Spotlight: 300 Entertainment Urban Marketing Head Rayna Bass on ‘Culture,’ Content & Letting Data Lead
Rayna Bass entered the music industry as a teenager after calling the Def Jam offices every day asking for an internship, now she heads marketing for one of its most influential independent labels.
When 300 Entertainment launched in 2013, it turned a lot of heads as the new forward-thinking, data-driven music company founded by execs Lyor Cohen, Roger Gold, Kevin Liles and Todd Moscowitz with support from Google and YouTube. But even still, the label took some time to find its footing. Early successes came with rappers Fetty Wap and Young Thug in 2015, but by all means things really took off with Migos‘ Culture early last year.
The Atlanta rap trio landed the top single in the country with “Bad and Boujee,” as well as a No. 1 album on their sophomore release, establishing the act as one of hip-hop’s biggest names and vindicating 300 Entertainment — even without Cohen and Moscowitz onboard (both left in 2016, although Cohen remains the largest individual investor). Overseeing marketing on the album was Rayna Bass, who was recently promoted to 300’s head of urban marketing, and she emphasizes her and her team’s planning and execution in making the project such a hit.
“There were some amazing opportunities, like Donald Glover at the Golden Globes, but had we not been coordinated and organized and had a plan that was executed properly, we went we wouldn’t have been able to capitalize as much as we did on that moment,” she says. “‘Bad and Boujee’ came out in August  and it stayed on Soundcloud… We watched it carefully, then we made it available on other platforms. We shot the video around the BET Hip Hop Awards that fall, we put the video on YouTube two months after the song came out, and all this time we’re watching this thing as it’s continuing to grow. And we just let the data inform and our next moves.”
Bass’ career started as an intern at Def Jam after falling in love with the label as a kid watching the VH1 series Driven. When she was 17, she found the Def Jam’s New York City address and phone number on a CD’s liner notes and says she called basically every day until she was hired while enrolled at St. John’s University. Down the line, she stayed in touch with her contacts at the label and once she graduated wound up getting a job as a marketing coordinator, which she kept for more than three years before joining the music-based startup PLAY GIG-IT. When 300 Entertainment launched, she says she had to be a part of it and joined the team in January 2014.
“Building a record label is hard work, obviously, and when we started I was like the seventh employee — so I’ve seen how you put processes and structure into place and the development of that business,” she says. “Early on Spotify and Pandora — Apple Music wasn’t a thing back then — weren’t a major part of the conversation and now that’s changed so much, it’s crazy to look back. Four years is not that long, but the music industry has changed tremendously since we launched. That’s something that we talk about a lot — we really started at the age of streaming and Fetty Wap was one of the earliest artists that had major success on these platforms, it’s great to be a part of that.”
Learning from her mentors at 300, Bass says key to her personal growth has been learning that “a good idea is nothing without execution.”
She explains, “Execution was prioritized here from day one. It would be like he would have a meeting and walk out and things would already be in motion. Lyor and Kevin definitely were about actually doing — they’re do-ers, they’re not really talkers in that sense. So it’s really instilled a scrappiness. And the employees here, we never had a lot of red tape, so we were able to catch the ball and really run with it.
“I could tell you plenty of times where maybe if we had more time something would have been executed perfectly, but it’s kind of like better good on time than perfect and late. We are a company that really just gets scrappy and gets it done.”
With projects by Tee Grizzley, Fetty Wap, Young Thug, Shy Glizzy, Famous Dex and more in the works or slated for release this year, Bass says her and her team are now in “planning mode” for what comes next “to actually execute and put some numbers up.” The key to strategy for all these, she says, will be consistency.
“We’ve allowed artists to consistently feed their fans with content and I have never held back on making music available,” she adds. “That’s allowed us to just continue to feed the demand.”
I’ve learned to trust my instincts. When I’m feeling off, I ask myself, Why am I not moved by this? And 90 percent of the time, if it doesn’t feel right it’s because there is a real issue somewhere or there’s something better.
I am learning how to be a great executive and empowering young women by sharing more of my experiences as black woman in music.
The great thing about having a solid foundation is that you can move confidently and humbly through an industry that’s predicated on image.
When I strategize, I need a very clear understanding of the goal trying to be accomplished on both a macro and micro level. And then I look at what makes the situation unique or familiar. Those two things inform my overall course of action.
Dealing with musicians is special. You have to be empathetic. You have to be able to understand their music, their source of inspiration, how they think, what’s important to them and then use those tools to do your job. Co
Spotlight is a new Billboard.biz series that aims to highlight those in the music business making innovative or creative moves, or who are succeeding in behind-the-scenes or under-the-radar roles. For submissions for the series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.