Photo Credit: Jimmy Fontaine
Welcome to Magnetic’s Industry Focus, a series where we highlight the major players working behind the scenes of the EDM biz. These are the folks running the record labels, representing the artists, promoting the shows and just getting it done. They may not get the shine of the DJs on stage, but they work just as hard making sure the parties are packed, the music is perfect and that the artists are where they need to be. We’ve decided to shine the light on the behind the scenes movers and shakers.
Meet Blake Foster - Director of Marketing at Atlantic and Big Beat Records for David Guetta, Skrillex, Knife Party, Clean Bandit, Flux Pavilion, Rudimental and more.
How did you start your career in the music industry?
I started as an intern in the Radio Promotion department of Roadrunner Records (also in the WMG family). My dad worked in radio promo when I was growing up so that sparked my desire & interest in the industry. I attended college in Oklahoma, and an internship was a way for me to spend a summer in NY. Ended up loving it, but wanted to move over to marketing. I moved to New York in January of 2011, got an interview in the Marketing department for Atlantic and that gets us to today.
What is the best part of the business?
For me, the best part of the industry is being surrounded by so many talented and creative people. It’s fun to be surrounded by creativity from the artists, and also my colleagues. Ultimately we are driving towards the same goals, and there’s no better environment than one that challenges you along the way.
What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge for me is finding new and creative ways to bring our artists’ music to more people. There is so much more noise & so fewer barriers that you’d think it should be easier, but it’s actually more difficult to cut through & leave a lasting impression.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
Be eager but not too much, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Julie Greenwald is an amazing leader for us & her mantra is to be vulnerable. Sometimes you have great ideas and sometimes they are terrible, but you’ll never know until you share them.
What is a day in the life like for you working as a director of marketing for Big Beat Records?
A day in the life is never the same! It’s never boring, that’s for sure. As the product manager for an artist, it’s my role to be the air traffic controller & manager for the artist inside the label. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make sure each department has the tools they need to do their jobs, and to make sure that our initiatives remain cohesive with the overall marketing plan and the timeline we establish. This means making sure we have CDs/Vinyl/Merchandise for artists when they are touring, a strong live presentation that can translate to TV in a special way, a digital presence that brings it all together for the fans who are following them every day, and much more.
Were you always a fan of electronic music or did the business side bring you into the scene? Describe that process
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t always a huge fan of electronic music. My first introduction was from The Prodigy when they performed Breathe on the MTV Video Music Awards when I was much younger. I was always aware of it, but ended up spending my teenage years playing in hardcore punk bands. After joining the music industry, I started working with some electronic acts & found many of the same elements in the ethos of electronic music that originally drew me to punk (more than you might imagine). It’s very much about the community & experiencing the music with people who are just as passionate about it as you are. That’s when I really started to pay attention and found a niche within the overall genre I am proud to say is now in my blood.
What are the best perks that come with your job?
There are many perks, but I think the ones I care most about are having the ability to travel and meet so many different people who are all working in the same industry. It’s also not so bad having to go to Miami & Las Vegas for work every now and then. It could be much worse, I’ll say that!
You work with a number of leading artists (Skrillex, Clean Bandit, David Guetta) how do you keep your finger on the pulse of an ever-changing industry?
Social media & my peers are the two ways I try to stay up to date with what’s going on. It’s easy to get lost in the vortex of your projects. Taking a step back every now and then to look around is important. I like to follow other artists & labels on twitter to see some of their strategies. At the end of the day, we are all in this together & it’s important to know what works & what doesn’t when we are marketing artists & their music. I love hearing about new ideas & interesting/different activations for sharing music. The weirder the better as long as it makes sense for the fan base!
If you weren’t in the music biz, what would you be doing?
I think I’d probably be a carpenter or something along those lines. I’ve always loved building things & hands on projects.
Does an artist’s tour schedule or festival season intertwine with your responsibilities?
Definitely, sometimes in the marketing campaign & also in life. The best way people are going to hear new music is for artists to tour & play that music out live to real people. There’s no better testament to how a song works than hearing it through a massive system at a club or a festival. Watching the audience react is one of my favorite things & is incredibly rewarding. It reminds me that what we do does have a purpose at the end of the day & does help change peoples’ lives. I know how I feel when I hear a song that really hits me. It’s an indescribable feeling that I think everyone can relate to, and that’s why we do what we do.
How has technology impacted record labels?
Technology has always forced the labels to evolve in different ways. My dad always tells the story of the first time a CD player arrived at the radio station he worked for. It was this alien technology & it totally blew their minds. Every few years, something new comes along and that same thing happens again. It’s honestly really fun & opens up new doors for us to be creative.
Follow Blake on Twitter!