(Curated by Lack of Flaws)
Women are at the helm in 2019 overseeing several labels and projects from marquee and developing artists. We decided for this year’s annual Music Industry Quarterly A&R Roundtable to feature some key women who are responsible for A&R, Artist Relations or other key roles in the creative process.
Kate Losech, A&R, Capitol Records
Nicole Plantin, SVP of A&R, Rostrum Records
Zoe “Ms Zoe” Young, VP of A&R, Epic Records
LACK OF FLAWS: Have you found male and female artists to be more or less receptive to your input as a creative executive over the past few years?
KATE: I would say that for the most part, artists are pretty receptive to my feedback regardless of gender. It’s about finding common ground and explaining things to them in a way that they understand. Artists are less judgmental than their teams in my opinion, because at the end of the day … it’s about their music and what works best for them. Artists appreciate being challenged but it’s also very important for them to be heard and I think that’s where people get it messed up.
NICOLE: My relationship with artists typically starts off with our connecting creatively and their sensing that I respect and understand their vision. So, I have found that my input is usually invited.
ZOE: I’ve found male and female artists have been more receptive toward me as a creative executive. Over my career I have worked on numerous projects with male and female artists, and as a female, I understand how to put a woman together! I feel my track record and experience plays a major role into artists trusting my creative judgement. Trial and error are the greatest teacher!
LOF: The Industry is still male dominant at large, but what changes are you seeing as more women take key positions at entertainment powerhouses?
KATE: Now more than ever women are breaking through the glass ceiling and instead of looking at other women as competitors like it has been in the past, we’re supporting each other. We’re collaborating, we’re hiring each other, and most importantly we’re all working towards a common goal. As more women continue to take higher positions, the conversations begin to shift a bit. You look around the room and it feels more inclusive, and because of this, women feel more comfortable to speak up, to give their input, to assert themselves. Additionally, artists seem to be more receptive to companies that have a higher number of female executives because of the energy we bring.
NICOLE: The impact of having women in key positions is immeasurable. One of the things I experienced coming up in the music industry was men telling me what the female customer/listener wanted to see and hear. As a woman (ahem!) I know that there are so many facets to us and that we have more to offer than our sexuality. We want to see ourselves in artists. As female A&R’s we’re able to identify talent that might not fit into these boxes (that weren’t designed by us) and we have an understanding of what these individuals (and their movements) can mean to fans and overall culture. We have a say in the imaging and content and thereby the messaging that goes out into the world. By being involved in these decisions we’re not only directly impacting culture and trends, but also the way that young girls and women feel about themselves.
Secondly, we are positions to support and empower other young female executives who are coming up. As a young woman in this industry it was difficult to convince male executives in power to take seriously that I wanted to be an A&R because I think they simply didn’t see themselves in me. I didn’t get the “little brother” treatment that a lot of male execs benefit from. It’s important for me to identify female talent (whether it be future execs or creatives) and am very intentional about wanting to provide support and mentorship! By the way, I am a Grammy NEXT mentor which is one way that I’m able to do this.
ZOE: The industry is still male dominant at large, however, I see changes every day with more women taking key powerhouse positions. I am currently VP of A&R at Epic records. My boss Sylvia Rhone has been one of the most powerful women in the entire music industry for over 20 years. Since I have been employed at Epic Records, my title, responsibilities and position have grown and so has hers. Ms. Rhone was just promoted from the president of the company to the CEO and Chairman. I am beyond inspired by her continuous growth and leadership. In addition, I work with two other female A&R’s (Jennifer Goicoechea and Ericka J. Coulter) who oversee and work directly with top artists at the company. I am surrounded by powerful women who inspire me daily!
LOF: How has being a woman made you feel better equipped to manage the challenges you face with artists, managers, label co-workers, creatives, etc?
ZOE: The music industry requires a ton of patience with the loads of people you may come across on a daily basis. For example, three of the artists I A&R are males. As a woman I feel like I am able to communicate better with my artists and take the time to explain why certain things have to be done or which moves we can’t make! I have always been known to come in and deflate argumentative conflicts and explain situations in a calmer manner. I’m currently working with a female rap group and many times I have to explain how to properly address a woman or take a woman’s feelings into consideration while doing business with some males.
NICOLE: I think our interactions as women involve less ego. We are very much about getting the job done. We also tend to be great communicators by nature, which we apply in all of our interactions, whether it’s giving feedback, having creative brainstorming sessions, playing mediator or during impromptu “therapy consultations.”
KATE: I think that women are natural problem solvers, we’re diffusers, we listen better and we nurture …we have been conditioned by society to take a backseat for so long that this is almost ingrained in us. Due to this, we are able to tackle issues in a more democratic way. Women facilitate more of a harmonious and caring environment. We know what it feels like to not be listened to, to be disregarded, and oftentimes most creatives have felt like that. So it allows for better communication and sense of comfort.
LOF: What are the key areas you are instructing your artists to focus on for the next year? Why do you deem these keys so important?
NICOLE: First, I want my artist to step into their full potential and make the best music possible. This might seem obvious, but I want us to really push creatively and make defining records. This is important because this leads to longevity as artists and solidifying their place in the landscape of music. Additionally, I’d like them to work on developing their live shows. Connecting in person with your fans is priceless and again, another area that will contribute to career longevity.
ZOE: I always tell my artists to take the time to make the best music they can make! Work on your live performances, be creative and never give up. Social media is taking over, so it is important to keep in tune with your fans and your content especially if you are a new artist! These keys are important because they will determine how you take on the next stages of your career and maintain longevity in this business.
KATE: Over the next year, I continue to emphasize development to not only my artists but to their teams. Collaboration and touring are key to me. I work with a couple artists that can float between multiple genres, so empowering them to explore different sounds and areas is essential to them building their confidence and figuring out what works, and what might not work. For the last few years, many artists careers have declined faster than they should simply because they don’t put time or effort into perfecting their live performance; that’s a major red flag. Your music will not translate as well if you can’t put on a show or you aren’t willing to get in the van.
LOF: What are the next major milestones you’d like to accomplish as an executive?
ZOE: There are other positions in the company that I would like to achieve. One of my main goals is to sign the next big superstar, hopefully this person is already on my roster and we continue to grow. Another goal would be to start my own JV label and sign artists directly to myself.
NICOLE: I’d like to create a space where progressive, forward thinking creatives can find an ally and supporter. I want to continue to be consistent about signing artists that are making cultural statements. Also, I was recently elected to the Los Angeles Chapter Board of the Recording Academy. I’m looking forward to doing good work in that spirit.
KATE: As a young executive, I am focused on building a diverse roster with longevity. I’m not a day trader type of A&R, I don’t care for the obvious quick hit, so developing artists to their full potential is a major goal for all of my artists and my career. Additionally, I hope to continue to empower women and anyone who feels like they aren’t good enough. One day I would like to use my resources and head in more of a philanthropic direction, that’s what really feeds my soul.