What’s it like running Sony/ATV’s Urban Music Department? We get some answers up close from Walter Jones, Vice President of Urban Music (East Coast) and Sam Taylor, Sr. Director, Creative (West Coast).
How has the acquisition of EMI Music Publishing last year affected your day to day responsibilities?
Walter: We have a lot more writers and producers to manage, all of whom are talented and deserving of opportunity.
Sam: We have a bigger job to make things happen faster and better. We all work together and I think our writers benefit from this team.
Predicting hit songs still remains a crap shoot. Name some Sony ATV placements that did better than expected.
Sam: I’m really proud of producer Harmony who had a big hit with “The Way,” performed by Arianna Grande featuring Mac Miller. He also produced Fantasia’s “Without Me.” There’s “Rich As F*ck” by Lil Wayne featuring 2 Chainz, produced by Nikhil Seethram.
Let’s be honest, could you name a song or two that didn’t quite meet your expectations?
Walter: Probably songs from the Keyshia Cole project: “Enough of No Love” co-written by Elijah Blake and “Trust & Believe” co-written by Guordan Banks & DJ Camper.
Talk about your working relationship with each other.
Sam: I think it’s the best of both worlds because I know I can always lean on Walter for great ideas.
Walter: Sam and I communicate often. We mainly discuss what’s happening on the charts and get each other’s thoughts on new signings, buzzing artists, etc. The Sony/ATV roster is best served because we have an amazingly well-rounded A&R staff and we are bi-coastal. Writers feel at home on both coasts.
Where do you see Urban music as it is today?
Walter: I see Urban music as Pop Music. Today, more than ever, it truly affects what’s happening on the Pop charts. There seems to be a trend where many Urban artists are choosing to stay independent and building their own business and brand.
Sam: I love [the music] to be honest. I think Hip-Hop is coming back to that genuine space again; very competitive and real. I feel like R&B can be a lot better, though. I would like for it to get back to real feelings in songs instead of just using a term or phrase that’s going to fade out by the next year.
Other than receiving a check, what most do your writers expect from you as their publisher?
Walter: Attention, encouragement, opportunity: it’s definitely not easy for writers. They write songs all year long to have maybe two released and pray they nailed the single.
Sam: I think to be that person that can create a relationship or present our writers with opportunities they may not have thought of or maybe couldn’t access; say for instance, Pharrell. At the end of the day, he’s one of the greatest writer/producers of all time, and he’s having another remarkable run right now. By getting him to work with Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and 2 Chainz before they became the stars they are now is what I feel we as publishers can do.
How can one go about getting an executive job in publishing like yours?
Sam: There’s no real formula. When I started, I was the oldest intern ever. If you keep working hard and have the right people believe in you, everything will eventually work out. I’ve been blessed to have a great mentor and an incredible boss that I want to make proud.