Name: Cris Lacy
Company: Warner Music Nashville
Role Title: VP A&R
Headquarters: New York City
How did you get started in the music business?
I’ve always listened to and loved country music. As a kid, I sang anywhere I could in my hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia - bands, at weddings, talent competitions! I knew I wanted to be part of the country music industry, so I moved to Nashville at 18. After several internships with record labels, and publishing companies, plus many nights waiting tables at the only seven day-a-week live music bar in town (the Stagecoach Lounge), Tom Collins hired me to answer phones and work the front desk at his publishing company, Tom Collins Music.
What does the Warner Music Group brand stand for?
Warner Music Group stands for integrity, passion, and long term career development. Mo Ostin, Ahmet Ertegun and Jack Holzman all had reputations for their artist friendly nature and for signing iconic artists. Our current label heads like Julie Greenwald & John Esposito have carried that mantle forward. Warner Music Nashville prides itself on it’s transparency, and commitment to artists over the long haul.
How do your personal values impact upon the way you operate in your role?
Honesty, commitment, and teamwork are some of my highest values. A good portion of my job centers around constructive criticism. My job is to elevate my artists, and help them realize their dreams. Honesty is key here – delivering the news that music isn’t ready, or as good as it could be, or that a particular artist isn’t competitive yet is never easy, but I hope each artist I work with knows my intention: to push them past what they thought they could do, towards the top of their game. Commitment is huge. When I sign an artist, I’m promising them I will do whatever it takes to make them a household name for however long it takes. I have to be willing to fight for them. Finally, teamwork. No one would ever hear the music my artists make without the tireless efforts of every other unsung department: promotion, publicity, brand management, digital etc.
How would you describe the culture at Warner Music Group Nashville?
We actually have a “Love & Affection” clause in our contracts – Jack Holzman who founded Elektra Records designed it. It basically states that we promise to show the artist love, affection and respect if the artist agrees to show us the same. It’s fun to see what each lawyer does with that clause, some ignore it, but the more creative ones mark it up in some way or another. That’s indicative of who we are. We have a staff and a roster of true artists. They are talented, passionate people, who respect and support one another.
Looking into the future, what excites you the most about the music industry?
One of the most exciting things about the future of the music industry is the ability for more artists to get more music out to more people. With the advent of streaming, content is more important than ever. If one of our artists has one song that fans take notice of, the fans can immediately go to one of the streaming sites and listen to all of the music released by that artist. In the past, statistics showed us that, people would not buy albums until they liked 3 or more songs from the album. In today’s world, it could take three years for three songs to go up and down the radio charts. It could take three years for fans to begin to engage and thus take even longer to build a brand and a touring base. Now, if fans immediately hear an album, and they love it, that process is much faster.
From your perspective, what are the issues facing the music business today?
One of our biggest issues is monetizing the effects of new technology. Streaming, the source of more positive opportunities for our artists and our music, is also (at the moment) having a negative effect on our sales numbers. The cost of making and promoting a record has not decreased, so determining fair compensation for our music is of paramount importance. An overarching issue is the public’s (and our government’s) lack of understanding of the music industry as a whole. When people think of this industry, they think of fancy cars, glamorous clothes, and million dollar homes. They don’t see the thousands upon thousands of people it takes to make the music they buy for pennies.
*Photography by Andrew Urban