Like a lot of record label veterans, Doug Howard, EMBA’85, has a good sense of timing—not just in terms of having an ear for music, that is, but in understanding the business trends as well. As the Senior Vice President of Artist & Repertoire for Disney’s Lyric Street Records and Disney Music Publishing, he has helped launch and develop the careers of some of country music’s biggest talents, including Rascal Flatts, all while navigating an increasingly competitive marketplace.
“When I first started out, a new artist could release four singles a year and build a fan base that way. But today we can spend up to $250,000 making a first album and another $500,000–$750,000 on marketing, promotion and a radio tour. Then it may take 25 weeks just to find out if we’ve got a hit on our hands,” he says. “In this business you have to know when to keep fighting and when to let go and try something else.”
In many ways Howard’s own career has benefited from this line of thinking. After graduating from the music business program at Belmont University, he tried his hand at different jobs in the industry. However, it was at the Welk Music Group—one of the major independent publishing companies at the time—where he found his true direction.
“Bill Hall, my boss at Welk, saw where the industry was heading with the mergers and acquisitions on the creative side and consolidation on the radio side. He knew that strictly creative guys like me would get killed if we didn’t bring anything else to the table. That’s why he encouraged me to enroll at Owen,” he explains.
Earning an Executive MBA at Vanderbilt proved to be “the turning point of my career,” Howard says. His degree helped him succeed as the Vice President/General Manager of Polygram Music in Nashville. It also served him well when fellow music executive Randy Goodman picked him to help start Lyric Street in 1997.
“My education and overall experience at Owen have opened a lot of doors for me,” he says. “I gained the confidence that I could ask the right questions, focus on the real issues and compete in both good and bad times. It allowed me to follow my bliss . . . and that is great music!”