Career Jam 2021 Career Jam 2021

The Art of A&R

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Derrick Aroh
RCA Records, Vice President of A&R

Derrick Aroh has been on a mission to make “weird” hip-hop mainstream. Aroh’s first artist signing in 2015 was DC rapper GoldLink. That year he released the four-times platinum, Grammy-nominated single “Crew,” and his major label debut album, At What Cost, was named by Rolling Stone, XXL, Complex, and Pigeons & Planes as one of the best rap albums of the year. 

In 2018, the Brooklyn native—alongside Tunji Balogun (RCA’s EVP of A&R and founder of the label Keep Cool) and Adonis Sutherlin (senior VP of A&R)—secured the signings of two of the genre’s buzziest artists: Brockhampton and Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover). Gambino scored his first hot 100 no. 1 with the three-times platinum, four-time Grammy-winning single “This Is America.” At the same time, Brockhampton’s major label debut, Iridescence, shot to no. 1 on the Billboard 200 and since has amassed 170 million audio streams in the U.S. The band followed up with 2019's GINGER, which peaked at no. 3 on Billboard. The album features their platinum single “SUGAR.” 

In 2020, he signed rising star Mulatto, who is the first solo female rapper from Atlanta to go gold with her singles “Bitch from Da Souf” and “Muwop.” Aroh also signed Kaytranada, who won two Grammys this year and was nominated for Best New Artist.

Amanda Samii B.M. ’09
Capitol Records, Senior Vice President of A&R

Amanda Samii is the senior vice president of A&R for Capitol Records. She started at Capitol after 10 years at Kobalt Music Publishing, most recently as vice president of creative. During her tenure at Kobalt, Samii singed a diverse array of writers and producers, including Finneas O’Connell, who won five major Grammys in 2019—including Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Producer of the Year—for his work with his sister, Billie Eilish, on her worldwide smash album When We all Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Samii was instrumental in signing Marshmello, whose 2019 platinum-selling track "Happier" is the biggest single of the superstar DJ and producer’s career and followed a host of smash collaborations with Selena Gomez, Khalid, Migos, Logic, James Arthur, and Juicy J, among others, that have earned him nearly three billion streams to date. 

Samii has also signed and worked with many other notable writers and artists, including Syd of Odd Future and The Internet, Rogét Chahayed, Mike Crossey, Michael Matosic, Peter Thomas, Paul Meany, Vegyn, Jon Hume, Some Randoms, and Uffie.

 

Derek Cournoyer
Kobalt Music, Senior Director of Synch and Business Development

Derek Cournoyer is senior director of synch and business development for Kobalt Music. He’s helped secure thousands of music placements on behalf of Kobalt’s clients, including uses in FIFA, Insecure, Riverdale, Dave, and Just Dance, and recent Super Bowl LV spots for Amazon and Frito Lay.

Lanre Gaba
Atlantic Records, General Manager/Senior Vice President of Urban A&R

Lanre Gaba's 20 years in the music business is a true testament of working your way up from the bottom. She started her career right out of Syracuse University as a Ruffhouse Records intern, where one of her main responsibilities was walking and cleaning up after her boss's dog. Her enthusiasm and unmatched work ethic quickly led to a full-time assistant position. Her next role was at EMI Music Publishing as a coordinator, where she handled the intake of newly signed writers and producers.

In 2002, Lanre joined Atlantic Records as an A&R administration manager. As a project manager for artist recording projects, she learned everything from what it takes to make and put out music to what goes on in the studio to managing budgets to handling the business. Over the years, Lanre's role at Atlantic evolved as she grew as a leader within the A&R Department. 

She is currently the general manager and senior vice president of A&R, and is responsible for the hip-hop and R&B roster, which includes A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, Cardi B, Lil Uzi Vert, Burna Boy, and rising star Pooh Shiesty. In 2019, Lanre received the RIAA Executive of the Year Award, honoring her instrumental role in developing legendary artists and for her contributions to advancing women in the music industry. She has been recognized in Billboard’s R&B and Hip-Hop Power Players list, the Billboard Women In Music issue, and most recently in Billboard’s Change Agents list in 2021 for her advocacy efforts toward racial justice and social change. Lanre currently lives outside of New York City with her husband and their two sons.

