Kalesha Madlani: Marketing at Epic Records

Another week, another WIMI feature! Meet Kalesha who is a marketing queen at Epic Records. We were so excited to be able to talk to her about how she got her start in the industry and what she's doing now. Read about it here!

Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?

My name is Kalesha Madlani, I work in marketing at Epic Records and I’m from Orange County, California.

How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?

I started as a journalist in 2013 and got my first marketing internship in 2015. But technically, I got my start through Sony Music U, Sony Music Entertainment’s College Marketing program in 2017. I did that for two years and was offered a full time position at Epic after I graduated college!

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”?

I’ve loved music my whole life and always wanted to find a way to get closer to music, but I wasn’t sure how. When I was 18, I started a music blog and started shooting and interviewing my favorite bands (The 1975, LANY, to name a few). I quickly realized that wasn’t what I liked and started working in marketing in 2015.

My “oh god, I want to do this for the rest of my life moment” technically happened as a fan. I would attend shows, listening sessions, fan events, etc as much as I could and was really interested in the logistics of an album rollout. I would pay attention to digital activations and write down everything an artist did because I knew there was a strategy behind it all, and I wanted to be involved in it. The first album rollout I really paid close attention to was Halseys Badlands. I thought everything about it was so genius and knew I wanted to be the person who came up with exciting activations to keep fans engaged.

Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?

Work-life balance. What I do is technically 24/7 and I find it difficult to force myself to “shut off” when I’m not clocked in. I often catch myself replying to emails at the gym or on the road (guilty) or even in the middle of the night because if I don’t do it, who else will?

I feel really guilty if my boss is texting me and I’m in the middle of a yoga class but I’m learning to find a balance because at the end of the day, I’m not curing cancer (or coronavirus).

What is the best part of your job? Why?

THE PEOPLE I WORK WITH!!! I am so incredibly fortunate to have such amazing colleagues and supervisors. My team is incredibly understanding, woke, and interested in my ideas. My biggest fear was having to work for someone who wasn’t interested in my input so I feel incredibly fortunate that people come to me for my ideas and allow me to contribute.

Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?

In between graduation and accepting my offer at Epic, I interned for Amber Horsburgh who is a marketing strategist. She’s been incredibly influential in my career thus far and I go to her for absolutely everything. She has taught me so much and I’m so grateful for her. She’s one of the most badass women I know.

Additionally, the current/former management at Sony Music U have changed my life. Frank Decicco, Karen Kieves, Tara Bendler, and Arielle Frank are four amazing individuals who have shaped me. As a college rep, they challenged me every single day which taught me how to work smarter and harder. If it weren’t for their support and guidance, I don’t know where I would be. I still go to them for advice and I am so grateful to have had such supportive management so early in my career.

What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?

Master the art of networking effectively. Everyone wants to sit down with executives and “pick their brain” but what people don’t realize is they might actually be wasting both their time and the time of the person they want to meet. Research the people you’re interested in meeting with beforehand, find out what projects they worked on, and compile a list of meaningful questions to ask. Don’t waste your opportunity by asking questions that can easily be answered with a simple Google search!

Leave your ego at the door! Regardless of where you’re at in your career, letting go of your ego is so important. Never talk down on someone and never feel like a task is too small for you.

Lastly, have the courage to ask for what you want (within reason). The only person who’s allowed to tell you what you deserve and what you’re capable of is YOU. Know your worth and what you bring to the table!

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’ve never been turned down for being female but I have had people not take me seriously numerous times. I think it’s important to speak up when you’re being disrespected and offer other women support when they need it.

I’m not afraid of confrontation so I’m happy to speak up if I feel like I’m being disrespected. My advice to anyone who might be in that position is to not take anything personally and do what you can to be the best at your job. If you know what you’re doing, there’s no room for anyone to not take you seriously.

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 recently got very into yoga and it’s helped me tremendously. Not only does my body feel stronger and healthier, but it does wonders for my mindset. I notice I often feel more anxious when I’ve skipped a few days of yoga so I try to add an hour of practice into my daily routine.

As cliché as it sounds, I’m also a huge fan of sunsets. On the rare day that I have 5-7pm free, I’ll drive to the nearest beach, grab a journal and go watch the sunset until it’s dark outside. It’s the most calming thing and there’s nothing I love more in this world.

What is something you find a lot of people don’t realize about marketing?

Coming up with creative and innovative ideas is really hard. It’s so easy to see a rollout and say ‘oh here’s what I’d do differently’ but having to do it for every single artist actually takes a lot of work. Additionally, the marketing department requires input from every single department at the label so organizing everyone’s plans can be really tedious.

Has your job changed a lot since everything became so digital?

Absolutely, especially now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Every single idea I have has to be digital now, so it’s required me to become a different type of creative. I focus a lot on community research to keep things relevant.

What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on so far, if you can tell us?

The whole Monsta X “All About Luv” rollout was a dream come true. I’m a true fangirl at heart, so working on a release that allowed me to engage similar fans was so exciting. We took over the whole sunset strip and seeing hundreds of fans line up outside of Tower Records and The Roxy was so energizing (and gave me a bit of PTSD).

Who is your all-time favorite artist?

It’s hard to choose just one so I’ll name my top 3 (in no particular order) – Harry Styles, LANY, and The 1975. I’ve never missed a show, streamed all of their albums dozens (maybe hundreds?) of times, and will forever be a fan of everything they do.

What is something you can't live without?

Iced coffee, a portable charger, sunglasses, and my Airpods. As long as I have those four things, I can rule the world.

Go-to Karaoke song?

I can't sing to save my life, but 100% Dancing Queen by ABBA. Choreography included.

Tea or Coffee?

I’m Indian and have parents from the UK so tea is just in my blood but I also can’t live without coffee. Fun fact, I drink both every. single. morning.

First concert you went to?

I like to joke and say Barney On Ice but I don’t think that counts. My first real concert was Nsync (how lucky am I?!)

What’s something that you always have on you?

The four things I can't live without that I mentioned above (coffee, portable charger, sunglasses, and airpods) but also my Hydroflask, skincare (vitamin c serum, moisturizer, sunscreen), chapstick, Altoids, a disposable camera, and a pen!

Who is your dream artist or band to tour/work with?

I think everything Harry Styles is doing is genius. His entire team is so clever and I really admire the work they do! I’ve also heard he’s an absolute pleasure to work with so definitely him.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Every day is a new adventure! I usually start my day at 10am and that’s about the only consistent thing about it. I really like that I don’t have a routine because it keeps things fresh and exciting!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you told me I would be where I am now 5 years ago, I wouldn’t believe you. As long as I’m still helping artists, helping young women, and can be considered a disruptor, I’ll be happy.

What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?

I’m really proud to see so many women holding executive positions in entertainment and I can only hope the number continues to grow.

Lastly, what saying do you live by?

“You can never be too much for people who don’t do much”

Huge thanks to Kalesha for taking the time to talk to us! We always love hearing about the music industry professionals who are fangirls at heart, it only makes you love your job that much more. If you want to keep up on all things Kalesha, you can follow her Instagram here.