Coronavirus

How We Work Now: Warner Chappell Music President U.S. A&R Ryan Press

Ryan Press
Jonathan Weiner

Ryan Press

In a new series now amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.

This installment is with Ryan Press, Warner Chappell Music Publishing's president of U.S. A&R.

Ryan Press: During all of these times, music is probably the biggest thing in the world that brings people together. You can see that in internet videos of people in different countries singing songs out their windows, or doing TikToks. Being that we’re not on the front lines, we’re trying to do our part to recognize that we have to work extra hard because music is one of those things that can impact lives and improve people’s mental state. We’re trying to make sure we do our part to provide music to heal people.

I think going through this pandemic and stay-at-home order has been an accelerated case study in how we can, as a company and an A&R department, fully function at our highest capacity and not be confined to an office. We have found we can be very flexible on how we work as an A&R team.

Obviously, there’s the need for an in-person connection, but we’ve been able to connect in so many different ways and use technology the way it’s supposed to be used. Sometimes you get caught up in your old ways and you don’t use this stuff as much as you should unless you’re forced to. So it’s been informative to know we can be mindful in how we gather and share music and ideas as a group.

But the first two weeks of being home were challenging -- not only for our songwriters, but of course everyone in the world was trying to get adjusted. But these are creative people. They’re doing things. Songwriters are doing virtual sessions. Producers are making beats together. We work with a guy who has a system to record what you’re doing while he’s recording you from his house.

Creativity comes to different people at different times. So for certain people this might be the most creative time. Swae Lee is trying to finish his album. He called me and said, “It’s unfortunate circumstances but I needed the down time to finish my album.” So he’s fully at home and trying to finish his album.

Then I was speaking to Ben Billions the other day. He's a friend of mine. For a couple weeks he had nothing. Then the creativity came to him. “This is the first week I've got back out there and made some music,” he said.

The payoff can take time, though. In songwriting sometimes a lot of time goes into creating and things don’t see the light of day for months or years. Things that are coming out are most likely things that were done months, if not years, ago. There’s a stockpile of songs.

There are so many songs just now coming out. We have, I think, six of the 11 songs on the new Dua Lipa album. Sarah Hudson. Julia Michaels. Ian Kirkpatrick. Justin Tranter. Some others. It’s good to see those things come out.

Myself, Troy Carter and J Erving have been doing a daily Zoom chat called The Panel with other A&Rs, songwriters and artists -- we’ve had everything from high-level producers to A&R people to influencers on there. We’re just really sparking conversation and trying to do our part to give knowledge back to the 1,000 or 2,000 people that log on daily and give people some insight into this conversation. The things they can learn are the things they might not normally get to unless we go to a conference. And for us, it’s a chance to connect with industry leaders.

I’m optimistic about what comes from this because we’ll get so many songs with great meaning, deep thoughts and different perspectives we might not have otherwise gotten. I’m excited for that. Some of the best music historically has come from challenging times. Oppressed people. Natural disasters. Breakups. Deaths.

This is real life going on. People are dying. People are sick. Families are affected. The world is affected. If the worst-case thing is I have to sit in my house, that’s so small on the list of what’s important in this world. I’m really looking at it from that perspective. I can last as long as I need to last.

Coronavirus

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