Jacqueline Saturn on How to Leverage Celebrity Musician Activism for Social Causes

About This Episode

When considering how to leverage celebrity voices to impact social causes, it’s important to understand the landscape and culture of for profit companies and how best to approach them about the artists they represent. This episode features a key leader in today’s music industry, Jacqueline Saturn, President of Caroline Music Distribution. Jacqueline shares insights that shed light on how nonprofits can open dialogues with companies for partnerships with artists who are passionate about speaking out on behalf of specific causes.

About Jacqueline Saturn

Jacqueline Saturn is the President of Caroline, the Independent Distribution and Label Services arm of Capitol Music Group (CMG). Jacqueline’s career began at Epic Records, where she rose through the ranks as a Radio Promotion powerhouse, being instrumental in breaking numerous top 10 artists during her almost 25 year tenure there.

Today, Jacqueline leads Caroline’s 50-person U.S. team and oversees all aspects of its business, including artist and label signings and partnerships, as well as strategic planning and alliances with Caroline International’s 11 offices outside the U.S. She directs a full range of services for its portfolio of artists and label partners and their releases, including #1 Billboard Top 200 debuts with rapper NF, rap trio Migos, XXXTentacion and many more.

Jacqueline also continues to head CMG’s Harvest Records, having signed and developed a host of successful emerging artists at that label since taking the helm there in 2013.

Under her leadership, Caroline has attained numerous key achievements that have resulted in a doubling of its U.S. market share in a short span of time.

Jacqueline maintains involvement in many charitable organizations, including FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), Friendship Circle of Los Angeles, GTWG (Girls Today Women Tomorrow) and has run the New York City Marathon on the American Cancer Society’s “Determination” team.  Among Saturn’s many recent honors, she was named to Billboard magazine’s Power 100 in 2019 and its Women In Music honor list in 2018.

In her words…

“Artists really try to be true to what they believe in and put that message out there. I think you’re seeing it more and more- opportunities for artists who have an opinion, to be able to put it out into the world. And you’re not just seeing it with the artists, you’re seeing it with the partners, whether it’s platforms or radio stations. It’s a big opportunity for many artists to be able to speak their minds.”

“There are so many examples because artists have different beliefs and they are from different regions. There is a lot of political unrest and people really want to say how they feel. I’m not saying it’s a safe space, because you’re definitely going to get comments and you can be under attack for what you believe in, but if you are staunch in it and you are completely at ease with what you’re saying, then it’s going to be a good space. But it can get tricky.”

“We’re a part of an artist community and artists have a platform. Since the beginning of the music business, they have been allowed to speak their minds and they have. That is never going to change. It’s always been a little bit dangerous. I don’t even look at it as being within the corporate world, I look at it as what are they connecting to with their fans and what do they feel like they need to talk about. We know who is involved with certain issues and there might be an opportunity- say there’s an event for women, then you know who to invite. We support the artists that we partner with and we certainly wouldn’t edit what they have to say.”

“I am always excited about people coming to meet with us and explain what their organization is. As a company, we want to do more things. Most of the time people ask me, or they come and present something, and it strikes a cord, and you think, ‘Oh, I’d love to be a part of this.’ That’s how it works.”

Questions Answered on this Episode

One of my favorite James Baldwin quotes says, “Artists are here to disturb peace.” I love that quote because I think that creatives often disrupt our thinking in important ways, whether through music, art, story, etc. In our current political climate do you think artists have a responsibility to use their platforms to draw attention to social issues?

Who do you think is currently doing that in a particularly effective and meaningful way and why? Also, do record companies today encourage artists to use their platform to speak out on behalf of social issues, knowing it can be an effective promotional tool to garner awareness for not only issues, but the artists themselves. In other words, is being an influencer a marketing tool in today music industry?

What impact do you think the #metoo movement has had on the music industry, both in terms of recording artists and within the industry itself. There have been certain pivotal movements where the issue was loudly brought to the forefront (most notably the Weinstein case). Based on your day to day experiences, is that impact still resonating and gaining momentum or is there any sort of “back to business as usual”, in the absence of high profile cases dominating the news feed?

You have been very vocal about the women leaders in the industry who inspired you when you were coming up in radio promotion. Do you see a difference in the way in which those women led vs. women leaders in the industry today?

You are one of the most powerful women in the music business. Where do you want to make the most impact in the industry beyond the traditional success criteria of successful artists and revenue?

In one of the interviews with you, it mentioned that you supported an organization that helped develop more women leaders. What influences you in selecting the charitable causes you want to support? Are there any pet charities of Caroline Music?

As you likely know, nonprofits are reliant to differing degrees on funding from corporate and personal entities. How do you think nonprofit organizations can garner more support from corporate entities in support of their causes?