‘The most important advice for all of us, particularly women, is that no one else should dictate the ceiling of your capabilities.’

MBW’s Inspiring Women series profiles female executives who have risen through the ranks of the business, highlighting their career journey – from their professional breakthrough to the senior responsibilities they now fulfill. Inspiring Women is supported by Virgin Music Group.

Juliette Jones, who is today COO at Alamo Records, has spent a storied 35 years in the music business, but it took her five years of interning before finally securing a paid job at the start of her career.

After growing up in a suburb of Chicago and studying accounting, Jones was introduced to the industry by a colleague she worked with at an evening customer service job for telephone carrier MCI.

The colleague was radio promotion and marketing veteran Arlinda Garrett, who was looking to get back into the music business following a hiatus. Garrett asked Jones, a then 19-year-old college student if she’d help hand out cassettes at clubs. 

Jones gladly accepted when she realized the job perks included free entry, CDs, and merch. That led to visiting a music conference, where the buzz of the business made Jones realize where the fun was and leave her accounting career behind.

She started off trying to get a foot in the door in Washington, where she worked for a promotion rep. A friend from school eventually put her in touch with radio station WBLS in New York, and Jones moved to the big city to take on an internship there, and at Arista Records, while at the same time running her own promo company.

Jones’ first paid job was at Jive Records as the label’s first mid-Atlantic regional promotion person for the urban format. There, she stayed for eight years and solidified her career, working with acts including Aaliyah, Joe, A Tribe Called Quest, NSYNC and R. Kelly.

A two-and-a-half-year stint at industry trade title Hits in Los Angeles followed, before Jones returned to promotion at Virgin Records, Capitol, RCA and then Warner Music. She spent a decade at the latter and left as EVP of Promotion at Atlantic Records in 2022, after working on hits from Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Kodak Black and Gucci Mane, among others.

The Alamo Records job came via the label’s founder and CEO, and Jones’ previous boss at Warner Bros Records., Todd Moscowitz. It is her first role not in promotion and she spent the first year getting up to speed with the job and how the label works with parent company Sony Music (which acquired Alamo in 2021), while helping to create a culture and structure that would support growth.

The past year has also seen the arrival of artist and label services company Santa Anna, which Moscowitz launched with Sony.

“Since then, we’ve been trying to break some artists and maximize and amplify what our current roster is doing,” Jones says. “And there’s the never-ending process of trying to understand and work with millennials and Gen Zers who have a very different perspective on it than we do.”

Some of those artists include indie pop act Chenayder, hip-hop artist Dina Ayada (who is signed via Santa Anna partner Listen To The Kids), TheARTI$t (another JV signing with Santa Anna partner No More Heroes), and developing R&B act Wolfacejoeyy.

The Alamo team has also been working on the first release under Drake’s OVO Sound partnership with Santa Anna, the fourth set from PartyNextDoor, which hit No.10 on the Billboard 200 in early May.

Here, we chat to Jones about lessons learned across her career, gender equality, negotiating pay rises, and more.

You’ve spent 35 years in the music business. Can you pinpoint the biggest lessons you’ve learned across that time?

Very early on in my career I learned the importance of understanding that, at the end of the day, our artists are real people, people with emotions, struggles, heartaches and more.

I’ve worked with artists throughout my career who are extraordinarily talented, but I quickly realized that their musical talents are often only one part of who they are. To get the best out of them and to do the best for them, I had to develop relationships with them as people outside of the fame.

“I’ve worked with artists throughout my career who are extraordinarily talented, but I quickly realized that their musical talents are often only one part of who they are.”

Another really important life lesson is from when I was working at Hits. When I got the job offer, I wasn’t planning on going to work at a magazine and I wasn’t planning on moving to Los Angeles. Lionel Ridenour, who I had interned with at Arista said to me, ‘No matter what you do, stay in. It doesn’t matter what the job is, you just stay in. It’s much easier to get a job in music if you’re in music.’

So many people told me not to do that and many of those people never got back into the music business. It was great advice. It made me much more open-minded about the opportunities I would consider trying out.

Julie Greenwald, Atlantic Records
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve been given?

I don’t know if I can boil it down to one exact piece of advice, but I will say that Julie Greenwald [Chairman & CEO of Atlantic Music Group, pictured inset] was the first woman I ever worked with who was running a company and working at that level. It was so inspiring to me. I never envisioned becoming that kind of executive prior to meeting her and Andrea Ganis [Atlantic Records’ former long-serving President of Promotion] and I asked her if she thought I could become a bigger executive. She said, ‘I think you could be, but it’s most important that you think you could be.’

That experience led me to believe that the most important advice for all of us, and particularly women, is that no one else should dictate the ceiling of your capabilities. You are the only person who can decide you’re at the end, that you can’t become more, you can’t achieve more and you can’t accomplish more than where you are. Julie was really exemplary of that and my time with her taught me that it’s very true, I was in control of that. If I was willing to say that I wanted to do something bigger and do the work to do something bigger then it was a possibility for me. That’s how I ended up here.

Do you feel that equality for women working in the music business has changed during your career?

To be honest, sometimes I think it’s worse. When I was an intern, there were so many women running labels, like Sylvia Rhone, Cassandra Mills, Sharon Hayward and Tomica Wright. Today, 35 years later, it’s Sylvia Rhone. In all fairness, there were a lot more labels, so I get that the playing field is smaller. And in promotion I’ve seen there are many more women who run it than when I was a young woman.

