The A&R Report had an opportunity to get in touch with Mike Caren, Worldwide President, A&R for Warner Music Group. Mike Caren is one of the best music executives in this business and has been involved in the Warner Music Group family for quite a while now. Sarting with Atlantic in 1995 at the age of seventeen as Manager of Rap Marketing for the label’s Big Beat imprint. He has since been responsible for signing numerous artists that have earned gold and platinum-selling records. His signings include Trey Songz, T.I., Flo Rida, Cody Simpson, Trick Daddy, Twista, Trina, Wiz Khalifa, Kevin Gates, Juvenile, Prince Royce, and Brianna Perry. As a record producer and songwriter, he contributed to the production of T.I.’s Grammy Award-winning “Swagga Like Us”, and produced Asher Roth’s “I Love College” which received platinum status. In 2009, Caren established a boutique publishing company, Artist Publishing Group (APG), in association with Warner/Chappell Music. The company has placed songs with Madonna, Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, The Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Flo Rida, Chris Brown, B.o.B, Enrique Iglesias, Sia, Toni Braxton, T-Pain, T.I., Keyshia Cole, Lupe Fiasco, Sean Kingston, Birdman, Chamillionaire and numerous Television programs and films. APG has had more than ten top 40 Billboard hits to date.
Check out our latest A&R Talk with Mike Caren below:
What do you think needs to be in the foundation for a successful artist?
MC: That’s easy. It requires significant talent, work ethic, intelligence, philosophy, and communication.
At Atlantic and Warner Music Group, how do you guys feel effective communication helps in order to have a successful team?
MC: There is no team work without communication. Its the fabric of making things happen.
How important is quality assurance within an organization?
MC: Everything begins and ends with music. Quality is everything. Marketing only opens doors. There’s always a point where the music must do the heavy lifting.
Do you feel that artists should always have creative control?
MC: An artist should never put out music, visuals, or messaging that doesn’t represent an aspect of their creativity. The term creative control means different things to different people but at the core, an artist must feel great about anything they put their name on.
What are the qualities of a great leader?
MC: Ive been spending a lot of time studying leadership lately and working on my own skill set. There are so many important components. I think honesty, integrity, optimism, communication, and forward thinking are just a few of them.
Following your past successes, have you now worked out a specific plan of how to develop a new artist? Or does it differentiate from artist to artist?
MC: I’ve been working on scaling this. My favorite artists are the smartest ones; the ones who want to learn everything possible. I want to try to get them the most information, the most real world experience, and the most options, as soon as possible. The best artists are the ones who soak it all up and start making their own decisions as soon as they have a foundation to draw from.
Where is the money in the industry?
MC: Its in an open mind. The business constantly changes. The money comes from those who see the changes and take advantage of them early on. Those who chase the money, chase those that are already successful, will always be a few steps down the pyramid.
What do you think about U2’s move with apple?
MC: They are trying to be innovative. That is always good. Too early to know all the cards in their deck and judge them.
What do you feel about the over powering growth of digital in music?
MC: Its amazing. Its good for the world and good for music.
In the last 20 years, what female A&Rs would you say have done standout work?
MC: There’s been many but still not enough. There needs to be more female A&Rs, more female producers, and more female label heads. There are not enough Hispanic & Latino American executives in the US either. The majors can do a lot to reflect consumers more appropriately.
What steps have you taken to maintain longevity in the business?
MC: Listen, listen, listen. I listen to everything. As soon as I’m not excited about discovering new music every day, its over.
Is there any artist you have passed on that went on to do big things?
MC: Of course, more than a handful. I am happy for all of them. I want there to be as many great, successful artists as possible. I can only work with so many artists before it becomes a disservice to them. I feel lucky that I got a chance to meet them early on (sometimes too early) and when I’m not meeting the majority of the artists that become successful, I have bigger problems. I feel blessed to be in the right places at the right time more than not.
What producers, artists or song writers do you think will gain more notoriety in the next 1-2 years?
MC: I can’t show you my entire deck! I also can’t play favorites.
What resources do you use to stay current with what’s going on in music?
MC: 15 years ago, I spent hours on hours in record stores. Now its the internet. Not that different. There’s no excuse for not being aware of all the great new music. I interview potential A&Rs and I am shocked when they don’t know about some young acts. I say what are you doing with your free time? Playing golf? Everything is at your fingertips. No imaginable reason you aren’t swimming in it.
What legacy do you hope to leave when you look back on your career?
MC: That’s not my goal. I want to enjoy what I do, see people achieve their dreams, and make a difference in the process. I don’t like the spotlight. Let those who appreciate it, enjoy it.
The Entertainment industry can be stressful and time consuming. How do you manage your career and personal life so that you may have success in both areas?
MC: I have a great family and great friends. Most are not in the business. They tell me about other industries that are much more stressful. Go talk to an ER surgeon dealing with victims of violence. It puts stress of the music business in perspective. We are blessed.