Yvonne Drazan
PeerMusic, Vice President, Latin Division

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Yvonne Drazan is a woman who loves music and is a pioneer and creative visionary for Latin Music.

Drazan's tenure as a music executive champions the work and trust of songwriters as much as the creative process. She remains a leading industry name by being accessible and agile with a competitive spirit that makes her the go-to publisher for writers/managers/attorneys. 

She has successfully navigated the music industry for more than three decades and helped shape the state of Latin Music as an early pioneer of “Latin Alternative” with the creation of Club Rock En Español in 1989.   

Named “Latin Power Player” by Billboard two years running and a LAMC “Wonder Women of Latin Music” honoree, Yvonne goes beyond the role of traditional publisher.  Her work ranges from producing music videos and organizing inter-genre song camps to implementing marketing strategies in the U.S. while influencing a global market. Yvonne Drazan is well-known for her ability to discover, mentor and sign talented songwriters, artists and producers at every stage of their careers, spearheading catalog acquisitions while maintaining a wide-spanning roster of Latin, Pop, and Urban writers for peermusic in the US, LatAm and Puerto Rico. 

Yvonne joined peermusic in 2003 as the Latin Creative Manager and is currently the Vice President Latin Division, West Coast.  Throughout her career at peermusic, Yvonne has signed worldwide deals with artists including Gloria Trevi, Gaby Moreno, Molotov, El Komander, Mala Rodriguez, Sofia Reyes, De La Ghetto, ChocQuibTown, Chiquis, Lupita Infante, Jona Camacho, Chayanne, and Manu Manzo, among others. 

Prior to peermusic, Yvonne was Label Manager of Surco/Universal where she handled the A&R coordination for Juanes’ album Un Dia Normal, Molotov’s album Dance And Dense Denso, both winners of multiple Latin Grammy Awards as well as Bajo Fondo Tango Club.  In addition to running the label, Yvonne managed the creative activities for label founder Gustavo Santaolalla as a film composer (Amores Perros, Motorcycle Diaries, Babel, Brokeback Mountain) and the production of Café Tacuva, and Kronos Quartet. 

Prior to Surco, Yvonne was the National Manager of Media Relations at Rhino Records where she spearheaded the PR campaigns of many of her musical heroes: Los Lobos, Ramones, The Sugarhill Gang, The Cars, Curtis Blow, and Devo. 

In 1991, Yvonne entered the music industry at EMI Latin under the direction of Latin industry veteran, Jose Behar.  Behar mentored Yvonne in marketing, promotions, merchandising, and production for the label’s stellar roster including the late Selena Quintanilla, Jon Secada, Alvaro Torres, Grupo Mazz and many more.

Yvonne departed EMI to serve as a road manager and publicist for Caifanes, Fobia, Miguel Mateos, Maldita Vecindad, and La Castañeda.  In 1989 Yvonne founded “Club Rock En Español” (CREE) and was at the forefront of a movement that has since grown exponentially.  For a decade, she helped craft a viable market for Latin Rock in Los Angeles for international artists such as Soda Stereo, Caifanes, Mecano, Fobia and La Maldita Vecindad, and organized three very successful Los Angeles-based festivals, “El Guateque”.


Tina Davis
Empire Inc., Vice President of A&R

Quality. That one word sits at the heart of Tina Davis’ musical passion and stewardship of Phase Too Inc. The full-service management company was well known for discovering/developing and launching the career of Grammy Award-winning, platinum-selling singer/songwriter/producer Chris Brown. 

