David Miller is an industry vet, having worked in the business for close to 20 years. As the Vice President of International Marketing at Atlantic Records, David oversees the launch, development, marketing and promotion of all of the acts that are signed to Atlantic Records globally.
Words: Lyssa Quallio
Getting in the mind of someone who is of such high caliber in any industry can be very rewarding. After starting his vocation in the UK, David Miller, the current VP of International Marketing at Atlantic Records began his career by developing an urban music consultancy firm entitled Drum Media. This firm brought out acts such as The Boys II Men, Biggie Smalls, Faith Evans, Outkast, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and many more on an international scale.
After establishing himself in Europe, his ten year binge came to an end at Drum Media and he then joined Sony/BMG in 1999. He oversaw the urban marketing for the UK label, working with artist projects including Usher, Busta Rhymes, Faith Evans, 112, Toni Braxton, Luther Vandross, P. Diddy and the entire Bad Boy roster. David still had bigger things set in his sights, he moved to the US in 2002 where he joined Mariah Carey’s management team and spent two years working and touring with her.
Soon after, Miller was approached by Kevin Liles with an offer to join the Def Jam staff. During his three years at Def Jam he successfully helped develop acts such as Kanye West, Rihanna and NeYo. Miller became keen on finding talent and he has a knack for understanding music for what it truly is. In 2006 he continued his vendetta by following the Def Jam executive team of Lyor Cohen, Julie Greenwald, Kevin Liles and Mike Kyser to Atlantic Records and since that time has been instrumental in building artists brands. His current projects are with artists we all know and love, Flo-rida, T.I., Janelle Monáe, B.o.B and Bruno Mars.
IMC: Who are you currently feeling right now?
DM: From establishment standpoint it’d be Bruno Mars, he’s a superb talent, very new and unique and his music is very broad and it accommodates all tastes. As far as artist development, Janelle Monae is a phenomenal talent and hasn’t quite become mainstream but I know she will be very successful.
IMC: Whose projects are you pushing right now?
DM: Janelle Monae, Wale, Wiz Kahlifa and Bruno Mars.
IMC: How do you work clients into international markets?
DM: It helps if you understand and know a little bit about the markets around the world and find out where your acts will fit. It’s important to find out what media the country has and what kinds of records are played on the radio. Understanding and connecting with the artist you work with is very important because you have to give them some direction on what to do and the timing and what not to do as well as where they should travel. It’s just about having a general understanding of the music industry internationally, how it works, marketing spins, timing, time lines, marketing plans, budgets, promo runs and then putting a plan together.
IMC: What do you think the most successful form of marketing is for up and coming artists? MySpace, YouTube, Facebook?
DM: The most successful form of marketing is not really marketing at all; it’s about having real talent. There are millions of people who can sing but don’t look the part, or look the part but cant sing, who have all of the above factors, but no work ethic etc. The first thing that every artist needs is to have that “IT” factor, they need to be stars and they need to put the time into themselves.
IMC: What do you think the biggest most important role is for someone in your position? Are there any tricks you use to managing time?
DM: Global marketing is my biggest most important role and it’s imperative to have great time management. Being educated on time zones and important release dates in different countries is an important trick in managing timelines, marketing strategies and album release dates.
IMC: Do you think people feel a certain disconnection to an artist, with things being so easy to download nowadays?
DM: No. I think it’s the artist’s job to not only have music people want to download but also make a connection with fans to show them who you are and what you are. You have to put yourself in a position to connect with your audience.
IMC: What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions of the industry?
DM: That “anyone can make it,” to me that’s really not true. I think you have to have real talent and charisma and you can see that by the amount of reality show artists that attempt to pursue a music career and after one or two albums, they just disappear. True talent shines through.
IMC: How do you represent talent differently today than in years when there was less consolidation and it was “easier”?
DM: I think that nowadays people have so much more choice because they can access music from lots of different channels and outlets. So now it’s important that the artist stays committed and is consistently working hard to connect with a consumer. They need to make sure to show how talented they are and really set themselves up for a career in the music business. We have to let artists know these things; we have to help them stay on the grind so they can stay on track.
IMC: What three songs are you listening to on your iPod right now?
DM: Omarion “MIA,” Jay-Z “Open Letter,” Bruno Mars “Treasure.”
IMC: Describe a lesson that you’ve learned from a failure.
DM: Never try to be all things to all people, just play to your strengths.
IMC: Name a recent project that you are not affiliated with that has most impressed you.
DM: Twenty One Pilots, an incredible alternative band from the Midwest. The talent in that band is remarkable and I am eager to see how they grow. Also, Ed Sheeran from the UK, his talent impressed me.