Name Aton Ben-Horin
Company Warner Music Group
Role Title Director of Global A&R
Headquarters Los Angeles, CA
How did you get started in the music business?
From an early age I’ve always had a love and fascination for music. I took piano lessons at 10, was in the school choir in elementary school (which gave me a head start on hearing harmonies), and the real journey began when I picked up the guitar. I was 15 at the time and I remember leaving Ice Hockey practice with some friends, and hearing Green Day "Basket Case" blasting out of someone's car. I had never heard anything like it. I picked up an old acoustic guitar that my father had, and learned how to play every song on the Dookie album, until my fingers bled! My friends and I formed a rock band that month, which turned out to be the beginning of a long and amazing musical journey.
I will save the “Behind The Music” stories for another conversation, but I really got to experience the highs and lows of the music industry from the artist perspective.
I later ventured down many roads that included DJ-ing and producing dance music, throwing events downtown, writing and producing for other artists, owning a major recording studio, artist management, and eventually A&R.
How did you come to be at WMG?
I made contact with Mike Caren in 2006, when he gave me my first major placement as a producer, and we kept in touch over the years. In 2007 opened Plush Recording Studios, and in 2010 secured a major deal at Universal for an artist I was managing. I was living in LA when Mike was promoted to Worldwide President of A&R for Warner Music Group, and he was looking to build his new team. We took a meeting to discuss the A&R position, and the rest is history!
What are the key values of the WMG Company?
The music comes first here. Everything else is secondary. It's great songs that make careers.
How does this impact on the kind of talent the company seeks?
An act with an amazing song and no fanbase is more likely to get signed, than an act with a huge social media following and no great songs.
How do the Warner values impact upon the way the company operates?
We tend to sign new acts that have longevity and substance. Internally we have an ongoing global communication and collaborative approach when it comes to finding music or opportunities for these acts. Externally we are always thinking of innovative ways to find talent early on, generating new streams of revenue, and fresh approaches to deal structuring.
Is there a particular area of talent that you are seeking to add to the company?
Global Pop Superstars
Looking into the future, what excites you most about Warner’s potential?
We've had lots of expansion in the A&R departments recently, and we've also
made some strategic and forward thinking new deals. For example – ClearChannel and Shazam. Adapting to the new streaming landscape is going to be a challenge, and we need to continue our search for new income streams. The great news is that people are consuming music at an unprecedented rate, and the artists have more power and influence than ever.
What do you think are the qualities of great leadership?
A great leader must have the ability to navigate and connect with many different personality types – artists, attorneys, producers, writers and managers. Providing criticism without offending is also a key. It's important to keep your team inspired and motivated. Last but not least, to be forward thinking. The industry is constantly evolving and you need to stay relevant and able to predict trends as early as possible.
Name three people whom have been critical to your career?
My parents, for their unconditional love and support. Mike Caren, for being the best mentor. Chris Anokute and Sylvia Rhone, for believing in my artist and giving me a shot as a manager early on.
Which artists inspire you on a creative level?
Artists tend to change and reinvent themselves, so I am more inspired on a song by song basis. Recent songs that come to mind are – Melanie Martinez “DollHouse”, her video and song are super creative. Meghan Trainor "All About the Bass" is clever and catchy. Sam Smith "Stay With Me" is a timeless hit. Jon Bellion "Luxury" is also a unique and catchy song.
Tell me about the last twelve months for you professionally?
It's been an amazing and productive year, thank God. I've been blessed in having successful singles with Jason Derulo, David Guetta and Flo Rida. Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” has gone four times platinum in the US; David Guetta’s “Bad” went to #1 on Beatport, and charted top 10 in various territories internationally; Flo Rida’s “GDFR” is off to a big start at #1 on the iTunes Hip Hop chart and has already been picked up for an ESPN campaign. It’s been a good year!
How do you celebrate?
Other than having dinner with friends, I haven’t celebrated this year yet. Shall we throw a party?
Editors Note: Yes we wish to take Aton up on his offer.
*Photograph by George Byrne