It was inevitable.
We’ve spoken to many insightful professionals spanning across, music, entertainment and media. Now, we’re going to feature them. We kicked off our “4 Minutes With:” series featuring Joi Brown, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Brand Partnerships at Atlantic Records. Next up – Brian Anthony Hernandez, the Artist Relations Specialist at Genius, music journalist and industry speaker.
Music inherently lives inside me. My mom, who used to be the lead singer in an all-female band in the Philippines, sang me to sleep when I was a baby. My fondest memory is of her singing Mariah Carey’s “Hero” to me in 1993 when I was 7, soothing my sleepless mind through song like a bedtime story would to most kids (fun fact: 20 years later, Mariah Carey thanked my mom for singing “Hero”).
I never knew a time when music was absent. Holidays like Thanksgiving at home in the 1990s were punctuated by cassette, CD and vinyl players reverberating radio hits in the background, sometimes with my dad comically dancing in the foreground. One time he broke a lamp while busting a move to MC Hammer. It’s funny to look back at those vivid moments now that I work with pop, country and rock singers and musicians on a daily basis as the Artist Relations Specialist at Genius alongside rap and hip-hop guru Rob Markman. We’re both avid music consumers and lyric guys (I have a tattoo of Robbie Williams’ “No Regrets”) who want to find the deeper meaning behind what these artists are singing and rapping. It’s truly a dream job.
My path to this Genius position, which is a role that’s unique for a tech company, has been a state-hopping journalism marathon that began in Nebraska, where I grew up and first fell in love with journalism in middle school. I moved all over the U.S. during the 2000s, writing business, health, court and crime stories at The Arizona Republic, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Des Moines Register and other publications. All that to say it wasn’t until I moved to New York City in 2010 that I transitioned into entertainment journalism, most notably from 2012 to 2015 as the Associate Entertainment Editor and then Senior Music Reporter at Mashable, where I handled celebrity interviews, awards shows, song debuts, video premieres, album reviews, concert recaps, business happenings and festival highlights.
Most recently in 2016, I’ve been contributing music stories to Forbes and Billboard. The strong relationships I’ve built over the past half decade with artists, record labels, songwriters, managers, publicists and brands lead me to Genius, where I get to work with all of them on song annotations and creative projects, focusing on their lyrics, for onsite, video, editorial and social content.
So why music? It touches every aspect of my life.
Name two people whom have been critical to your career.
Two of the biggest supporters in my career, other than my parents and siblings, are Russell Contreras and Lance Ulanoff. Russell, who was a professional mentor when I was part of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute in 2008, has always been an inspiration with his meaningful work as a longtime Associated Press reporter and his constant support for diversity in journalism as the current president of UNITY. Russell sends me unsolicited feedback to simply say how proud he is and he checks in whenever I make career changes. Lance, the Mashable editor who encouraged me to transition into entertainment journalism, has taught me how to not be afraid of experimenting with my craft and how to be an all-purpose storyteller in the digital age. Great mentors should lead by example, and both Russell and Lance have been prime examples of doing just that.
What are you working on right now that excites you?
Genius is on the verge of launching a few new video series soon, and Rob Markman and I will be in charge of securing top-notch artists for these projects. One series will showcase artists breaking down a particular song’s lyrics and creation process, similar to viral videos Genius recently released for Beyonce’s “Love Drought” and Desiigner’s “Panda.” The other series will show us hanging out with well-known artists in intimate settings like their homes or favorite venues to bring our audience deep conversations about their music. These will be major! Stay tuned.
What change/s would you like to see in music? Media?
Sonically, I’m hearing the lines between genres blur, which is a beautiful to witness. I’d love to see more genre-blending with pop artists gaining inspiration from and collaborating with artists outside their comfort zones.
Statistically, the charts need more diversity. It’d be wonderful if consumers began helping push more artists with diverse ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations onto the charts. We’re slowly seeing the acceptance of these voices and it’s important because representation matters.
Technologically, from a selfish consumer standpoint, I’d love to see a consolidation of streaming services. On any given day, I can find myself using Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Tidal, SoundCloud and other platforms. It can get overwhelming for consumers when they’re all jousting for premieres and exclusive content.
As far as media goes, there’s too much focus on gossip and clickbait. I want music journalism to shift back to honing in on the music, the lyrics, the songwriting process, the production value, the vocals, the stuff that made us all fall in love with music in the first place. Even though we’re not a traditional media outlet, this is what Genius strives to do daily and why artists love being a part of the movement — it’s all about the music. That’s where it begins and ends.
Follow Brian on @BAHjournalist on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat
Special thank you Nat Guevara and the Genius staff.