10 Questions with ... Jay Harren
August 12, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Music Director at 99X/Atlanta, A&R Manager at Columbia Records, and VP at Descendant Records
1. After working at 99X, how did you become interested in the record business?
My time at 99X gave me the opportunity to see how the business as a whole works. Leslie Fram and I worked hand in hand with band managers, record labels, and promoters to help build the story of various up and coming artists. I became passionate about getting involved not only in discovering new songs for our station (which I loved), but in the artist as a whole. When I left 99X due to the station being sold, I set my sights on A&R in the hopes that I would be able to pursue that passion.
2. What are you most proud of from being an A&R exec at Columbia Records?
I worked with, and met some incredible people during that time. I reported to Rick Rubin for a while which was such a priceless learning experience. I'm proud of who I signed there, Manchester Orchestra on the rock side, and Cassadee Pope on the pop side (and now Country).
3. What led to starting up Descendant Records?
The CEO of Sony's Provident Label Group, Terry Hemmings, wanted to start a mainstream independent label. A few mutual friends introduced us, and he hired me to help start and run it. We are distributed by Red, and use them for most label services.
4. Tell us about the two artists you have Colony House and The Lone Bellow?
The Lone Bellow was our first signing when we started the label two years ago. They are a band from Brooklyn (we all live in the same neighborhood and were friends prior to Descendant becoming a label). They made a beautiful debut album, and we've had an excellent run with them over the past 18 months. They are currently recording the follow-up with Aaron Dessner from The National producing. Colony House is a band made up of two brothers and their best friend, they're from Nashville. We're just getting started, but they are currently one of the top played artists on Alt Nation (and since that airplay started, single sales of gone up by 125%). We're getting some good traction on terrestrial radio too and specialty plays have been big. The band just finished touring with Bad Suns, and will go on a co-headline tour this fall. Everything is looking up!
5. How do you use Social Media?
I use it primarily to promote our artists. Most of my posts are re-tweets from our bands, or links to an articles about them. We're also using Spotify to create playlists of artists we like (signed or not). This helps scratch the itch I have from no longer being able to host a new music show on the radio.
6. I truly miss your 99X Sunday School new music discovery. What do you miss most about working in radio?
Thank you! Sunday School was a blast -- I loved my time in radio. Discovering new artists, and new songs was (and still is) such a passion and thrill. I miss the feeling of adding a new song into rotation even if no other station was playing it just because we believed in it and felt in our gut it was the right thing to do.
7. What part of your job do you love the most?
Getting to work with some of the most talented artists I've ever worked with, as well as some of the brightest industry folks. The fact that I'm able to work in this industry at all is truly a blessing -- I love what I do.
8. What is the toughest part of your job?
The unknown! Every signing is a huge investment and carries with it a big risk -- not knowing what the return will be can be scary.
9. What would surprise people the most about you?
I don't own a record player.
10. What do you like best about living in New York?
All the cliché answers come to mind here...the cultural diversity, the music scene, and the pioneering spirt that a lot of people have is great. But also, living in a walking city forces you to interact with a lot more people from all walk of life than you otherwise might. Apartment living forces people outside more, so we know our neighbors well, and have a strong community all in close proximity. Raising kids here is wonderful too!
What are your hobbies?
Golf, seeing shows, and reading.
What station did you listen to growing up and what do you remember most about the station?
College is where my passion for radio developed. I loved The Wall in Chattanooga (I went to UT Chattanooga), and I would often drive to the top of Lookout Mountain where I was able to tune in to 99X and hear some of the incredible pioneering programming and music of that time. It was wonderful; it's what drove me to want to work there one day.