2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Music Execs Share Their Picks For Gadgets & Goodies
From DIY recording equipment to vinyl and VR.
Music executives are a breed of their own. From the cross-country, international jet-setting lifestyle and ever-increasing consumption rate that comes with the gig in the streaming era, to juggling the late night circuit and glitzy soirees with ease, the biz often requires an otherworldly energy, passion and drive. There’s also the added pressure of appearing flawless at all times — especially when posing on the red carpet or sipping cocktails in the VIP tent alongside music’s top tier talent.
The holiday season always hits amidst a wind-down period for the industry, as Q4’s releases trickle out and the OOO messages start piling up, leaving time for a bit of reflection, R&R and a lot more of the “play” in the work-play dynamic. To fete the end of the year and the 2018 holiday season, Billboard slid into the DMs of a number of the industry’s top executives across sectors — including labels, publishing, live, management, social media, entertainment law, and more — for a peek into their wish-lists this year.
Below, check out our executive-curated holiday gift guide, featuring gift ideas that nod to the often 24/7 demands of the industry — from DIY recording equipment and pro-level turntables to wellness practices, vaping gear, VR and more.
“For the practicing musician/songwriter: Spire is a peculiar-looking, affordable ($299), remarkably user-friendly piece of recording equipment that can be transformative for even the most technologically resistant/allergic. It's working minutes after yanking it out of the box, then interfaces with just about anything, making almost anywhere a viable recording space (acoustics and talent aside; it stops short of performing miracles). Just be sure you have a robust data plan if you're going to let your 14-year old go crazy with it... For that increasingly cranky/jaded music lover with a heart buried deep in there somewhere: Emma Louise’s Lilac Everything is the most strangely magical thing I've heard in a while, and not entirely because of "the trick.” For the millennial just now wading into the glorious sea of vinyl: Kamasi Washington’s Heaven & Earth ($51.99). The music is colossal, but there's something humbling about contemplating this set in its elemental, analog form, where a mere 21 songs weigh in at a shade over three pounds.” — Big Deal Music Group co-founder and EVP Dave Ayers
“[Teenage Engineering’s latest multimedia synthesizer and sequencer] Op-Z just came out ($599). The next level of the popular and awesome OP-1. I don’t have one yet but hoping Santa delivers. 2018 was a crazy year. A lot of pain, and some positive breakthroughs. Who doesn’t wish for a peaceful 2019 and can use one of these Candellana Candles ($29.99) to remind them each day? With app Swork it ($2), workout anywhere for whatever time you have. Great.” — Artist Partner Group founder/CEO Mike Caren
“This year I have decided to turn my 15-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son on to vinyl. Thing is I truly don't know if it's going to be something they become passionate about or they simply revert back to iTunes and their Air Pods. With that, I figure it is important to get a decent quality turntable and speakers while not breaking the bank. I researched entry level brands that I trust: Audio Technica LP3 Fully Automatic Belt Drive Turntable ($199) is a dependable entry level product from a great company and Bose Companion Series III Multi-Media Speakers ($89.95) have a great range and can be used for their PCs if they revert or when they go off to college. Amoeba Gift Cards - vinyl is not cheap.....what happened to cut outs at Strawberries and Tower Records? All in package less than $500 each....what a bargain!” — Banc of California Stadium Entertainment President Adam Friedman
“Living and raising a family in Manhattan, we have developed some family traditions at holiday time that are like the greatest gifts I could receive. Each year our children set aside an evening for us to go see all the holiday windows. We’ve done it in sleet, in snow and we have not missed a year. The time we spend is a wonderful gift. My wife always takes me to my favorite restaurant in New York, Le Bernardin, to celebrate a combination of my birthday and the holidays. As for material gifts...I have always wanted a 1964 baby blue Mustang convertible. On the music front I hope to get a Pro Level mixer from Pioneer for my DJ sets, but I will never give up my vinyl!” — Glassnote Entertainment Group founder/president Daniel Glass