“I did several interviews over those five years of interning where they told me they didn’t believe in hiring women to do promotion.”

When I started doing the job, it was one of the highest paying jobs in the record label and I figured the guys didn’t want us to get to play because they were all running it and very protective of it. I did several interviews over those five years of interning where they told me they didn’t believe in hiring women to do promotion.

I do think the day-to-day experience is better now. When I got into the music business, there was this understanding that if you couldn’t take the heat, you had to get out of the kitchen. There was no belief that you didn’t have to deal with some behavior. There was a little bit of an underlying current of a boys club and a boys-will-be-boys [mentality]. I’m really happy that that has changed dramatically. I don’t think that women have to deal with as much bad behavior and mistreatment in order to be employed as there once was.

I have such respect for the Gen Zers and Millennials that work for me who are like, ‘Yeah, no, we’re not going to deal with this, we don’t have to do this just to make a living.’ I came in at a time where I believed that if you didn’t deal with it you weren’t going to make it.

Women have to continue to help each other, put each other forward and support each other when we’re in the roles and also be good examples. By the time I started working with Julie Greenwald, I had been in the music business for over 20 years. It was very eye-opening to be working with her and understand that. Most of the time, all the leadership in every company I had been in was men.

More [female leadership] is important and maybe some of it is a little bit systemic. I don’t know if the music business is going to solve gender roles in the world and how we view them. Men are just never going to be the ones who are having the babies and so subsequently are not typically the primary care-giver. That sometimes hinders people’s opportunity. It shouldn’t, I hope that we get better at supporting everyone in their family life and parenting in the workplace to give people the opportunity to continue to work and to grow.

I know one of the things you’re focusing on at Alamo Records is trying to reach the younger generation, understand their music tastes and the way they find and create affiliations with artists. How are you doing that?

One of the things I love about this company is, because we don’t have a massive roster and we’re not a massive company, we have time to really be with our artists from the beginning all the way through.

That’s no disrespect whatsoever to the major label model, it’s just that they don’t have the luxury of doing that. There’s a lot of things they do extraordinarily well, but that’s sometimes just not possible when you have such a big roster and you’re servicing your superstar artist. Because we’re a little bit smaller, we have the chance to really be in the weeds and work through the process.

So things that some bigger companies just wouldn’t have the bandwidth to deal with, like, ‘Yay this guy’s streaming went from one million to 1.1 million this week’ – for us, that’s a real thing.

There was a time right after the Grammys when BossMan Dlow was starting to get some momentum and that’s what most of us were working on all day. We saw that there was something happening and we put the majority of our resources towards fanning that flame, paying attention to the trends, seeing where it was growing and paying attention to the records and the different things that were happening. Then we had the luxury of an artist who was really great and appreciative.

What would you change about the music industry and why?

I come from the CD era when the music business was a very different business. It’s always tough when you see a big shift and the expense of that shift is the loss of people’s livelihoods and opportunity to work in the business.

I’m a promotion person and my function for decades is something that’s shrinking at the moment. A lot of people that I’ve worked with for a long time are no longer able to do that job because the way that people consume music is different. I’m looking forward to whatever the new big development is that’s going to show us the way forward and bring new things for people to do.

While I love the possibility for artists with the internet, it makes it tough to have a very clear path forward. There’s just so many places that people are consuming music and to keep up with, to understand how to best meet the audience where they live and give them the best products.

The music business is forever evolving. There’s quite a few areas that are changing rapidly and then there’s some areas that are really behind in their evolution of catching up to how the music business works today. I’m hoping that some of those parts of the business start catching up to the digital space.

You’ve talked before about the importance of women getting paid properly for their skills and their experience and getting paid well. What advice would you give to someone who wants to ask for a pay rise?

I am a big advocate of information. I always encourage people to do a little bit of homework, find out if what you’re looking to get is reasonable, have some reference points. Not everyone’s the most forthcoming about what they make, but hopefully you have some friends, you have some access to get an idea.

I had one employee come to me and ask for a raise strictly based on how long they’ve been at the company. That’s not actually a thing. We don’t give out a ribbon just for showing up, at least in our company, we like to think that it’s merit-based.

If you’re asking for a raise based on merit, come in with a little bit of information. ‘I believe I deserve a raise because I did this and this broke or I made this impact on the business’. Oftentimes, people are so nervous to ask for a raise that they come in with, ‘I need a raise because my rent went up’. While that’s a real life concern, it’s not actually connected. I’m never going to make as much money as, you know, a software coder, because that is a very valuable and in-demand job today. They don’t care how much my rent is, I can’t do that for them.

Always go into that meeting with a goal of what you hope to come out with, an idea of what you would like to make, with some reference points of how you landed on that number. Also, all anyone can say is no. I don’t know anyone who was terminated for asking for a raise. There’s nothing wrong with expecting to be paid what you’re worth and as long as you do a little homework and you have a realistic idea of what that is, it’s a very valid conversation.

If you could go back to the beginning of your career and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?

Be more courageous. When I was young, I was very happy to be here. I started out after five years of interning just relieved to be getting paid and very much like, ‘I don’t want to do anything to rock this boat and not get paid’.

After a couple of years, when I started saying what I thought and being vulnerable and vocal about my opinions, people I worked with and for started to see me in a different light as someone who might be a leader because I wasn’t afraid to say what I thought anymore.

Virgin Music Group is the global independent music division of Universal Music Group, which brings together UMG’s label and artist service businesses including Virgin and Ingrooves.

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