Coronavirus

How We Work Now: Spotify VP/Co-Head of Music Marian Dicus

Marian Dicus
The Collective You

Marian Dicus

In a new series 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 Marian Dicus, Spotify's vp/co-head of music.

Marian Dicus: I travel a lot, so I was really on the road starting at the beginning of January. My last trip was at the beginning of March right as the pandemic was breaking out. I was only home because I was due to be in New York that week when everything kind of shut down. I’m in Connecticut, where we have a house. I'm super grateful to have the space.

It's myself and my husband and we have two kids. My daughter is eight and she’s in third grade and then I have a nearly 15-month-old son. For my daughter, it’s adjusting to being inside. The kids are definitely more technologically savvy, but she's still only eight, so they don't really have the functioning skills of being able to get from Google Hangout to Google Hangout and understanding time. So there are a lot of alarms on my phone to remind me to get up from my meeting to make sure she's making it to her math or science meetings.

My husband is actually the CFO of a paper company. And so, as you know, toilet paper is a big thing right now and that's something his company manufactures. So yeah, I've had a lot of requests. I had to send a box of 96 rolls out to my sister. We're in an enviable position of being able to give out toilet paper to our friends and family. I figured it'll be good bartering. You know, like maybe if it gets really bad, my daughter can set up a lemonade-slash-toilet-paper stand.

At Spotify, we have offices in so many markets that everybody was already working remotely, either on Google Hangout, on Gchat, on Slack, and now we've added Zoom into the mix. So in that respect, not a lot has changed. My team are still craving face-to-face contact of getting together and going to shows or meeting with artists and listening to music together. But in terms of the business aspect, we're so used to doing things remotely that it really hasn't changed the day-to-day.

Jeremy [Erlich, Dicus’ counterpart who holds the same title] and I are both out there talking to our partners on a daily basis. They've been thinking about how to release music now during this time when people are all home. And we've really been encouraging everybody to continue to release music. The eyeballs are there, the ears are there, the streaming is up more than ever, people want to hear new music and they're fully engaged on social platforms.

So a lot of the work that we've been doing has just been minor pivots to marketing campaigns since people are home and that also artists are home. I think people are enjoying artists being a little more raw and open and not as produced. For those artists who are willing to kind of just experiment with us it's been really fun.

We recently started a series called The Drop In that we launched with country artist Morgan Wallen. We were thinking, "What's everybody doing right now?" Everybody's on Zoom calls. We thought, "Wouldn't it be great if Morgan dropped in on a Zoom call and surprised his biggest fan?" One of them is in on it and she's talking to two of her friends and then he drops in and plays a song for them. The reaction was so great that we're going to continue that series.

The Weeknd and Dua Lipa both had huge releases. Their marketing plans were generally set with their album release, but we had to pivot a little bit because traditional channels aren't available anymore. If you logged into your Spotify account, Abel [The Weeknd] was playing music and interacting with his fans. For Dua Lipa, we had plans to shoot content with her in London. [Instead], her team shot the content based on feedback that we gave and we used that to create an enhanced album for her. It's forced us to be more creative. Luckily, we're already working with artists who are down to try anything.

We've also been working on relief efforts. Right in the beginning we made a donation to the World Health Organization and the CDC. We have a COVID-19 information hub where we're surfacing news and information. We also started a fundraising page where we announced that we would match contributions of up to $10 million. People have been donating, but also a lot of our partners have given to the fund. We know this is a really challenging time for many artists, especially as touring has ground to a halt. So now on an artist’s profile page they can select either charities that you want people to donate to or people can make contributions directly to the artists themselves.

We started virtual happy hours on Friday's in the afternoon. Totally optional. And I thought what would really motivate the team right now [was to] bring on Monica Aldama from Cheer [on Netflix]. She's a cheerleading coach in Texas at this small college that has won the cheer championship 13 years in a row or something. If you haven’t watched the show it is highly motivational. So we brought her on and people freaked out. They were really into it.

After that, we had Chef Ellen Bennet from Hedley & Bennett. She runs a chef's apron company based in Los Angeles, and when [New York] governor Cuomo said they needed more PPE, she converted her entire factory to producing masks. We're going to have Swizz Beatz come on and talk about the motivation behind these Instagram battles. We have a Zoom Barry’s Bootcamp and have started a podcast club, each with a different team member moderating.

It's just like fun things to take your mind off of things. Though I am excited to start traveling again... Whenever that is.

Coronavirus

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