Coronavirus

How We Work Now: Warner Records Senior VP/Head of Urban Marketing Chris Atlas

Chris Atlas
Meredith Truax

Chris Atlas

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 Chris Atlas, senior vp/head of urban marketing at Warner Records.

Chris Atlas: It's been interesting being out in L.A. as opposed to New York, where I’m originally from. I’m still stuck home in an apartment, but the weather’s good, space is good, I can take my walks daily, just to kind of go outside because it’s a little more spread out here. So it hasn’t been bad.

I still have that schedule of when to get up, still preparing as if I’m going to the office. Scheduling out the day based on needing the daily check-ins with the marketing team and my direct reports as to priorities, new projects that need to be scheduled, open items, agenda points for the week. The conversations on how we are creating content have evolved. They’re more creative, whether it’s with animation or lyric videos or visualizers, coming up with concepts that are relative to the pandemic environment and social distancing. And honestly, it’s been great in helping us redefine how we market and how we promote.

Even though I’m not the demo, I definitely downloaded TikTok. [Laughs] IG Live and the battles and interaction has just gone to a whole other level, which has been amazing. We’ve been creating some of the best lyric visuals and animated visuals, because it’s more widely needed now. For example, we just released a video for a new artist, RMR, featuring Future and Lil Baby, which is incredible, and I think, COVID or not, it’s a very dynamic and compelling video that works, given the level of the song and the features on the record.

But I do feel as if we’re even busier in just maintaining the quality level of output and releases. So that has led to a lot more video chats. I appreciate them, because it at least gives us some form of human interaction and connection more than just a random regular conference call. So those have been helpful, and in many cases have broken up the monotony of being at home and not being able to interact the way we normally would.

I'd say the first couple of weeks it was adjusting to how to move forward, and there was always this question of, 'Are we gonna go back in a couple weeks? How long is this really going to last?' And the longer it has gone, the more routine it’s become. And I almost feel as if the days are going by faster because the routine has normalized and the conversations of us accepting or knowing that this is the new norm for an indefinite period has stabilized the day. I think from the very beginning the level of communication and output that we were having was very high, but it was a matter of structuring how we were going to change our work day. So now -- eight, nine weeks into this -- we have a routine, which ultimately equates to efficiency. Because in this period, I think it’s more evident and obvious that communication, internally, is vital for how we’re communicating externally in marketing projects.

TikTok has been great. IG has been a huge component in terms of artist connection, sharing music, live performances, direct one-on-one conversations with fans, but also with artists’ peers in general. Creating in-home COVID content, if you will, whether it’s self-care tactics, or acoustic sessions or performances. I think JoJo is one of the Warner artists who has done an amazing job recently of utilizing this time to stay very active and engaged with her fans. I think that’s been key and is something that we’ve been messaging across the board with all of our artists, particularly given that there’s no touring right now.

I have a daughter, so I also have to still maintain as a parent and sometimes help with homework, and things of that nature. Balancing that is something to work through. WiFi at times can be questionable and super frustrating. [Laughs] Your bandwidth knocks out or your call drops in the middle of an important video chat or conference call. But part of working through that, at least for me, has been having an organized day and knowing the things I need to hit within that day so I can accomplish it.

But then also at the same time, knowing when to cut the day off [is important]. One thing about working from home is I feel like I’m working longer because it’s not like I leave the office to go home and you have that break. So that’s also been a challenge in terms of, let me cut things off so I can have a little down time, take a little mental breather and then reset and get ready for the next day.

I think the use of video conferences will continue, and if anything will further elevate and enhance. And I think that will limit the need in many cases to travel, given how effective some things have been via video conference. I also think that it’ll be a while before the interaction that we had pre-pandemic will come back. Who knows how long that is. How we interact with our peers, and even concerts and music experiences, will have to continue to evolve to take into account any limitations on the number of physical people that can be present.

One thing that’s definitely helped me manage the anxiety and the unease of what this period is, is music. I think I’ve been so connected, not only to the projects that I’m working via Warner, but just with music in general. It’s been such an outlet for motivation, relaxation and comfort. The power of music has really stood out to me, why it’s such an important part of everyone’s lives. So I’ve really appreciated even more so the beauty of what our industry and music in general brings to the world.

Coronavirus

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