WISDOM: A PORTRAIT SERIES
E L I A H S E T O N
NEW YORK CITY
I. I grew up singing. My grandmother was an opera singer, and trained at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. I sang in a classical choral group, big works like Verdi’s Requiem, Carmina Burana, and Handel’s Messiah, on stages like Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall. In college, I sang in an a cappella group. As the General Manager of that group, I got a taste of being a manager, a label, and an agent, all while being a performer. It was an extraordinary experience to be 22 years old and know that I had found the thing I wanted to do in life: be in music. I wasn’t going to be able to feed myself if I stuck to performing, so I decided to get a business education. After I went to business school, I got my first job in a major label system, working at Warner Music Group. It was an alumus from my college a cappella group who hired me. This is a very nerdy story.
II. ADA is a distributor of independent labels and artists. Before I joined, I hadn’t worked within the indie community or for a distribution company. I knew I wasn’t the obvious choice for this job, and I knew everyone else did too. My first priority was getting to know the team, and working with them to develop a point of view on our future. I was lucky enough to join a wildly passionate and experienced group. I met people like David Orleans with his incredible knowledge of our industry from over 20 years in the indie community, Kenny Weagly with his pioneering approach to A&R and deal- making, and Brandon Squar with his outstanding expertise in digital.
III. The first thing I did when I came into this job was sit down with each person who works on the ADA worldwide team. It was at least a single one-on-one meeting with forty people in a few different offices to put a face to a name, get a sense of what they do every day, and get a sense of what’s going well and what’s not going well. I would put that experience under the umbrella of wisdom because if I came in with little wisdom on day one, by day 61, I had a lot more because I was borrowing from everyone else. It was an education to hear
people’s own experiences and what they see from their perspective.
IV. Some distribution companies act like we’re becoming a commodity business, but we reject that idea. We want to have deep and lasting partnerships with labels making extraordinary music. To do that, you have to make their lives easier, and you have to bring them opportunities that they wouldn’t find anywhere else. To make sure we stay ahead, we’re constantly improving our core distribution offering, adding new firepower in key areas like radio promotion, updating our technology and systems, and strengthening our global approach.
V. We’re doing deals not just with indie labels, but also directly with artists and management companies. ADA has always prided itself on serving the best indie labels, and now that artists and managers are becoming their own labels, we’re partnering with them too. The music I'm hearing right now in so many genres, from all corners of the industry, is phenomenal.
VI. We’re working on our analytics and reporting. This is hugely important for us and our partners. We want to create a future of increased transparency, and that starts with information.
VII. Indie labels are experimental. The indie community is most often the birthplace of influential music and potent new ideas. I am wildly excited about our future in this amazing business. The model of the modern day record label is in flux. If we can provide a bespoke set of label services, provide easy-to-use technology and reporting, and be a truly global business for our labels and artists, then we are the most attractive option for any artist across any genre. We can provide access to the major label system while also giving an artist control of their own creative process. We’re a servant for the artist, indie label, and manager in a way that puts the music first.
VIII. We need to talk more about inspirational, good deeds.
IX. I am for originality, the real thing.