Cool Jobs: Music Marketing Exec Juggles Vets and Newcomers

Akinah Rahmaan talks uber-egos and changing the branding game

Akinah Rahmaan, vice president of marketing, Island Def Jam (IDJ) Music Group (Image: Rahmaan)

We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.

As vice president of marketing at Island Def Jam (IDJ) Music Group, Akinah Rahmaan is responsible for all marketing and advertising plans as it relates to IDJ artists. With a roster that includes Teyana Taylor, Frank Ocean, Pusha T, Fabolous and many more, Rahmaan knows all about the ins and outs of branding talent whether it’s a newcomer or veteran in the business.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the Maryland native and Morgan State alum to discuss how she fell into music marketing, the impact that social media has on her job and why there’s no room for uber-egos in the entertainment business.

BlackEnterprise.com: Can you briefly explain how you got started with a career in music?

Akinah Rahmaan: Well, I started in management when I graduated from college, after interning. My first paid position was at Violator Management where I was responsible for managing artists. Once I got in at Violator and was handling traveling, I transitioned into other things. The company supported me expanding, and I did a lot of correspondence with record labels. From there, I started to work with artists and some of the branding opportunities with companies including Gatorade. When I left Violator, I went to work with Steve Stoute at Translation, and then I came to Def Jam.

You represent a wide range of artists, with some being fairly new to the industry and others being well-established. How do you handle promoting projects for artists who are at different points in their careers?

I handle every project differently with each artist, which is the great thing about your product being human beings. You’re able to be inspired by their personalities and interests and use that for marketing. I also have a good relationship with the artists and I know their audience. I do a lot of research, and we have a great in-house team that provides us with information needed to market to those audiences.

Some people say that with the rise of social media and artists being able to better promote their own album online, that the job of the music label marketing team has changed over the years. How important is your job in today’s music business and what changes, if any, have happened in the industry?

My job is extremely important. A lot of areas of my responsibility aren’t known publicly in terms of what I do and what goes into bringing these albums to fruition. I’m the person who’s the quarterback internally and responsible for rallying the team and setting up all the strategy for campaigning. What artists do in terms of social media is also very beneficial. Although all artists aren’t good at it, it’s still beneficial to have, and we utilize it every day.

I know that no day is the same for you, but can you give a brief summary of what a typical day for Akinah might consists of?

It’s a juggling act, and every day is different which is why I love what I do. Today, I have a meeting with a UK artist we just signed who people are linking to The Weeknd. We’re meeting about how to get him out there organically. Then from there, there is a Big Sean meeting with Kevin Liles and his management staff. He has a sophomore album coming out which can be difficult because you have to figure out what people expect from him while staying true to the artist. Then, I have a Fab call about his album. No day is really the same. You know, also going through blogs and seeing what’s happening is important as well. I do that every day. I’m also in the process of writing Pusha’s marketing plan. Fab’s [marketing plan] is coming soon, as well as Sean’s.

Tell me a little bit about the company MusicSoopz Inc. which you co-founded?

It’s a music supervision company where I supervise music for film projects. Our last film was Stomp the Yard. It’s essentially providing the source music for film.

This venture was an opportunity that came to me. I love working in music and various entities are interesting to me. Early on, when we did small independent films, it was something that I jumped on because it allowed me to be in music and a part of the film process. It’s not something that I choose to do full-time yet, but it’s something that I’m still open to.

You’ve got a lot going on and have been successful at advancing. What’s the best piece of career advice that has ever been given to you?

I think it’s be to not let things linger on and snowball into larger issues. Mona Scott-Young taught me that, because in management, you put out fires a lot. So, you have to meet things head on and don’t let things linger, because as time goes on they only get worst. Also, Steve Stoute was good at building relationships and taught me that those skills are super important.

What advice do you have for a young professional who’s considering a career in the music business?

Be authentic, true to yourself and have really thick skin. It’s not an easy business to get into and it’s absolutely a business where you have to prove yourself. It’s no place to come if you have this sense of entitlement because nothing is given to you. You can’t have an ego and you need to be willing to pull your sleeves up and put numbers on the board. Also, be cognizant of your relationships and the way you treat other people.

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