Before establishing Los Angeles-based Phase Too, Davis began honing two of her strong suits, discovering talent and artist development, in college. Between mass communication and broadcasting studies at Grambling State University in Louisiana, Davis moonlighted as an on-air personality for local radio station KRSU. That led to an on-air stint with the syndicated show Radioscope and eventual promotion to operations manager for the L.A.-based program. Love of music came naturally for the Northern California native. As a youngster, Davis watched her father gig in their garage with his own band. 

Fast forward to 1994 and Davis is learning the publishing end of the business as a creative assistant at Chrysalis Music Publishing. Interacting with a client roster that included OutKast and Macy Gray, she also worked as an assistant at BB King’s club at L.A.’s Universal City Walk. That’s where she created the popular industry hangout R&B Live, showcasing such fledgling L.A.-bred acts as Brandy and Montell Jordan. After a year at Chrysalis, Davis was recruited to become an A&R administrator at the West Coast office of revered hip-hop label Def Jam. 

Within a year, Davis was promoted to head of Def Jam West. Charged with fortifying the label’s Westside rap connections, she worked with such artists as Warren G and XX. Then Def Jam CEO and Davis mentor Lyor Cohen offered another prime opportunity: a move to New York as the label’s VP—and later senior VP—of A&R. Over the next 10 years, Davis oversaw the careers of such newcomers and veterans as Jordan, DMX, Method Man, Red Man, and LL Cool J. During her L.A. and New York Def Jam tenures, Davis handled A&R administration for various hit soundtracks, including Rush Hour, Rush Hour II, The Nutty Professor II, Belly, and How to Be a Player. She also signed eventual multiple-Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Ne-Yo and helped develop the label’s successful R&B imprint, Def Soul. 

That innate sense propelled Davis into the management arena when she simultaneously exited Def Jam and established Phase Too in 2005 with newly signed Jive/RCA artist Brown as her first client. Davis recently was the creator and executive producer of BET’s first music competition show, The Next Big Thing, which teaches artists what it really takes to be a star.

After 29 years in music, Tina Davis is currently the vice president of A&R at EMPIRE Inc.


Bonnie Hayes
Berklee College of Music, Chair of Songwriting
Career Highlights:
  • Wrote hit songs “Have a Heart” and “Love Letter” from the acclaimed Bonnie Raitt album Nick of Time
  • Wrote songs for Cher, Bette Midler, David Crosby, Robert Cray, Adam Ant, Booker T. & the MG’s, and many more
  • Produced the Gospel Hummingbirds’s Grammy-nominated 1992 album Steppin’ Out
  • Toured with pop-punk icon Billy Idol
  • Scored college radio hit with the 1980’s cult favorite “Shelley’s Boyfriend,” which also appeared, with another of Hayes’s songs, in the 1983 motion picture Valley Girl
Prince Charles Alexander
Berklee College of Music, Professor, Music Production and Engineering

Prince Charles Alexander is a sought-after recording and mixing engineer whose clients include Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, Faith Evans, P. Diddy, the Notorious B.I.G., Usher, Boyz II Men, Brandy, Babyface, Sting, Aretha Franklin, Usher, Brian McKnight, and others. Alexander has garnered more than 40 Platinum and Gold certifications from the RIAA and has multiple Grammy Awards and nominations. He holds an adjunct instructor position at New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, has taught audio technology at the Institute of Audio Research, and is a frequent lecturer at the City College of New York in Manhattan.

He teaches advanced production and mixing at Berklee. From the early to mid 80s, he produced, wrote, and recorded on Virgin Records with his group, Prince Charles and the City Beat Band. Alexander was an early innovator of wind synthesis and a part of the "punk-funk" generation that incorporated many of the devices that would propel rap music to the forefront of the American music scene.


Meet the executives responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the career development of artists, songwriters, and producers, including Childish Gambino, Marshmello, Pabllo Vittar, and many others. Learn how the A&R role is different if you’re at a record label or a music publisher.

Moderated by: Bonnie Hayes, Chair of Songwriting, and Prince Charles Alexander, Professor in the Music Production and Engineering Department.