A&R Report had the pleasure of touching base with ‘Jill of All Trades’ - Lola Plaku. Lola is most known for her site iLuvLola and her large role in the Toronto music industry. She has done it all from throwing concerts, hosting events, and markets some of Canada’s most celebrated artists.
Read our interview with Lola below:
Lola, you are a big part of Toronto’s music industry. Tell us, what you have been up to lately and what you have up and coming in the near future?
Thank you! I’m not sure if a lot of people actually know, but I work online and marketing at CP Records so I’m currently working with all of our artists Danny Fernandes, Belly, Mia Martina, Tyler Medeiros, Massari, and JRDN to name a few.. Belly just shot a video with Faber Drive for his song “Hartwin Cole”. Tyler is about to go on tour with Cody Simpson across Canada and we just got off tour with Pitbull and Flo Rida. Mia Martina and Massari both shot two videos in Miami earlier this month, that will be released soon.
All of that keeps me pretty busy. We (iLuvLola) are also doing a concert with Juvenile in Atlanta on Juy 5th and have some other stuff coming up that we can’t really just announce yet, but we’ll definitely have a lot more happening in the next few months!
You definitely have a good eye when it comes to finding new talent. Would you ever take on a role as an A/R?
Thank you for that. I’m not sure. Possibly. I actually had this discussion with a friend of mine not too long ago and he said I would be a great A&R. So I’d say yeah, with the right artist and the right vision, I could definitely do it.
What made you decide that you wanted a career in the music industry? Tell us about your first role in the industry.
When I was going to school at Laurier university in 2004 I met a local hip-hop group that started getting me interested in how the music industry worked. How artists got famous, who put together shows, interviews, press etc. In fact the very first thing I did was a showcase in Waterloo. That’s really what got me started, and then I started writing for HipHopCanada.com. Shortly after I became the writing director managing all the content, I had a radio show on Radio Laurier, I had a column on Swagg News, I was working with Maxamus Entertainment and so on and so on. I was always trying to do as much as I could in every area of the industry possible.
You are definitely a supporter of Toronto talent. In fact, it’s evident. Who would you say is your favorite up and coming artists in the city?
Hmmm, I guess up and coming depends on who you ask. I think The Weeknd is definitely doing some serious damage in the music world, but I think he’s taken off so I’m not sure you would categorize him as an “up and comer”. In hip hop, I think Airplane Boys are building something special, Raz Fresco is releasing some great material and has a pretty loyal following. P.Reign is on that list…DVBBS are extra dope. I work with Tyler Medeiros who has an exceptional following all across Canada and only 2 singles out. I work as online marketing and promotions at CP Records so I work with about 7 Canadian artists all of which have great projects on the way and have my support 100%.
How do you feel about the term ‘Screw Face’ Capital in Toronto?
Well I feel that term really only applies to hip-hop. When it comes to other genres Toronto is very supportive of their artists. There are some amazing and loyal fans in Toronto. I feel that a lot of hip-hop artists have a hard time building that grasroots fan-base and the term “screw face” was born. If you’re a recording artist with sold out shows and fans who support you and root for your success, that term doesn’t even apply. However we do have a very small industry with competitive individuals and a lot of times I see people working against one another instead of working together for overall progression and success of the scene as a whole.
What does the iLuvLola brand represent? What is your primary goal for the brand in the future?
Well initially iLuvLola started as a simple blog/website to support the artists I was personally supporting and working with at the time. It has grown into a marketing/promotions brand and we have a lot of things going on at the moment. What it represents? People. Ideas. Culture. Music…a lot of things. The primary goal is to be able to expand our services beyond Toronto and take on more people and projects under our wing. I’d like to have a solid team of reps that can take on clients under our brand and offer the same loyalty, integrity, and dedication as I’ve been able to do until now.
You’ve accomplished a lot early on in your career. What has been your most memorable moment so far?
I would say our first show with Big Sean. It was our very first concert as iLuvLola so it will always be special to me. It was a very overwhelming experience, but a much needed one and a step in a new direction.
You’ve done concerts for French Montana, Yelawolf, and more. What got you interested in planning concert shows?
I saw Big Sean perform at SOB’s in late 2010 (I think it was November) after I had just gotten back from India and Thailand. Sean was relatively a new artist then, he had just signed to G.O.O.D Music and his fan base was still very underground. Yet when he took that stage those kids knew every single word to every one of his songs. There you had this artist with no mainstream push yet a sold out show, with REAL fans. That really made me realize the difference between a “fan” and a simple “music listener.” There are artists who genuinely build a fan base that supports not only their music, but them as people. Fans who will buy the merch, drive 3-4 hours to a show, wait in line since the morning just to be able to be squished up next to the stage. They tweet, facebook, interact, post pictures, buy magazines and support their favorite artist in any way they can. They’re the best kind of fans and I wanted my brand to be able to reach out to these fans in Toronto and abroad. Plus I wanted to break artists who hadn’t done shows in Toronto and offer not just a show but an experience. An entire experience catered to the fan. That’s why Asap Rocky’s first show in Toronto was at Opera House eventhough it was sold out for 2 months. It was intimate, the vibe was through the roof. That’s why we did the in-store so fans could connect with him. All of those aspects are things I love about doing concerts.
What are your tips for young people planning to start a career in the entertainment industry?
