That’s the central role for Nicole George-Middleton, senior vice president of membership at ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers)—-a membership association of more than 560,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, including musical legends such as Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan, and hot artists like Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Neyo.
A lawyer by trade, George-Middleton is responsible for the oversight of the symphonic and concert team and daily operational management of ASCAP’s rhythm and soul membership department on a worldwide basis. Recently, the charismatic George sat down with BlackEnterprise.com to dish about her role at ASCAP, navigating the business, and the legacy she’s building.
BlackEnterprise.com: What’s your role at ASCAP?
George-Middleton: It’s our job to maintain relationships with all of our songwriters, to recruit new songwriters into ASCAP, and to basically educate up-and-coming songwriters on the craft and business of songwriting. We really support our songwriters at every level of their careers.
What’s a typical workday look like?
It varies. Right now, we’re trying to really focus on how to best serve our songwriters because ASCAP has some of the best songwriters, composers, and music publishers in the world. We want to make sure that we’re providing them with premium service. In addition, we reach out to our songwriters and their representatives (lawyers and managers) to figure out how my team and I can best help them — whether they’re in the studio and looking for co-writers or they’re up-and-coming songwriters who will come in, play music [and] get feedback from us.
Tell me a little about your journey to ASCAP.
I am a lawyer by trade. After law school, l took a job at a small entertainment firm. I practiced for about 5 years there; our focus was on R&B and hip-hop acts. When I left the law firm I went in-house and took a role as director of business and media affairs at the Jive Music Group. That allowed me to see the other side of representing talent. That led to my job at ASCAP, where I’m more on the creative side. My legal degree, practicing law, and knowing the issues facing songwriters helped me transition into this advocacy role.
What skill set would someone in your position need to have?
You have to be able to navigate and deal with many personalities. You really need to be organized, able to multitask and manage many different issues coming at you at the same time—and do it with a smile. You can’t be easily frazzled.
What is the main thing, ‘the secret sauce,’ that keeps you motivated in your position?
At this point it’s my family. I have two amazing kids and my husband. Obviously, I want do my best and be the best advocate for our members, but I also want to do that because I want to be the best role model for my kids. At this point, it’s about the legacy that I’m leaving for my children.
Did you have any mentors who helped you along your path?
Mentors are key in any field, especially in the entertainment industry. I wouldn’t have gotten here on my own. You need people you can confide in, who understand the industry and work, and can give you guidance. Any opportunity I get to mentor other individuals, I do it —whether it’s an aspiring lawyer or young executive starting out. I believe in the adage, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’