DA GOSPEL TRUTH PROFILES KAREN S. JACKSON: EMI GOSPEL’S DIRECTOR OF MARKETING/ARTIST DEVELOPMENT
I’m always excited when I get to learn something new about a person that I didn’t know! I’ve met Karen a few times and we even sat together at the BMI luncheon this year in Nashville. But I still didn’t know exactly what she did, until now! Needless to say I’m very impressed and I think you will be too.
All you aspiring artists and executives in the making should definitely pay CLOSE attention. Mrs. Jackson (if you’re nasty…LOL just kidding) has some wisdom on her! Listen up!!!
What is your title? And how did you get your start in the industry?
I am Director of Marketing /Artist Development. I got my start in the music industry as a Marketing Coordinator in 2000 for EMI Gospel/Dexterity Records (reporting to Carla Williams and Shawn Tate).
I needed a job while working on my Masters Degree in Psychology. A friend told me Shawn Tate and Carla Williams needed a marketing coordinator/assistant at a new label, EMI Gospel. I was already working as a marketing coordinator for United Methodist Publishing House, so I applied. Again, I’ve worked in marketing but never in music. I got the job because the other candidate had on too much perfume.
What are your primary responsibilities? And what is a typical day like for you?
I am responsible for all the creative/marketing and artist development for EMI Gospel artists. In detail, that is coordination of all photo shoots, video shoots, marketing plans and PR campaigns. I oversee all artists’ promotional tours (usually have to travel on the majority of them) and handle all details as it relates to national and regional television appearances (oversee wardrobe and imaging). In short, everything that is a part of branding the artist and the label.
A typical day for me; there is nothing typical about my day. Of course, it starts out reading emails no matter if I am traveling or in the office. If I am in the office I have individual artist meetings on Monday to focus on upcoming releases. Wednesday is our all staff marketing meeting and the additional single artist release meetings. I leave Tuesday and Thursday open to be creative and look over imaging and packaging items. I try to stay focused on my to-do list but with an open door policy. I really do clear multi-tasking and prioritize my day. Each day I take every artist and go down a list of what needs to be done. I find by looking at each artist daily I am able to have a big picture view of what they need.
If I am traveling with an artist, that tends to make up a whole different kind of workday. It usually starts early with early morning radio or television. The remainder of the day is doing additional media, interviews and setting up for showcase performances. On the road is where my ability to handle situations quickly and effectively comes in. You always have to be prepared and comfortable with change while traveling with the artist.
The biggest piece of advice you have for artists trying to get signed with a major label?
Do your homework. Research (Google) the people at the label. Don’t forget to check out the people in other departments that are associated with the label. Get to know the people who work there, NOT just the executives. Focus on your music, labels have changed and are still in a lot of transition. They are not always the most effective way of getting your message/music out. Please don’t think you’ve been signed and now they will make me a star. It is better to think, I now have partners to work with me achieving my goals and lots of work to do.
How important is image in the Gospel industry?
Image is very important. I was always taught .If nothing else; take time to look your best. It is the ‘take time’ part that is important. Figure out what looks best and works best for you and focus on developing that. Even though we should not, people tend to judge a book by its cover. Fact of life; the pretty books always get picked up first.
What are the biggest mistakes artists signed to a major label make?
They take their eyes off the prize and their focus seems to shift. If I’ve seen it once I‘ve seen it a thousand times. The artist comes to the label willing to work, so humble, the size of the crowd does not matter. After the album releases they now want first class tickets and their staff to be flown with them. Labels are not banks and to be honest banks are not banks. Don’t get me wrong, if your CD is selling they will market you, which takes a lot of money. However the bill will have to be paid. Be mindful of how much is being spent even if you don’t actually see a bill. For an artist being at a label it is really a partnership. You have to be able to communicate, and willing to work with each other. One thing I think is often overlooked: Labels are made up of people that are there for a reason. Be mindful that they are a piece to the puzzle that is important to the artist’s success. No one becomes a success overnight or by themselves. As soon as the artist forgets how the pieces to the puzzle fit together, things begin to fall apart.
For someone who wants to be an executive in the Gospel industry where would you suggest they start?
Seriously I would start with God. Being an executive in the music industry is very challenging. God has to give you the strength and the willingness to do this job. Then I would begin researching the current executives. Don’t focus on the PR angle but the most important part of a music executive and that is their demeanor. Take a good honest look at yourself and think if you are going to follow in the footsteps of a good music executive how would I carry myself. It is your demeanor in a situation, good or bad that will define and carry you through your career in the music industry.