This week we are featuring Aria McKnight, an A&R Coordinator at Capitol Records and an all around boss! She loves discovering new music and in her job, she does just that and more! Read all about Aria and how she got where she is below!
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi, my name is Aria McKnight and I am an A&R Coordinator at Capitol Music Group. I’m based in Los Angeles, but I call Atlanta, GA my home!
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
Haaa, you know what’s funny? The concept of working in music didn’t really click for me until I graduated college. I had just received my psych degree in the mail, and I specifically remember saying, “wow, I don’t love this enough to pay for grad school.” So, I sat down at my computer thinking OK what next? I knew I always loved music, but I had no clue how to follow that path. I literally end up googling music jobs/internships in Atlanta and lucky enough, I landed an internship with Rival Entertainment Fall of 2013. After that, I spent three more years working multiple music jobs in Atlanta, but in different facets. I had jobs in premium services/groups sales, festivals, I worked multiple merch gigs, I did radio promotions, street team stuff, another internship, and customer service at a ticketing company. A lot of those jobs overlapped too! So with all that said, it’s been six hard but amazing years.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
Yes! It was during that same internship actually. We were setting up all morning for Mumford & Sons at Centennial Park, but right before doors opened, me and the other interns stood at the top of this small hill where you could see the crowd starting to form at the gates. When doors officially opened, all we could see was this swarm of people sprinting towards the stage to get a spot in the very front. I don’t think I can accurately describe the feeling I felt with words seeing all of the excitement on everyone’s faces but it definitely was a visible representation of how important music is to people, and with that, it’s also the moment that I knew needed to be a part of making that happen for others in some way.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
I think I get in my head a lot when it comes to my age. I’m older than most people in my position and I think the mentality of “oh I’m supposed to have it all figure out” creeps up every now and then, but I always have to remind myself that my path is mine and no one else’s. There’s also no rulebook that says you need to solve “x” by a certain age!
Oh and MY SLEEPING SCHEDULE. As someone who LOVES to sleep, I definitely don’t get enough of it!
What are the main roles of an A&R Coordinator and what does a typical day look like for you?
As a coordinator, I support our EVP of A&R, Jeremy Vuernick with anything he needs! That can be anything from scheduling to booking studios, travel, and putting in credits for his artists. It’s also the perfect position for me to learn in depth about the world of A&R. For example, it’s important to know about the publishing world and what producers work with what sounds best, etc. so I actually know what I am doing when I take on artist myself. The last thing I would want to do is sign an artist and have to play catch up trying to help amplify their sound, because for most artists, music is their lifeline and that isn’t something to be taken lightly.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
Looking for new music/artists. It’s something I would always do normally without being in the industry so the fact that part of my job is doing that is great!
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
My guy Kevin Shivers! He was my first boss at WME and I learned so much from him with the 1.5 years we were together. He took the time to actually teach me how be good at my job, and was/still is someone I can go to for advice. He has an incredible story too. He’s definitely someone who realizes that even when things are hard, our lives could be WAY different if we don’t push forward. Also even though he is always busy, he finds a way to always give back to others. I could go on forever complimenting him, but I’ll wrap it up by saying, he’s just a man of the people and I’m lucky enough to call him friend now vs boss!
Some other people who I would include as mentors would be my current boss Jeremy Vuernick who has taught me so much in the nine months we’ve been together, and Bozoma Saint John who is a constant reminder that you always need to be authentically yourself and to speak with conviction. Then I also have so many friends that I could list here too but I’ll shout-out Brittny Danielle, who I’ve been on this wild ride with. We met back in Atlanta and I think I can say for the both of us, the universe paired us together for a reason.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
You have to hustle! If you bust your ass and are constantly putting forth 100% effort, it will not be ignored. Also, you are above no task/duty! You never know who is watching how you react to certain things, but if you are that person who is always willing to do something and do it with no complaints, it goes a long way.
Also, networking is important! This industry is very much about knowing the right people and building your trusted team. Meet and connect with as many people as you can, especially with people who are trying to start in the industry as well. You never know where others will end up in the future.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
I can’t think of any moment where I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a female, but I definitely had a moment where it was very apparent I didn’t get a job because of how I looked. I can’t lie, when that realization hit me, I was a basket of emotions ranging from upset, disappointed, angry, etc., but after some time, I felt like the universe knew that that wasn’t the next step for me no matter how bad I wanted the opportunity at the time. Unfortunately, things like that happen but at the end of the day, all I can do is be the best version of myself and continue to work hard. Others will pick up on that.
Side note: the person who did get hired over me left 3 months later.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?
I love making playlists. This year I actually came up with this idea of making a monthly playlist that is dedicated to a particular color and mood which is filled with songs and album art that also match the mood/color. I also tied it into my Instagram feed so it’s all color coordinated.
Also did I mention I like to sleep?
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
*internally screams* JUST ONE?! I can’t do that, so I’ll give you multiple in no particular order:
Boyz II Men
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
I want to work with a K-Pop act so bad! My love for pop music started with boy bands/girl groups and this newest wave of K-Pop that has hit the US is so exciting to me so I would love work with a group in that space.
What is something you can't live without?
My family, friends, music, puppies (specifically corgis), and good memes
Tea or Coffee?
First concert you went to?
I didn’t go to shows until I hit college, so the first concert I went to was a school show with Cartel and Yung Joc.
What’s something that you always have on you?
My phone, chapstick, and lotion (I hate feeling dry).
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to be working with great artists who are trying to disrupt and push the boundaries. Also, hopefully I’m traveling more! I’m actually trying to kick start that this year with a trip I just booked to Barcelona.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
More music from different parts of the world becoming popular in the US! Along with K-Pop acts, French speaking artists like Angèle and Christine and the Queens, Latin/Hispanic artists like Rosalia and Lunay, and African artists like Burna Boy and Tiwa Savage are on heavy rotation for me right now.
What are you most proud of?
Picking up my life and moving to LA from Atlanta honestly. I don’t know a lot of people who would do that especially in the spur of the moment way that I did it, but I am so proud of that moment. It took a lot of courage and me trusting my gut (along with support from my friends and family) to make that move happen for me.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
I don’t have a specific saying, but I remember seeing a sign on one of my friend’s Instagram when I first moved to Atlanta that said something along the lines of “find what you love to do and figure out how to make money doing it” and I’ve been making that my mission ever since.
Thank you so much, Aria, for letting us feature you on WIMI! We loved learning more about you. If you feel the same, be sure to follow Aria on Instagram and keep up with the amazing things she's doing!