After my first couple of weeks here at Virgin Records, things started to calm down a bit. Instead of partaking in all the extracurricular entertaining sides of the music industry, I got to sit back and begin learning more about how a record label truly functions from the inside out.
I began attending more A&R (Artists and Repertoire) and marketing meetings, which really allowed me to understand how all the parts of a record label coincide. In the A&R meetings we went through the artists we were looking at to potentially sign and discussed their sound amongst the Virgin group as well as Capitol Music Group as a whole. We also discussed the acts we currently have and what the next steps were for each of them. Each week we go through the Top 40 songs to keep up to date with what sounds, artists, and producers are making the charts. This allows us to constantly know what people are listening to and who’s rising to the top. In the marketing meetings I got to see how they coordinate show schedules, the artists’ pictures, looks, name, logos, meet and greets as well as any necessary promotional activity. I never truly understood all that the marketing department did until I attended these meetings.
As with my first couple of weeks, I continued tracking our artists’ social media numbers as well as searching for talented new independent artists. This entailed creating show lists of artists playing in the many venues in Los Angeles, scanning through various Pollstar, NME and Billboard magazines as well as attending some concerts in LA. It is amazing how great an artist or band can sound online, but the minute you hear their songs live it can be a completely different story. One band had one amazing song, yet the other six were all over the place, which showed us they weren’t ready to sign to a label at that point in their career. Through my short time here at Virgin, my “ear” for music has already become much pickier.
Last week, the Virgin team and I got to attend an ASCAP writers workshop meeting where Ron was the guest speaker. ASCAP is the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; a membership association of composers, songwriters, lyricists and music publishers of every kind of music. They protect the rights of their members by licensing and distributing royalties for the performances of the artist’s copyrighted works. It was amazing to hear Ron’s stories of his journey in the music business and all the ups and downs he has encountered. The 14 “up and coming” writers were absorbing everything he had to say in awe. They then played their original songs for Ron and in return got some very constructive feedback that will dramatically improve their musical careers.
Although these past couple of weeks have been more of a learning experience within the office, there is always some excitement that takes place here at work. I was lucky enough to spend some time with one of Virgin’s artists, Corinne Bailey Rae while she was recording in the studio on our floor. It was also a big surprise when the whole day was spent prepping the room next to my desk for an interview, which I later realized was for Katy Perry (after she nonchalantly asked if I knew where the bathroom was located. And yes, I gladly showed her!)
Although my boss, Ron Fair, has extremely limited time, I was persistent in creating a time in his calendar to show him a new artist I had worked with in the past. I feel this artist has what it takes to make it big and become a true player on the Virgin Records roster and therefore I was determined to pitch it to him. After the success of the first artist I had signed with Ron, he decided to make room in his schedule and take a listen. As I had hoped, he saw the true talent and “star” that I had seen and I am very excited that this artist is coming in next week to meet with Ron and I. This positive feedback just makes it even clearer that I was meant to do this.
My time here at Virgin has been an amazing experience and I know that this is still just the beginning. I have become very close with all my coworkers and love the environment we work in. I look forward to continuing my work here at Virgin and listening to some great music while I’m at it.
Natalie Edell is a senior RTVF major at Northwestern interning with Virgin Records this quarter.