“My good friend Somehoodlum is an insanely talented artist based in LA, whose work you may recognize from the 21 Savage Issa album cover, as well as other music-related installations and campaigns. He is always dropping new merchandise from his clever and wildly popular Instagram designs, which you can buy now at either Zumiez or Urban Outfitters...Anyone who knows me or my clients knows that a plaque from Jewelbox Platinum in LA is the perfect holiday gift. For over 20 years, Jewelbox Platinum has been making the highest quality Gold and Platinum plaques, which serve as the perfect physical manifestation of hard work, dedication, and inspiration to achieve more. Prices vary depending on what you want, but be sure to give a few weeks notice for custom orders.... As an avid lover of both music and tech, the Oculus Go VR Headset ($199-$249) is also on my holiday wish list. Virtual reality will completely change the music industry, and you can spend hours going through all the experiences that come with it. Why go out to a concert when Oculus can give you the best seat in the house? Also mental health and spiritual well being is the greatest gift one can give. Plenty of meditation centers and coaches have gift cards. If you would like recommendations on specific gurus or therapists, please feel free to DM me at @nickjarjour.”— Maverick manager Nick Jarjour (Starrah, Alex Da Kid)
“I love getting custom charms, especially the evil eye ones from local LA gemologist and designer Zenobia Morrow. I love sending beautiful arrangements to friends and colleagues from Flower Bodega. She has such a keen eye and unique arrangements and is starting to deliver nationwide! I recently did a solo trip in Thailand and ended my eventful two weeks in this beautiful Tubkaak Boutique Resort in Krabi, Thailand. It was a 5 star property with only 59 rooms and a ton of amazing amenities on the grounds that I never left. From cooking classes to amazing massages, it was the perfect stay and would gift myself again that experience or a friend. Two amazing lifestyle clothing lines that are of the culture and for the culture are Kids of Immigrants and Nor Black Nor White. I think it’s important to have more voices in those spaces.” — Instagram, Music Partnerships, Fadia Kader
“For me my usual efforts are tied to picking up music related art or memorabilia at T.J. Martell auctions or MusiCares. I got a great piece of artwork by Gracie Slick! I feel it is important to “buy” there. I also love small items like guitar / instrument themed earrings; or other music related jewelry. And you can’t beat good concert tickets – which I have to go to with the person who gets the gift of course. Just bought the Ring series at the MET as one gift; Book of Mormon theatre tickets as another.” — Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP partner Christine Lepera
"Lingua Franca’s cashmere, hand-embroidered travel set ($424): The cashmere sweaters are so cozy, you want to hibernate in them. Their hand-embroidered cashmere sweaters feature iconic music lyrics from the Beatles to Beyonce. The travel kits are the perfect upgrade for those of us who take the red-eye from the West Coast to NYC. My favorite is a pale pink travel blanket embroidered with “Who Run this Mother”... A 10 Class Pack at Y7 Yoga studio ($210) has the right music to keep you motivated and engaged based on your mood. I recently did a 60-minute Ariana Grande-themed Vinyasa yoga class. The studios are candle-lit, so even if it’s your first time there, no one can really see you as you find your way back to downward dog...One of my go-to gifts is a New York City Center Membership ($150), which includes 8 passes to dress rehearsals for their shows. Going to a show at the iconic City Center is obviously an incredible experience in and of itself. But being able to go to a rehearsal for a show, like Alvin Ailey, is truly unique and special. The is the theater’s 75th anniversary year, so the line-up will be next level.” — Pandora’s Vice President, Head of Brand Marketing and Communications Brad Minor
“Luckily there are so many angles to gift a music lover - The Baboon travel bag ($149) is perfect for an artist you know who lives life on the road or a fan who’s planning to hit festivals all summer long. Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom ($18.35) is a great behind the scenes music read of early 00’s indie rock. For the avid festival goer I recommend Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama for something crowd and location wise that’s more off the beaten path. I mean, watching The 1975 from the beach or poolside sounds pretty great. Or a sure-fire way to anyone's heart, Robyn tickets for her tour next year. Last but not least, the Puffco Peak ($379), to take your listening experience to new heights.” —Neon Gold Records co-founder Lizzy Plapinger
"Both of these gifts represent the foundation of where my love for music began: The Lyle Owerko Gold Boombox ($8500) speaks for itself – it’s one of the essential parts of hip-hop culture from the early days. Also the Technics SL-1200G Grand Class Direct Drive Turntable ($3999) because I like to listen to music being played from a record player. The sound is classic. When I started my production career years ago, my partner Chad Wes and I used to sample records from these same turntables." — Warner/Chappell Music’s co-head A&R U.S. Ryan Press
