Growing the R&B/hip-hop genre and helping artists "showcase their brands beyond music" are top priorities for Amazon Music's global head of artist marketing.
When Kirdis Postelle joined Amazon Music in March 2020, the first thing she set out to do was expand the streaming service's artist marketing operation, which had mostly focused on paid media and ads on billboards. The plan was to move into events and experiential-based marketing, but, says the global head of artist marketing, "As you can imagine, we haven't done any of that since COVID-19."
Postelle's hands haven't been tied though. Collaborating with a global team covering over 40 territories around the world, with U.S. offices in Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, L.A.-based Postelle works on campaigns for artists in all genres, integrating Amazon's technology and nonmusic business units. She launched Amazon's Breakthrough program for emerging acts and oversaw campaigns with artists such as Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion, BTS, Summer Walker and Keith Urban for livestreams, socially distanced events, charitable initiatives and more. "R&B/hip-hop is a big priority this year," she says. "The genre is what, 30% of all the streams right now? We have some artist projects on deck that I can't talk about yet, but if I can get them across the line it will be so exciting."
Born in Wichita, Kan., and raised in Chicago, Postelle graduated from the University of Michigan and was on track to be a lawyer before she scored a temp job at LaFace Records in 1992 that changed her plans. She was soon hired full time and now recalls working under former LaFace artist development and marketing executive Davett Singletary as music industry "boot camp." "I was an English major who knew nothing about entertainment," she says. "But that job is what framed the foundation for my work and career ethic today."
In three years Postelle moved to L.A. and worked for Kenneth "Babyface" and Tracey Edmonds' Yab Yum Records, where she was soon "making more money than anybody coming out of law school," she recalls. She was soon introduced to Dr. Dre, who was starting his own record company, Aftermath Entertainment, and "he wanted a woman to run it," says Postelle. "I'd been working with R&B royalty, so I was dismissive when we met. But after we talked, he offered me the job — and we worked together for 17 years."
From 1996 to 2013, as GM, Postelle oversaw Aftermath's marketing, promotion, publicity and A&R administration divisions, working with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and The Game. In 2013, she moved over to Capitol Music Group, in a job focused on pop music and marketing, then took a similar role at the Warner label. In 2018 she reunited with LaFace co-founder Antonio "L.A." Reid as executive vp/GM at Hitco Entertainment before joining Amazon two years later.
Currently working out of her home, the mother of two starts her days at 4 a.m. with exercise before diving into meetings, wrapping by seven or eight every night. (There's one strict rule: "I have to be eating at noon," she says with a laugh. "I don't play with my food.")
"Marketing hasn't changed as much as you would think it has," says Postelle. "It's still our job to get artists' music and brand out there far and wide ... The tools we use are just faster and more efficient now."
When you joined Aftermath as GM, there weren't so many women in jobs at that level. Was that hard?
Working for Dre wasn't like working in the music business because while I was there, nobody ever told me, "No, you can't." It wasn't until I left Aftermath that I started to experience the challenges that you're referring to. But I never let that concept of the glass ceiling intimidate me — I just pushed through, worked hard and did damn good work. When I encountered situations where I felt my voice wasn't being heard or I wasn't being respected, I would move on. I inevitably found different situations where my work, vision and voice were respected, where I could do the work I wanted to do.
After that, you went to Capitol, to work in pop at a time when that was unusual for Black executives. What was that transition like?
I went in asking myself if I was qualified to work in pop, because I'd worked in hip-hop basically my entire career, and Steve [Barnett, former Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO] said to me, "You know you have great taste, right? So, the genre doesn't matter." That comment built up my confidence. My team and I developed marketing campaigns for Sam Smith and 5 Seconds of Summer, among other acts, and enjoyed a lot of success.
You're a client of the exclusive executive management firm Making Opportunities Better, which advocates for Black executives in music and was co-founded by your ex-husband. How important has that been for your career?
Brian [Postelle] and Steve [Moir, MOB co-founder] have managed me since I left Aftermath. If you feel you don't have a voice as an executive within a company, it's important to have that kind of representation to help advise you. Also, women know the hard work we're capable of doing — however, we often don't know what we're truly worth when it comes to negotiating a salary. Having representatives who will fight to get you everything you deserve is essential, and why it's important for women — especially women of color — to have such representation.
Did you struggle over the decision to join L.A. Reid's Hitco [after he exited Epic following accusations of sexual harassment]?
No, I struggled over leaving Warner because of my relationship with Dua Lipa. I knew she was going to be a superstar, and we were starting to lay the foundation. We were at the beginning of everything. But there was a lot of change happening at the label with Tom [Corson, co-chairman/COO] coming in. Then here was L.A., giving me an opportunity to build something with him. After all those years with Dre, I was nostalgic for that: building something from scratch, ownership and being able to have real direction over artists' careers. I was only an assistant when we worked together before.
And then Amazon came calling. When L.A. and I talked about it, he said, "Listen, I don't want to lose you but if you were my sister or daughter, I would tell you to take that job." It's a different world now with streaming. To work at Amazon with the tools and resources needed to help develop and break artists ... that's my passion.
Amazon is now in a range of businesses. How does music intersect with the others?
My team is the primary entry point into all of the other Amazon business units: Say an artist wants to create a sustainable clothing line. Katie Klein [senior cross category artist marketing manager] on my team would manage the relationships between the fashion team and climate pledge team to put such a campaign together. We also did a major activation with Carrie Underwood, during which Carrie did an original composition for us that Ring doorbell used in its holiday commercial — and Carrie appeared in it as well.
You built a career developing and marketing new talent. How does that experience play into Amazon Music's larger strategy?
Our Breakthrough program identifying developing artists isn't a one- or two-month campaign — it's an album cycle. We want to be that connective tissue with artists between releases. For example, U.K. artist Arlo Parks had an idea for an hourlong variety special — a big undertaking. But we partnered with her and it ended up being great content. And Amazon's music app is the only app in which you can actually see livestreaming — being able to plug artists into that technology has been very helpful from a marketing standpoint, as seen with Arlo. We're always looking for the opportunities to help developing, emerging and top-tier artists showcase their brands beyond music.