Gerson is about to catapult from being one of the most powerful executives in the A&R sector to one of the most powerful executives in the overall music industry. In January, she will assume command of Universal Music Publishing Group: She is leaving Sony/ATV, where she was co-president and in charge of the company's West Coast office. Sony/ATV is the No. 1 music publisher, overseeing an estimated $1.2 billion in annual revenue, including EMI Music Publishing, for which it serves as administrator. Its chairman/CEO, Martin Bandier, has credited Gerson with building a writer-centric ethos there. She is well-known for spotting talent early. At Sony/ATV, she signed Lady Gaga, Norah Jones and Alicia Keys, who was just 15 when Gerson had the foresight to ink a deal.
Gerson will tap that remarkable radar to spark a "cultural shift" at UMPG. She talks about marrying the company's business capabilities with A&R so that the creative nature is at the top. "Without having great talent and nurturing it, we are nothing," she says. "The challenge is to step out and be very involved in advocating for songwriters to make sure we add real value to their careers."
UMPG's annual revenue is about $900 million. "We want to be the No. 1 music publisher," she says. "That doesn't mean market share. It means offering services to our songwriters and thinking outside the box to get the most value for their songs."
Gerson, a single mother of three, knew she wanted to be in the music business from a young age. Her father owned a nightclub, the Latin Casino, in Cherry Hill, N.J., outside Philadelphia, where everyone from Frank Sinatra to Teddy Pendergrass played. "I grew up with a certain comfort level for the talent," she says. Her career began at Chappell Music, as an archivist in the company's sheet-music library. "I have always wanted to be in publishing, even though labels have called me now and then in the past."
"Without having great talent and nurturing it, we are nothing," says Gerson.