Jobs of Tomorrow: Meet the Streaming-Savvy Execs Redefining Artist Development

Fouad Jreige
JJ Corsini and Chris Hovsepian

When JJ Corsini and Chris Hovsepian left their artist relations gigs at Apple Music to become Universal Music Group’s first-ever senior vps of artist development in April, Corsini called the new role “the most critical, yet overlooked and underserved ... in the music industry.” But what exactly is it?

“Artist development” used to be shorthand for “tour management,” but the title increasingly means something quite different -- helping new acts establish a personal brand that is consistent across their music releases, fashion sensibility, live shows and more. The goal: foster a deeper connection with fans and achieve longevity in the fast-paced digital music landscape, in which Corsini says “it’s easy to feel like you can skip steps.”

For those in these positions, that means focusing on the tiniest details that might prove fruitful in cementing an artist’s image. “[Fans] want to know the lyrics to your song and what you ate for breakfast,” says Capitol Music Group senior vp creative Amber Grimes, who joined from Spotify in December. “The difference between a superstar and a run-of-the-mill artist lies in their narrative.”

That kind of thinking can help a label up its own “cool” factor, too. These new hires, often social butterflies with experience in the streaming world, act as connectors between young, hip signees and CEOs. It’s no coincidence that the refreshed Warner Records hired Apple’s former Beats 1 head of talent Warren Gesin as its senior vp of artist development last November, amid plans for a rebrand. (Says Gesin: “Warner was in need of an overhaul.”) He spends his days hanging with recent signees like Carlie Hanson and Dijon, trying to “figure out what their narrative is and how we can help them pour gas on that fire.” That includes helping put together styling looks, sitting in on fan-engagement meetings, even leading artists “by the hand” around the office: “My job is to be the glue.”

Similarly, UMG’s Hovsepian works to infuse “the artist’s DNA” into everything from album cover art to social media. “The faster [fans] get what you’re about as a person,” he says, “the more likely they are to stick around.”

This article originally appeared in the June 29 issue of Billboard.


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