Cornerstone Entertainment’s president and panganay share how they are redefining the industry in the new normal.
Cornerstone Entertainment’s president Erickson Raymundo is on Instagram at @visionerickson. His handle is more than just a cool or creative name, however, as Sam Milby shares. Everyone at the company calls him “Vision” because his leadership, management, and, well, vision catapulted the talent management agency toward greater heights.
Raymundo and Milby are on the cover of Lifestyle Asia Volume III. In the issue, they share how they have developed a strong friendship and working relationship, a long road that started more than a decade ago.
Series of fortunate events
“In March of 2005, I first met Sam in Glorietta. I was a business partner for a modeling agency then, and I thought of signing him up as one of our models. I handed him my card, but I found out that he got signed to a different agency a day before we met,” Raymundo fondly recalls.
“He then asked me if I knew any bars around the area that had any live bands playing. It so happened that I was going to Tapika that night, so I invited him to go with me,” he adds.
In the early 2000s, Tapika played host to several musical acts, filling the resto bar with live acoustic band enthusiasts. Raymundo himself was a regular who loved listening to Richard Poon’s band play on stage. (Interestingly, the crooner is also now signed to Cornerstone.)
“When Erickson approached me that day, I felt his genuine kindness. I had only been in the Philippines for a month then, and I didn’t know anyone. That’s why I appreciated his sincere heart to help,” Milby recounts.
The next six months saw their friendship and trust strengthen even further.
“We became good friends after that. Since Sam lived in Bulacan, he always called me up whenever he visited Manila. I helped him with a lot of things, from inviting him to church to looking for his own place in Makati. When he decided to get into the industry, he had no one else in mind to ask but me,” the president says.
Eventually, Raymundo got Milby to audition for Pinoy Big Brother (PBB). It was during and after the actor’s stint at the reality show that the executive thought about managing talents as a full-time career.
“We were both newbies at our respective fields. While Erickson has managed models before, he’s never done the same with artists,” Milby notes.
In their first year of working together, Raymundo became not only his manager, but also his assistant, driver, stylist, and everything else in between. “That’s just how hardworking Erickson is. He has always been there, just pushing me, giving me wisdom, and helping me out in many aspects of my life,” Milby says.
Milby’s continued success after PBB solidified Raymundo’s decision to form Cornerstone Entertainment in the same year. More than a decade and a half later, the company has now over a hundred artists under their management.
“I owe a lot to Sam. I don’t think we would have grown this big without his trust since day one. I was a manager with no experience and system, and I didn’t know many people in the industry back then, but he trusted me wholeheartedly,” Raymundo notes.
He devoted the first year to managing Milby. With the help of the projects the actor got and the network he appeared in, he became a superstar.
“Our working relationship allowed other artists, whether new or seasoned, to consider me as their manager,” Raymundo says. “I’m always indebted to Sam’s trust and loyalty, because in a way, they made all our company’s achievements possible.”
The executive calls Sam the panganay of Cornerstone, a caring kuya who always supports the company and his fellow talents. And just like a doting father, Raymundo works hard to nurture and sustain everyone in the Cornerstone family.
Keen on proper branding and talent development, Raymundo is able to identify the unique characteristics of their artists and bring out their respective strengths. Accordingly, he invests in creative projects and partners with networks to reinforce their brands.
Embracing growth and change
In response to the shakeups in the local entertainment industry caused by the pandemic and the ABS-CBN shutdown, Cornerstone had to pivot quickly to secure the livelihood of their artists and employees.
Their transition to digital marked a shift and upgrade in their core competencies—not only were they managing talents now, but they were also getting into content creation. Everyone had to learn and be involved, from the artists to even their respective managers. “We had to fast-track our ideas. What was mapped out in a five-year plan became something that we had to achieve as soon as possible,” Raymundo shares.
The president admits that it was and is still challenging to keep everyone motivated in these uncertain times. To keep Cornerstone up and running, he finds it important to establish an environment of constant dialogue and learning with his team and talents.
In the middle of all the shifts in the industry, Raymundo found it important to carefully listen to his people so they can adapt and learn. Questions like “What is it that they want to do, to explore?” and “What is it that they find challenging nowadays?” should be addressed.
“For instance, without many events, tapings, or concerts, I asked my road managers, ‘So, what will we do now?’ I challenged them to become content producers, as there was no way to go but digital. We did that shift as a company, and we’ve applied that even with our individual artists.”
As a self-confessed introvert who loves to be behind the camera more than being in front of it, Milby admits that this adjustment has been quite the challenge. “I’ve relied so much on TV and movies, so I’m grateful that Cornerstone’s helping me feel at ease into being active in the digital space and learn more about content creation. What excites me about it, however, is that it is limitless—you can do whatever you want,” he says.
On the bright side, the actor discloses that he has new projects on the pipeline, and he is excited to take on greater roles. “I’ve been in the industry for quite a while now, and I’d like to try things differently, of course. With the digital space, it’s easier for me to do just that.”
Moreover, Milby is grateful for having a strong support system in Cornerstone to keep him motivated.
“We’re like a family. We’re there to support one other and promote each other’s projects. I’m glad that the company isn’t only working hard to shift to digital, but they’re also helping us artists keep our jobs and that passion for our craft alive,” the actor explains.
True to his moniker, Raymundo’s vision for Cornerstone keeps him excited to move forward creatively.
“The local and international opportunities for our artists keep me driven to succeed and create great content,” he says. “Moreover, it’s not only our talents that get featured—everyone from our writers, directors, creatives, and the like can get out there and showcase their work.”
With a virtually limitless creative universe, Raymundo reminds his artists and team to work on their personal strengths and interests while keeping an open mind and facing change with courage.
“Nowadays, anyone can be their own network. Anyone can create their own show. Anyone can nurture a good following. Artists can be more creative than ever,” the executive reiterates.
He points out that you’re not just limited to mass markets or TV audiences anymore. For example, online reach allows for nice and global markets. The industry will always be changing, and, instead of being afraid, you must be ready to evolve with the times.
Both Raymundo and Milby also underscore the importance of collaboration to thrive in the digital space.
The actor himself has written and produced songs for other performers, and he has edited music videos and demos for his fellow singers. On the other hand, Cornerstone has been collaborating with different networks to produce a variety of shows.
Their efforts seemed to have paid off, much to Raymundo’s relief.
“We got to add more people to our team, actually! My fear before was to cut our workforce down to half our current number because of the pandemic,” he says. “However, because of this grand expansion for Cornerstone, it allowed us to provide more opportunities not just in the office, but also within the new shows and movies that we are producing now.”
The company’s ability to be flexible depending on the needs of the times is what made it grow even amid adversity. However, the executive is quick to dismiss any sort of formula that ensures creative success.
“Of course, we create content based on what the market, our demographics, and streaming platform partners want or need. The demand always changes, and you’ll never know what will work,” Raymundo explains.
“If we’re doing something new,” continues, “making something better, and we’re able to appeal to our target market and leave a positive impact in the process, then we’ve done our job well.”
The complete story on Erickson Raymundo and Sam Milby is in Volume III of Lifestyle Asia.
Shot on Location AIRTAXI PRIVATE HANGAR
Special Thanks PAJ RODRIGUEZ
Special Thanks ERICKSON RAYMUNDO, JEFF VADILLO, CARESS CABALLERO, and LIZ ALVAREZ