"Stylophone Retro Pocket Synth ($29.95): I like things that blur the line between instrument and toy. The original Stylophone had its heyday in the late ‘60s and ‘70s primarily targeted at kids, but it’s been used on records by David Bowie, Pulp, and others. It’s simple, fun to play, and it sounds cool—a good gateway instrument. A dedicated listening room in my house – If left unchecked, vinyl would take over my entire house like kudzu. An extravagance I’ve long dreamed of is a dedicated space in my house to store all my media and listen to music distraction free. Custom molded ear plugs: I get it—ear safety is not the coolest topic. That said, I go to a lot of concerts and rely on my ears to do my job and it's important that I protect them. I've tried a lot of different ear plugs over the years and haven't found the perfect balance between looks, protection, and the ability to hear the music. I have a feeling professionally made bespoke ear plugs may hit the sweet spot.” —Amazon Music’s manager of music programming and curation Jeff Reguilon
“The Montage Laguna Beach is an incredible quick getaway for me from Los Angeles. Whenever I’m lucky enough to take a break and a deep breath with my fiancée Julie, we try to head down there. The views are amazing, and I highly recommend the spa and restaurant Studio at The Montage for dinner and wine. Airpods are essential. I'm always on the phone or listening to music. The only problem is that I keep losing them. I can't have enough backup pairs. So, it's the evergreen, perfect gift. If someone gets them for me, I promise I won't lose them...I'll try anyway. That's my New Year's resolution. I've become addicted to Le Labo Candles over the years. Whenever I’m in the studio or office, Le Labo Candles are a must. They're handcrafted and exude a calming spirit. I've grown to love cigars although I don’t smoke much. For my choice, I have to go with the Partagas Serie E No. 2 Cuban cigar. Big thank you to Tim Blacksmith for putting me on. Nothing like finishing a long day at the studio with one of these.” —S10 Entertainment founder & manager (Normani, Jacob Banks) Brandon Silverstein
“My ideal gift would be to return to Bhutan again. It is known as one of the happiest countries on earth for a reason. The serenity was unforgettable and the focus on peace of mind forced me to stop, disconnect and reflect. I left Bhutan at the top of 2018 with more than I entered with; a refined perspective and the gift of focused goals I was able to pass along to my team at FAE this year.” —First Access Entertainment co-founder/CEO Sarah Stennett
“My holiday gift guide is for pet lovers. We recently added a second “Swissy” (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog) to our family and these are a few of the gifts for both puppy and adult dogs. Living in California the weather can be hot even in the Winter. Swissy’s come from the Swiss Alps so keeping them cool is important. We leave the Arf Pets self cooling crate mat ($44) in their crates — dogs of all sizes will enjoy them. Swissy’s love going on hikes and being outdoors but get extremely hot on long walks. The Kool Collar Electric Blue ($25) is an essential for the big dog lover. If your dog is anything like ours they destroy toys within the first day they get them, if not first hour. These Kong toys and Nylabone Teething Puppy X Bone Beef Flavored Chew Toys ($5) can handle even the biggest dogs. What’s the stuff you put into the bones? KONG STUFF’N easy treat.” —Create Music Group co-founder/CEO Jonathan Strauss
“Being called a unicorn in Nashville means that I’m from here — like Reese Witherspoon, who opened this super southern store in the heart of 12th South called Draper James. My wish list would include this Lace Sleeve Jumpsuit ($195) - adding lace makes this Nashville! As any good southerner knows, you can’t get around in Nashville without a super stylish 1941 vintage truck. I would LOVE to see Santa pulling up in my driveway with this classic beauty. I’m a fan of Nashville Piano Rescue for the music lover. They refurbish old pianos, and it’s a great place to look for a cool, unique piece. And a special one of a kind gift.” —Big Yellow Dog Music co- owner/CEO Carla Wallace
“When it comes to separating the stressful music industry work and relaxation time I have a Zen kit. LA is dry, especially in the winter seasons with Santa Ana winds. Doesn’t mean I need to be. Having a humidifier ($89.99) in my apartment helps restore skin hydration and helps with relaxing at night. Pair the humidifier with a few drops of essential oils ($16.95) at night and your skin will love you for it. I use Lavender and also carry a small bottle with me when I travel so I get use to the feeling of being home. Helps my mood and keeps me sleeping more comfortably on long hauls and noisy cities. Enjoying fresh air clean — via an Air Purifier ($50.99)— after walking home in heavy LA smog is essential. It improves my mood and I wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. For winding down after those stressful Friday release days, nothing beats a good Bath Bomb ($24.80). You’re lying to yourself if you aren’t enjoying a bath every once in a while. Treat yourself... Automation is a huge part of our home. “Alexa - play music. Make tea. Turn off the lights. Set the heat to 70 degrees....” Amazon’s Echo Plus ($119.99) is the final and most important component of my arsenal of relaxation tools. It works flawlessly and relieves so much stress in my life.” —Create Music Group co-founder/COO Alexandre Williams