March 24, 2015
Harvest Records GM Jacqueline Saturn has been a music junkie since growing up in Nashville, then going on to graduate from Syracuse University, where her classmates included Cornerstone CEO and
Fader Co-Founder Jon Cohen, Atlantic GM David Saslow, Columbia GM Joel Klaiman, KDKB Phoenix PD Mike Tierney and Justin Shukat. She joined Epic Records as an assistant and left nearly two decades later as SVP/Promotion, having helped break artists like Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Oasis, Modest Mouse, KoRn, Incubus, Franz Ferdinand, Sara Bareilles, The Fray and The Script. When former Sony boss, colleague Steve Barnett, took over as chairman of Capitol Music Group, he hand-picked Saturn along with Piero Giramonti to run Harvest, a reboot of the ultra-hip '60s U.K. label that was home to Pink Floyd, ELO, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Wire, Thomas Dolby and Duran Duran.
What was it like growing up in Nashville in the '80s? Did you listen to a lot of Country music?
Sure, but Nashville was always and still is a town with lots of different kinds of music. My earliest memories are listening to WKDF and WKDA and calling the request line! When Tower Records opened, I lived there. And there were live bands playing everywhere. I'd never been to a bar before I got to Syracuse where there wasn't live music playing. We went to the Exit/In all the time. That is where I saw REM, the BoDeans, Talking Heads, etc. I got turned on to all of that music from listening to WRVU, the Vanderbilt radio station. I knew I wanted to be in the music industry pretty early on as a teenager. Seeing and hearing all that music ... it was powerful.
Your first job in the music industry was as a receptionist at Savage Records, where the late Frank Dileo was your mentor.
I was in the sales department, but when the company folded, Frank asked me to work for him over the summer. Part of what his goal was for me, according to him, was to get me a job in a promotion department at the right label. I loved him; he was my first real mentor. He was an incredible listener and a lot of fun. I once went out to a birthday dinner with him, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta ... the whole gang from GoodFellas, one of the highlights of my life. He made lots of calls on my behalf and got me in to see high-level people like Jonny Barbis, Joe Riccitelli and Sky Daniels. It wasn't until I met Laura Curtin and Harvey Leeds that I got my first big label break when they brought me into Epic. I interviewed first with Laura and then met Harvey. Everyone had to meet Harvey before a job offer went out. [Laughs] He just could not wrap his head around the fact that I was this Jewish girl from Nashville, of all places.
What was it like being a woman in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field like promotion?
When I first started doing promotion, I was mentored by these incredible people ... Laura, Harvey, Polly Anthony and Stu Bergen. I had a great time and was working amazing bands, so for me, being the "woman" promo person became a non-issue. I see so many more women in powerful positions in every area of music and that is a great thing.
Do you think there are issues facing women in the music that men just don't have to deal with at all?
Of course, yes. Women just tend to think a bit differently than men in this area. As we get older, we all have to make choices as to what you want to do with your life. I always knew that I wanted to run a company and also be a wife and have a family. For that choice, when I was coming up, there weren't any real role models for me. Because of that, I made the fearless choice to be a mom and also continue on with my job as the head of a promotion department. It was scary, but I had two children while at Sony and I was treated unbelievably well. I have heard stories from women in the generations before me in the business and it seems they were the pioneers for women like me, like Debi Lipetz-Holman for example. I hope I can do that for women coming up behind me. To be a role model for the fact that you can have a thriving, successful career and also have a happy home life. Now that strong women are literally taking over, it won't be long before that is the norm. I work with Michelle Jubelirer here and others like myself, as well as people like Jody Gerson, etc. It's a new playing field.
You climbed the ranks during your 19 years at Epic Records, and then left to run Harvest.
It was time for me to choose the next path for my career. Steve Barnett was coming to Capitol Music Group to do something amazing! And when I worked for him at Epic, we shared a passion for artist development, seeing something through from signing to breaking acts. I love that aggressive approach. When Steve talked to me about this opportunity at Harvest, it was so incredible and exciting that I said yes and moved my entire family across the country. We were diehard New Yorkers, but this opportunity was life-changing. It is the next logical step in fulfilling my dream to run a label. It is incredibly challenging and rewarding to use all of the years of experience I had at Epic and apply those skills at Harvest with the goal of breaking new artists. And I get to partner with Piero! We make an incredible duo and have a remarkable team of people at Harvest.
You've taken the image of Harvest as a progressive, hip label and translated it into present-day, with signings like Banks, The New Basement Tapes, Glass Animals, TV on the Radio, Matt & Kim, Death Grips, Best Coast, etc.
Each of our artists are unique in their own way. And we aren't genre-specific. We all have to love it ... Myself and Piero literally always agree and we have an amazing team with incredible taste that is helping us build a label for the future.
Matt & Kim appear to be a band on the verge of breaking through.
I have always been a fan of Matt & Kim and watched the incredible job Jon Cohen, my college pal, who signed them to his Fader label, had done. They are two of the most creative artists in the business, who invent all of their visuals themselves and continue to push the envelope with their online and other content. They have active and devoted fans that follow them religiously and constantly comment about the band through their social media. Truly, their Instagram is what that platform was designed for: @mattandkim. The first single, "Get it," is already Top 25 on the Alternative radio chart and #2 on SiriusXM Alt Nation countdown. Next up is an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel with the new record coming out on April 7th. They are just a huge priority for Harvest and we are excited about the campaign.
Banks is one of Harvest's cornerstone acts.
Banks was the first artist signed to Harvest and yes, she has helped define Harvest. She is an incredibly talented artist who writes all of her own music. She is just a creative force and it's a very exciting time for her. After a lot of development and hard work, it was very rewarding to hear one of her songs, "Beggin' for Thread," on the radio. We feel the sky's the limit with Banks.
How important is terrestrial radio in breaking records?
It is still one of the most important ways to break an artist. While there are many new players in the game, radio drives hits.
How valuable is the demographic data generated by Spotify, Shazam and Pandora, among others...
Every piece of information we can get to see the signs of success is important. At Harvest, we look at it all in a holistic way to make decisions about our artists. \We work very hard to leave the human factor in, while taking care to look at all the markers.
To what do you attribute your longevity?
I love what I do. The same way I have since the day I started as an assistant. That passion hasn't changed. Because of the way I started and came up through the ranks, I have a respect, understanding and appreciation for all the different departments and the people in them.
I love watching it all come together. To be in this business is a calling and it takes a lot of dedication.
I work and play hard and I have my family to lean on. Also, I am not a cynic, I believe. I truly believe in what I do every day.