What drew you to New York?
I was pretty certain that I was coming to New York after college. I always knew I wanted to work in entertainment and media, more specifically music, so it was either here or LA. After interning in the city for two summers, it felt like a natural progression for me to make the move.
While you always knew you wanted to work in music, you struggled for a bit to land upon the exact capacity. How did you figure things out?
I actually don’t think I have it figured it out. However, what I’ve found to be vital is learning what doesn’t work for you, but also realizing the value of the skills that you are learning along the process. I worked in financial services marketing credit cards when I first moved here. That helped me to understand business, how to run campaigns and measure results. No matter what I do, those skills will be transferable.
Also, I wasn’t afraid to make changes. I had three jobs within my first three years in New York. I can give very clear reasons why I landed in each role, but people would make little jokes that weren’t the most encouraging. I had to block out the noise of those, including my parents, who didn’t quite get it either. Things aren’t going to happen over night. The key for me was identifying places that would get me incrementally closer to my goal. When opportunities arose, I took them, without fear of going against the status quo.
When you made it to Spotify, you were in an audio role but not quite music. What was the process of getting Spotify onboard with the R&B Matters podcast?
I’m a spiritual person and believe that things happen for a reason. I came to Spotify to manage podcast partnerships, a role that I would consider to be music adjacent. My godmother always reminds me just being the building and atmosphere are important , so I had that mindset. A year after I was hired, my team became responsible not only for managing partnerships, but also developing original podcasts. Having started a blog earlier in the year, which was essentially what R&B Matters is today, my co-workers who had listened encouraged me to pitch it. To be honest, it wasn’t something that I had thought about doing. But when they suggested it, I said “Why not? The worst it could be is no.”
Based on your experience with pitching the podcast, what is your advice to someone with an intrapreneurial idea?
I treated things as if I pitching to an investor or network. It was about being prepared. It was about convincing them that this wasn’t just something I’m interested in, but there were also business implications. This podcast allows me to create another, unique touchpoint for artists on the platform to get closer to the fans. This is something that wasn’t existent on Spotify, or in the greater media landscape.
And how about advice for your fellow podcasters?
Make sure that you understand the format. Make sure you understand your audience and why the content is important to them. Also, what is the differentiation factor? Everyone wants to start a podcast because it’s hot and hip right now. People think that you just turn on a recording, talk for an hour or two, then take out a few ums and that’s it. If you want it to be done well, your podcast should be produced. There should be an overall storyline and episodes should have a theme. Also know that all information isn’t necessary. It’s just like a movie or television show, a lot is left on the cutting room floor. I talk to artists for 45 minutes to an hour. I cut that down to 35 minutes or less. People’s attention spans aren’t that long and commutes are around 30 minutes on average.
The title of your podcast, R&B Matters, is a strong statement when many say that R&B is a dying genre. What are your thoughts on that?
It is a strong statement but a true one. Almost everything that you hear now is influenced by R&B. All of these rappers want to be melodic. But more importantly, R&B is in an interesting space because like all genres, it is diverse. Artists like H.E.R., Bryson Tiller and Jhene Aiko may represent a newer sound, but you also have Tank, Ledisi and Fantasia who are more reminiscent of traditional R&B. We’ve been taught to think that genres have to sound a certain way, but people have to be open to how music evolves. You’ll still hear elements of traditional R&B in the newer stuff, so I think it’s not dead. You can see that R&B Matters through things like the success of the New Edition movie and how excited people are about Xscape returning, in addition to the many artists that are creating music reminiscent of the 90s. I think we’re about to enter a space where things sound more like they used to.
What has it been like to sit down with musical titans like TLC, Brandy and Warryn Campbell?
If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be doing this, there’s no way I would’ve believed you. These are artists whose work I love, research and study. It’s phenomenal to realize that artists want a space where they can talk about the music because they don’t have that many other places. Getting the behind the scenes scoop has been nothing short of amazing. When you’re asking about things that happened 10-15 years ago, it’s nostalgia for them.
What’s on the horizon for R&B Matters?
We’re wrapping up Season 1 now. I’m super excited to have a break and to plan Season 2. I’ll be figuring out who I’d like to talk to and how to weave the stories to create connections across interviews.That is my hope for the entire project, that it tells a story. And although it’s a creative project, it has business implications for the company. Working with our artist and label services teams to figure out how to create a full experience with deeper integration for artists is something I’m looking forward to.
How has New York influenced you over the last four years?
Although I thought I was an adult at 22, there’s so much that I’ve learned about myself in this time. Especially if you don’t have family here, you learn to rely on your friends and career to ground you. I’m motivated by the hustle and bustle of the city. I’m motivated by the friends and networks I’ve made. I feel inspired by so many people that are here because they’re following some dream, whatever that may be.
How is your grind impacted by people you’ve met since moving to New York?
There’s always that friendly competition. As you see people moving up, it motivates you to get yourself together. When things get rough and you’re tired, to have friends that support you, that remember your dreams and aspirations, and help you understand things that you may not have known about yourself is really helpful.
Friendships and relationships are not one way streets. As much as I’m motivated by other people, I try to do the same for them. I am a listening ear, pick them up when things are not going according to plan and check in on goals they’ve told me about. It’s necessary in a city like New York, where there’s so much going on and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
What’s next for Chad?
On the work front, continuing to build deeper partnerships with other podcasts that are Spotify partners, and continuing to develop R&B Matters. Down the road, while I can’t explicitly say what i’ll be doing, my work in the music industry isn’t finished. The most important thing I’ve learned through the podcast is that I have a love for allowing artists to tell their stories and creating opportunities for them outside of the music. It can’t just be the 1% of artist that find success. I’m really interested in how to build smaller artists by exposing new people to their music and expanding their fan base.
How do you stay motivated?
Desire to be the best version of myself possible, professional and personally. I’m just never satisfied, even as I allow my dreams and aspirations to evolve. From a spiritual sense, I try to be as focused and intentional as possible.
I’m from the Southside of Chicago. It’s always important for me to go back there, or to my college, or to schools in NYC to talk to students and be an inspiration for those who look like me. Part of what motivates me is fostering the next generation. So many people don’t have the example that I did. They should know that moving to New York, and living their wildest dreams is indeed possible.