Experienced music executive Rob Waiter talks about music industry earnings, artist growth, and how he got to where he is today.
Rob Weitzner has always ensured the success of innovative artists, influential labels and cutting-edge startups at the crossroads of music and technology. After a decade of managing artists, eMusic recruited him as Vice President of Business Development and Head of the New York office, helping lead the successful launch of the first-ever digital music subscription service in 2000.
From there he joined TVT Records, where he led business development and digital strategy for a wide range of artists including Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg and Tha Eastsidaz, and Lil Jon.
Following this experience, Rob took on a leadership role launching the trade body A2IM (American Independent Music Association) as a founding executive before joining IODA as Head of Global Business Development. Rob’s impact in the independent sector led him to become Head of Business Development, Strategy and Partnerships for Consolidated Independent (CI), the digital supply chain company of state51 Music Group. Over the next decade, he grew the franchise into a market leader, partnering and working with indie cultural impact bands including Beggars, Secretly Group, Reach, Redeye, Sub Pop, Hopeless Records, Kobalt , PIAS and many others.
In early 2022, Weitzner joined Artist Growth as Executive Vice President to drive growth of the company’s product ecosystem, including AG’s industry-leading SaaS collaboration platform. Rob also spent eight years as an assistant professor in the Music Industry Program at Drexel University, named one of the “Top 10 Music Industry Programs” by Billboard Magazine. He is an active participant in the Education and Scholarship Committees of the Music Business Association. Rob holds a BA in Economics from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
How did you get your start in the music industry and how did that led to the work you do today?
I got my start in the industry falling in love with good music on the radio and then trying to figure out how I could get involved in it. I quickly discovered that being a “musician by proxy” would be the best path for me. So, at the ripe old age of 13, I started my first artist management company and directed a few friends to book gigs at the local YMYWHA. Throughout high school, I excelled at truancy and mostly hung around the New York offices of Aucoin Management running errands for KISS and other Bill Aucoin clients. For a few pre-college sabbaticals, I worked as a technician for various acts, learning the ropes of life on the road.
After leaving the road and resuming my educational life on the West Coast, the powerful siren call of music prompted me to rush into his arms and I have remained forever committed to the industry. I graduated, moved back east, became a DJ at a local rock club, found artists who needed help, and started my second management company, Monster. Management. It was an incredibly exciting and fulfilling decade working with many artists at all levels, including influential hip-hop/metal pioneers Shootyz Groove who toured endlessly with artists like 311, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt , Killing Joke, WuTang and Slayer among others while streaming music through Mercury, RoadRunner and Reprise.
I then sold my interest in Monster and fled to Boston in search of “greener” pastures and an MBA. Of course, to quote Michael Corleone, “just when I thought I was out…” bearing in mind that it was turn of the century, the perfect storm of creative destruction that Napster unleashed “me brought inside”. So many incredible opportunities were born from the malstrom of entrepreneurial invention that Napster spawned and I dove straight into the depths of the rapidly evolving digital side of the business, agreeing to lead the New York office of eMusic and help design the industry’s first-ever digital music. subscription service in 2000. Since that concert, I have been committed to pursuing and implementing ideas that combine music and technology with the goal of increasing business efficiency and further enhancing artistic expression.
Is there an achievement or career milestone you are most proud of?
I will put humility aside and share that I am very proud to have been instrumental in the successful launch of A2IM. I fondly remember the summer day 17 years ago when we held our first Label Conclave at the Maritime Hotel in New York’s Meatpacking District. We had about 125 label owners and managers present and basically established an “Independent Declaration”. I walked around that day with a clipboard (it was 2005 after all) and collected signatures from those gathered who pledged their support and willingness to pay dues to manifest the vision collective. It was incredibly exciting and the energy in the room was incredibly electric.
The original staff of A2IM was just me and Don Rose (A2IM’s first president and founder of RykoDisc) with huge help from 7 amazing founding board members (Steve Gottlieb/TVT, Molly Neuman/Lookout, Glenn Morrow/Bar-None, Cess Wessels/Roadrunner , Tom Silverman/Tommy Boy, Peter Gordon/Thirsty Ear and Lesley Bleakley/Beggars Group US). We constantly met, worked endlessly, and constantly traveled across the country to proselytize the organization’s mission and message with the mantra that “a copyright holder’s market size does not should not dictate the market value of copyrights held. We’ve formed regional chapters with the help of our passionate member labels and competed against the industry’s biggest global companies in an effort to level the playing field and establish a coordinated way to amplify and champion India’s concerns and challenges. In our first 16 months, we have grown from just a collective dream to a nationally organized and internationally recognized reality. a commercial association with, at the time, more than 180 dues-paying members of the label from 7 regional chapters. We had established a solid foundation through the efforts of the entire Indie community – a true DIY success story that embodies the spirit of the amazing entrepreneurs who run the businesses that make up A2IM members.
We then handed over to the team of Rich Bengloff, Jim Mahoney and Jen Masset who took that solid foundation and built a solid skyscraper. And of course, today’s excellent team, guided by the thoughtful and strategic vision of the very talented and capable Richard Burgess, has taken A2IM to even greater heights and wider impact on the industry. I am amazed, amazed and touched by the lasting impact and success of A2IM – the power of individuals executing a collective vision.
Apart from your work in music, do you have any other hobbies/areas of expertise/special interests, etc.? ?
Family, travel, cycling (racing and pure fun), pop culture, fine arts, great meals with friends.
Are there any projects you’re working on or company updates that interest you the most?
After a decade of product evolution that saw Artist Growth (“AG”) become the standard platform for real-time collaboration between the industry’s leading artist teams, we’ve completely redesigned and dramatically expanded our offer and are excited to launch a new set of products over the next few months. Our entire mission at AG is to be a company that exists to leverage technology for the benefit of the world’s artists and the teams that support them, because we believe that human civilization must have an empowered artistic community to continue to thrive. Granted, it’s a lofty and bold ambition, but we all embrace it at AG, and we can’t wait for the entire industry to benefit from the next decade of AG’s offering. So stay tuned…
Anything else to add?
Leave the world better than you found it. Let fear be a tailwind, not a headwind.
Without music, life would have no meaning. A willingness to accept failure is necessary for success.