By Kathleen Parrish
We all know the big-name performers in music, but do you know who’s behind the scenes making it all happen? From producers to booking agents, songwriters to A&R reps, there are many influential music industry professions that are often overshadowed by the hype of the superstar.
You may not recognize their names or faces, but these five people are just a small sliver of the “other side” of the music industry — those who have contributed to the success of musicians and entertainers around the world and continue to impact the music industry as we know it in a huge way.
Producer: Jeff Bhasker
A three-time Grammy Award-winning producer, Jeff Bhasker has worked with a handful of today’s biggest stars, such as Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Kanye West, Beyonce, and Alicia Keys to name a few. While he doesn’t have a signature sound, Bhasker’s ability to adapt to whichever artist he works with is key as he continuously delivers hit after hit regardless of genre.
Steps to success: Bhasker studied jazz piano and arranging at Berklee College of Music. After a stint in New York, Bhasker relocated to Los Angeles where he began writing with Bruno Mars and Steve Lindsey. From there, he began collaborating with Kanye West which opened up entirely new avenues of opportunity for him.
A&R: Jason Flom
“While wildly successful, Mr. Flom — a kind of Wizard of Oz of mainstream music — is probably the most undersung hitmaker of the past 30 years. Why is not entirely clear,” says Matthew Kassel of The Observer. During the past 30 years, Flom has signed artists such as Kid Rock, Twisted Sister, Tori Amos, Katy Perry, and Lorde. He’s held top A&R positions at Capitol, Atlantic, and Virgin, and is founder and CEO of his own label, Lava Records.
Steps to success: Jason began as a field merchandiser for Atlantic Records, eventually moving onto A&R. After signing acts such at Twisted Sister, Stone Temple Pilots, and Tori Amos, Flom was promoted to head of Atlantic’s A&R department.
Attorney: John Branca
John Branca switched careers from psychedelic rock guitarist to become one of the most successful music attorneys in recent decades. As a UCLA School of Law grad, Branca aided Sony in their $2.2 billion acquisition of EMI. He has represented 29 acts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame including Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Doors, and Aerosmith. Branca is one of small few to be included in all editions of Best Lawyers in America.
Steps to success: Branca majored in music at Los Angeles City College prior to transferring to Occidental College. After graduation, he continued his studies at UCLA School of Law where he began his career as an attorney, eventually deciding upon entertainment law.
Booking Agent: Carole Kinzel
To those involved with the business side of the music industry, Carole Kinzel of Creative Artists Agency is known as one of the leading booking agents of all time. A supporter of Coachella from its beginning to recent years, Kinzel’s clients are frequently featured at the festival. Kinzel has developed talents such as Lana Del Rey and Florence & The Machine — helping the latter jump from 2,000 to 20,000-seat venues within a year. She was instrumental in the strategy behind Radiohead’s North American tour in 2012, one of the most successful tours that year. Other notable clients include Melissa Etheridge, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Maroon 5, Jackson Browne, and Tori Amos.
Steps to success: Kinzel cites industry vet Alex Hodges, CEO of Nederlander Concerts as one of her most influential mentors. Through mentorship from Hodges and various other industry professionals, Kinzel has continued on her own path for over 30 years.
Songwriter: Max Martin
After years of hits including Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”, Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” (he also wrote seven of the 12 songs on Millennium), and Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, Max Martin has proven that no matter what decade it is, he’s got a serious gift for penning chart-topping hits. “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift and “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj are two of Martin’s latest accomplishments.
Steps to success: In the early ’90s, Martin’s band Martin White landed a record deal with Denniz PoP’s Cheiron Records. After releasing two albums on the label, Max was hired by the label as a songwriter and continued to work directly with PoP while honing his craft.
Kathleen Parrish is a singer and songwriter from Seattle, WA. While she specializes in lyrics, she enjoys writing short stories, poetry, and journalism. For more information, please visit www.kathleenparrish.com.