My tips…hmm. I’d say know your strength and know your weaknesses. You can’t do everything yourself. Work hard…work hard like you don’t need the money but know when you’re being used and know how to say no. In this industry people are really good at taking advantage of others, so you just have to know when you are getting something out of whatever you’re doing as well or when someone is just trying to use you and your abilities and/or resources. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS and know how to strengthen them not just abuse them. Be someone people feel comfortable reaching out to, but yet not overly available to everyone. Know what you can offer. Meeting people is great but if there’s nothing for you to bring to the table, you are disposable and replaceable. If you can become someone/something that cannot be easily replaced, people will keep you around. Strengthen your portfolio and your character and remember that respect is harder to earn and much easier to lose. There are a lot of things that people learn in this business, but the main thing for me has always been to remain true to myself, and that my integrity is everything.
Yesterday, Toronto native Luu Breeze dropped his highly anticipated project entitled: ’This Time Tomorrow’. Buzzing all over Canada, this instalment is heavily produced by his brother and highly sought after Toronto producer, Daniel Worthy, in addition to Boi-1da, Soundsmith, Jahron B and more. Also, cameos from Devon Tracy, Harvey Stripes, Kardinal Offishall. A-Game, and Marcus Manchild.
First and foremost I want to congratulate you on your recent success with Bruno Mars, Flo Rida and B.o.B, what projects do you currently have on the come up?
Thank you very much. I’ve been very fortunate the last few years. Next on the horizon is the debut album from Rome (the frontman for Sublime with Rome) and the sophomore album from Bruno Mars; both should be coming in Fall of 2012. I’ve also signed an incredible young talent named Francesco Yates, just beginning that album now.
As a label, Atlantic has big upcoming releases from Wiz Khalifa, TI, Trey Songz, Lupe Fiasco, and Cody Simpson among others.
What types of elements do you look for in a demo?
Someone daring to be different; whether it is an artist demo or a track or song submission, if it sounds like everything else, I am immediately uninterested.
What does a day consist of for Aaron Bay-Schuck?
The mornings are all about meetings, calls, e-mails, and going through music. The rest of the day is spent in the studio.
How much do trends and radio play, effect your decision in signing a new artist?
Pretty much not at all. I don’t do A&R that way when it comes to finding new talent.
What is your process when it comes to signing talent?
I approach the signing process as organically as possible. I do not scour the internet for buzzing YouTube acts and I do not study radio charts. There are clearly a lot of positives to be said about that process; I just do it differently. I just don’t believe A&R is done by sitting behind a desk and I trust in my relationships with creative people to put me onto other creative people. It is a natural process that so far has always led me in the right direction when finding new talent. Great relationships with managers, lawyers, etc is also key.
Do you feel that the current A&R Role within the music industry is non-existent due to changing technology?
Not at all. Great A&R people are as needed as ever. Sure you don’t need a major label the way artists once did but that does not change the importance of an A&R’s role in identifying the best talent and the best songs.
What do you think, when you hear the phrase ’21st Century A&R?’
The term kind of scares me. The foundation of what an A&R person is supposed to do shouldn’t really ever change. We have had to adapt but I think what is really important is that A&R be about more than just the recorded music. An A&R person needs to be able to understand who the artist wants to be and be able to communicate that effectively to an entire company. The job of an A&R does not stop when an album is completed. He or she should be involved in every step of the process from marketing, to publicity, to digital, to merchandise because we are the ones who are supposed to know the artist the best.
What are some key metrics that Atlantic/Warner Music Group put into place to measure that an A/R is doing his/her job and that the artist is successful?
Today’s record business is a 360 business. Record sales are not our sole source of revenue anymore. Success is defined by moving the needle. If you are not selling truckloads of albums but manage to sell lots of tickets and merch, it means you are still connecting with your fans in a big way. That is what we want to see happen with every artist we sign. We are concerned with our artists making an impact. Not every act is meant to be a commercial success.
What are your goals within the music industry for the next 5 years?
Generally it is just to keep learning and growing as an executive and to keep putting out great music by great artists. I want to continue to grow the success of Bruno Mars and hopefully be lucky enough to break additional acts on that same global level. Of course growing my own company is all part of the plan as well.
How can an artist stay connected and have a chance to get heard by Atlantic Records?
I listen to everything that is sent to me. Just reach out and you will be heard and if you really are that good, trust that we will find you. It is our job.
What tips to do you have for aspiring A&R’s looking to make an impact in the music industry?
You can’t be successful in A&R without great relationships. Get up and get out there and meet everyone. Be accessible and be open to taking risks.
Who’s currently on your playlist?
It is always a mix of current and classic. I’ve got everything from fun, Portugal, The Man, and Tom Petty, to Biggie, Jay-Z, Kanye, and Smif N Wessun in my car right now. I also constantly listen to the records I am working on.
Name a few executives (past or present) that have been inspirational for your career and why?
I’ve been really lucky to learn and work with some of the best executives in this business - John Janick, Julie Greenwald, Mike Caren, Craig Kallman, Lyor Cohen, Martin Kierszenbaum - to name a few. The common thread amongst all of them is that they are all both innovative and fearless. You have to dare to be different and move forward even when everyone else is telling you that you’re wrong.
What are some of your qualities that you feel have helped you become successful today?
My work ethic, drive, passion, and hunger for learning. I’ve worked my way up from intern, to temp, to assistant, to now Senior Vice President, A&R. I wasn’t handed any opportunities and I never gave up.
Furthermore who/what has been your inspirations coming up as a music executive and why?
The music and the artists have always been the inspiration. The chance to work with some of the most talented artists, producers, and songwriters in the world and be an integral part of the process of making music is a real gift. Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, once said: “the job of an A&R executive is to keep walking around until you bump into a genius and when you do, hold on and don’t let go.”
I wake up each day hoping that’s the day I bump into the next superstar.