Spotify's Dave Rocco Talks New Pride Hub, Importance of Being 'Out' & Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way'

Courtesy of Dave Rocco
Dave Rocco

In celebration of Pride Month, Spotify has launched a special hub that highlights queer icons and music of hope, self-acceptance and empowerment. The Spotify Pride Hub is a destination dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ artists and advocates, and includes playlists and commentary from voices within the community.

"Creating a destination for our music fans is at the heart of what makes Spotify a unique music experience," said Nick Holmsten, Spotify’s global head of shows & editorial. "This year, we wanted to amplify the celebration of Pride by adding a robust storytelling element to our hub throughout our playlists."

Billboard talked to Dave Rocco, the out-and-proud global head of artist marketing at Spotify, about the new initiative, some LGBTQ artists to look out for and -- of course -- Lady Gaga.

Why do you think creating this Pride hub is important?

Equal rights and LGBTQ awareness and support is at the very fabric of our company. We're a platform that encourages expression, art, creativity, and we really stand behind the individuality of artists and the community we service. It's a no-brainer for us, to be honest. We have to be a part of the conversation, with our voice and amplifying the voices of the artists in the community. We want to support this. We want to amplify it to all of our users -- fans of music, gay, straight, bi, whatever. As a company, I think we really spearheaded progressive employee benefits for the LGBTQ members with regards to healthcare, parental leave and working environment. I'm really proud to be at Spotify.

Do you have any statistics that show that there's support for or people are seeking out this kind of content?

We have significant followers on our Pride playlist. That said, equality and pride are not something we need statistics to know is important to our artists and fans. It's a human responsibility of ours, not statistical.

Absolutely. Artists like Halsey and Troye Sivan have really taken off these past years. Who are some other LGBTQ rising stars that you have your eye on?

I think what's so beautiful about the music community is the fact that the voices standing for equality and LGBTQ rights are not just coming from LGBTQ artists. Logic's recent album is a tremendous example. It really is a work of art, the lyrics touch upon many different groups affected by discrimination in an incredibly honest and powerful way. The production shares in its diversity and the instruments and influences he brings together are sonically brilliant. There are a lot of artists that speak loudly and represent the community who are not LGBTQ.

But specifically LGBTQ artists, there’s Kehlani who a lot of people have stood behind, for good reason. She represents individuality, gay rights, women's rights and is one of the most beautiful, open and wonderful artists I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She embodies an authenticity and self acceptance which I find really brave. There's a new artist, Wrabel, who has released a few songs and is just getting started. His most recent single "We Could Be Beautiful" is doing really well and I'm really excited about the album. I love the new Martin Garrix record featuring Troye Sivan and excited to hear new music from him.

You know what's funny? you almost don't know if artists are LGBTQ because to so many of us all we want is honestly, art, love and good music. younger generations don't see focus on sexuality but rather the music. That to me is beautiful.

Spotify released a list of the most streamed Pride song. “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga topped the list. Was that a surprise?

It wasn't. I think "Born This Way" came out at a time when we needed to come together, and music has the ability bring us together like nothing else. We needed an anthem and to me Born this way was that anthem. That being said as a gay person and marketing executive, I often have to remind myself the world is not New York, L.A. and London -- we still have a lot of work to do around the country and world to make sure no LGBTQ young person ever feels anything but loved and proud of who they are.
 
Do you think it's important to be out in the workplace?

100 percent. For me, a big part of my job is asking artists to tell me who they are and what their story and creative vision. I really ask them to be vulnerable with me. And if I'm asking that of them, I need to do the same.

I think part of my success is the fact that I kind of don't filter myself. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but I say what I think and I challenge the status quo. I honestly think a large part of that is because for so many years, it was all I did. Everything I said was so thought through because I was so afraid that someone would find out who I really was. The ability to just be who I am and be all of who I am is a really important part of my job. I'm not always right by any means; I can be emotional -- I call it passionate. But I would rather be wrong and honest then another "yes" man.

My favorite emails and conversations are those random students, young industry members or artists asking for guidance. I want the young LGBTQ community to know anything is possible and the music industry which was for so long a straight dominate business is no longer and anyone can rise to the top. The questions I get vary, but ultimately for young up and comers to know they have a safe place and person to come talk to is super important for me.

Gay Pride Month 2017