the functional components of business to be able to put it all together to maximize opportunities.”

And maximize opportunities he has. Marcus Johnson is CEO/Founder of FLO Brands, LLC, and FLO Wines, LLC and the CEO/President of Marimelj Entertainment Group, Three Keys Music and Three Keys Publishing. In 2010 he was nominated for the prestigious NACCP Image Award.

Johnson’s interest in music started early. He and his father would attend Earth, Wind and Fire concerts, but it was in the eighth grade when it really took hold.

“I wanted to impress a girl, so I wrote her a few songs and made a tape,” he said with a smile.

In high school, he used that music talent not only to woo the ladies, but as a member of the jazz band. As a student at Georgetown, he released his first album, “Lessons in Love,” which carried his signature style that blends the rhythms of rap and R&B with jazz.

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jazz musician and wine maker Marcus Johnson

With the success of that independent album and its follow up, “Inter Alia,” Johnson became a jazz musician and attracted the attention of the music industry and was signed by N-Coded Music, before moving to his own label, FLO Music. While Johnson’s music career is still thriving, like many people, changes in his industry forced him to explore new avenues.

“In 2004 the record industry changed because of Napster and MP3,” he explained. “I knew I had to come up with something and when I sat down to think about it, I realized what I had was a brand and fans.”

Flo Wines founder Marcus Johnson

Those fans had been telling Marcus Johnson for years that one of the reasons they loved his music was that it was a tool to help them relax, unwind and feel better.

“It dawned on me that I wasn’t in the music industry, I was in the therapy business,” he said. “And that really opened things up for me to think about my music brand as a lifestyle brand.”

Since law school when a buddy would host wine tastings, Johnson has personally loved wine.

Flo Wines by Marcus Johnson

“I was reading Inc. and Fast Company and kept seeing ads for Crush Pad which let individuals make their own wine. I figured if they could do it for a person, I could find a crush facility that would allow me to make my own private label wine,” explained Johnson.

With that discovery, FLO (For the love of) Brands was born. Initially Johnson, a resident of Washington D.C., worked with a Virginia winery to produce his FLO wines before partnering with larger California vineyards to create the red blend, Chardonnay and Moscato the line became known for.

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The new wine line-up will include a Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, a Northern California Chardonnay, an Italian Moscato and a Rosé from coastal California.

“We’ve now partnered with a large retailer to release what I call FLO 3.0 this August,” he said.

The new wine line-up will include a Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, a Northern California Chardonnay, an Italian Moscato and a Rosé from coastal California.

As one of the few BIPOC owned wine brands, Johnson has an inherent understanding of the different preferences of African American wine drinkers.

“In the Black community, there is an acceptance and enjoyment of sweeter varietals,” explained Johnson. “It’s not a less developed palate, it’s that they’re not traditional, and they don’t care what people think of their wine preferences.”

Flo Wine Red Blend by Flo Wines

While there are infinite wine labels on the market, what Johnson believes sets FLO wines apart is that he’s selling an experience, not simply a bottle of wine.

The new wine releases will include a QR code on the label so consumers can download music pairings and recipes to curate an experience. Johnson also serves up Living Room Experiences, where he will perform his music and lead a wine tasting while his private chef creates a gourmet experience for private parties.

music-and-Flo-Wine-with-Marcus-Johnson

Marcus Johnson clearly has a Renaissance man approach to life and his career. This flexibility and resiliency are something many of us need today as COVID-19 has brought incredible change to business and is requiring many people to make unplanned pivots.

motivational-book-by-Flo-Wines-founder-Marcus-Johson

In his book, For the Love Of… Johnson penned a series of essays containing personal advice and lessons that helped him cope through the highs and lows of his career. The book offers practical strategies to discover purpose, pursue passion and stay the course despite perceived challenges.

“I’m a big believer in being an active participant in your life, not a bystander,” he said. “No matter what you do, show up for you every day, when you bring your passion along with you it makes everything better.”

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