The Hot Seat: Andrew Kronfeld, President of Global Marketing, UMG

Published in The Music Network

 

The world, we’re told, is becoming a smaller place. Well, Andrew Kronfeld knows the place intimately. A seasoned executive with Universal Music Group, Kronfeld was promoted in August to President of Global Marketing, a new position. From his New York offices, Kronfeld now controls the worldwide marketing levers for the globe’s biggest music company.

He joined PolyGram in 1991, working at the U.S-based PolyGram Label Group in various marketing posts. From 1995-98, he was part of Island Records’ marketing team, and in 1998 moved to London to become director of international marketing at PolyGram International, responsible for working globally with such artists as Shania Twain, the Bee Gees, Sheryl Crow and U2. Kronfeld admits to being “media shy,” though on a recent trip Down Under, he gave a rare interview to TMN on what turned out to be his 20th anniversary with the company.

Andrew, you were recently promoted to a new global role. What do you want to ultimately achieve?

The biggest thrill for me is when we take an artist from a territory and expand them into a much bigger region. When Universal is successful, it’s when we have acts coming from a lot of different markets and spreading the music to other places. It’s not just about American artists or UK artists. I want to make sure the likes of our Australian artists are getting a look internationally and succeeding. It’s about building bridges and making the music global, because the fans are. The way the world works today, kids know what’s going on elsewhere. The digital world allows so much openness and sharing.

So where does Australia fit into the global plan?

Australia is a top-five market. Australia has always had a great history of breaking global talent and it just feels like it’s been a while since there’s really been an Australian act that’s popped on the world stage. We feel like it’s imminent and we want to be a part of it.

Apart from the tyranny of distance, why else have Australian bands gone on to the “big stage” so irregularly?

I’m disappointed. It feels like it should be more. The tyranny of the distance is probably the #1 factor because it’s about time spent making sure people know you. But part of it also is what’s hot in Australia over the last few years has been a little off-cycle from what’s hot in Europe or America.

What’s your typical day like?

A big part is spent focusing on our biggest projects around the world and making sure we’re coordinating our energies responsibly. I try to touch base with our key markets, our key artists and managers throughout the day so I can get a good understanding of what’s happening, particularly on our priority artists. In a New York day, I might start the morning with phone calls to Europe, have America in the afternoon, and Australia and the rest of Asia in the evening.

How many days a year are you away from home?

More or less 100. A hundred plus. Almost every other week.

What are your thoughts on how the role of a major music marketing executive has changed of late?

When I first started in marketing, it was very much about advertising. And it was old- school advertising. If you had a big hit, you went to television with it. And you basically were there to coordinate activities. You didn’t really have responsibility for as much creative-ideas generation as you donow,andabigpartofwhatwedo today is making sure the touch points are connected between so many various parties. And the artists do so much more now than they ever have, using social media and creating direct interfaces with their audience. At the label, we have to make sure we’re coordinating with them and we’re all speaking from the same hymn book.

Why does a multi-national like Universal need a global marketing function?

Because if we’re going to succeed in what we do, we’ve got to have our artists’ shared around the world. If we become completely parochial and if we go out and just work locally, we’re not maximising the potential. Music is a global language. It’s something we take pride in at Universal. Perhaps more than music with each other. And we’re not thinking strictly on local and regional terms.

There’s been unconfirmed reports majors will abandon CDs by the end of the 2012. Is that a possibility?

I don’t agree with that. Our job is to make sure that we provide music in any format that the consumers want. Obviously digital is growing at a tremendous rate, and physical is declining in most markets. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t a physical business and it won’t be for many years to come. Personally, I buy vinyl. Something that we declared dead 20 years ago has found a niche. There’s going to be an audience for the foreseeable future that is going to want music in (CD) format. Our job is to make sure the consumer has choices.

 

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