SAM SELOLWANE SVP URBAN PROMOTION FOR RCA RECORDS
What’s your background?
Just a girl from Q-boro so thorough. East Elmhurst Queens Get The Money.
Congrats on your recent promotion. What does your job entail?
I always say, “I get records played.”. That’s the overall goal but it’s more than getting a record on the radio, —we break artists and introduce the audience to their new favorite person via radio.
You have some of the most interesting posts on social media. Without question, you are the first industry person that I have seen master it. How long have you been at it? Can you offer any tips?
Thank you very much for noticing. I studied Mass Media Communication in college, and back then we did not have social media at all, however,… but then again social media is just another form of communication.
I have always been intrigued by the psychology of human behavior. Why do we do what we do and how we do it? Social media falls in that intrigue. The gift and the curse of where we are now is the fact that we live in a ‘fully transparent’ time, and the audience is a smart enough to pick up if certain content is authentic or not. My IG is really my personality. I stay away from personal posts but it’s a snapshot of the various facets that continue to intrigue me and move me. That’s why I can have a post about sneakers, music, and art, and yet it all makes sense because it all comes from the same place.
You seem to have a great connection with the artists on RCA. They seem to let their hair down around you. How did you develop that ability?
I am a passionate person and I live a passionate life, and when it comes to music, I’m truly a fan of music. I have an immense amount of respect for creatives (musicians, artists, writers, etc.). Musicians are people who speak a language and that language is their music. They carry a burden that often is often ignored, but I see them and their story is incredible. Before they become this multi-million-dollar-platinum-selling-blah, blah, blah,, they are simply people with these incredible gifts. I simply happen to be the lucky person who is a conduit to helping them share their gifts.
Your father was a musician; tell us about him?
John Selolwane, jazz musician from Botswana and my guitar hero (besides Lenny Kravitz). He has been a musician all his life, and up until last year, he was still touring the world. He’s played for Paul Simon, Hugh Masekela, the late Mariam Makeba. My dad has played a major role in my desire to get in the business because I’ve spent half my childhood watching him on stages.
Where there any other entertainers in your family?
Professional entertainers, nope, my dad is it. However, if you get around my siblings and my mom, you can’t tell us anything – —we really take our jobs as silent background singers serious.
Did you ever want to be an entertainer or do you already consider yourself one?
I never wanted to be in the forefront. I’ve always wanted to be behind the scenes. I used to observe at shows how when everyone was watching the artist, the artist was always watching ‘“someone else.”’. The artist wouldn’t move until that ‘“someone else’ else” said so, or after the show, they would look for an approval or critique from that ‘someone else.’ It was always that person that was in the background that made me say, I wonder what they do. It was that behind- the- scenes interaction that always appealed to me.
Did you always want to work in the music industry?
Without question. There was never a plan B for me, the music business was my entire alphabet.
Tell us what it’s like to work with Geo Bivins?
GEO Geo is amazing. I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss. He is insightful, incredibly smart, hardworking, and a true visionary. He is the type of person that continues to groom and mold the younger generation, and he’s what I call an A&R of people.
He can spot talent from his team, and he knows how to move people into places of power that will help them grow. Outside of being one of the best senior executives I’ve ever had to work with, he’s a beast at leading his team and breaking records. He started his career doing “street promo,” so he knows all facets of what is needed, yet he sees how to move in the future. Geo is a rare bread breed that understands the antiquated methods and yet knows how to incorporate elements of modern times. He allows me to come up with crazy ideas and concepts and says, “goGo for it.”. Geo is great.
Who have been your mentors in the industry?
Tony Anderson is my mentor. He was the first person to take me out of radio and say, “Come do this promotion thing, you’d be great.”. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. I learned so much from such an industry titan.
Watching Tony Anderson work was really like watching a master perfect the craft. There are a number of women who are near and dear to me as it pertains to the business. Cynthia Johnson, Martha Reynolds, and Karen Rait are promo goddesses. When I worked at 92Q, they used to work me on records, and their passion for each artist, project, and record was like no other. They had a passionate approach to each artist and creative ways they would roll each single. Their work ethic was incredible, and I continue to be motivated by them.
Outside of promo, Gail Mitchell is the absolute GOAT. I continue to watch her, and I’m always in awe of her grace.
What is a typical day like for you?
Charts, meetings, more charts, listening to music, checking out more charts, and all of that is usually before noon. We spend a great deal of time calling radio, strategizing with the staff on ideas of how to create compelling campaigns that will complement our rollouts, ended with more meetings and one last look at the charts.
What are the greatest lessons that you have learned about success?
The reward for hard work and dedication is truly a beautiful feeling. Stay the course.
Where do you see yourself in the next couple of years?
A few things remain constant in our industry. Artists will always create and consumers will always consume. Until that changes, I would like to continue to be an active part of that community that grows, builds, creates and continue to expose new artists to the masses.
What words of wisdom can you give women of color who want to work in the entertainment industry?
Know yourself. We’ve heard that term over and over again, but you will get tested every day when you don’t ‘“know yourself,’,” you can be shaken and then broken. Know your character, stand on your integrity, feed your passion, align your purpose with tunnel vision— don’t every bend.
HAVE FUN. At the end of the day, we work in entertainment, so if you aren’t having fun, then you need to find where you buried it. I am a FAN first of music, and I travel to see bands. I still buy concert tickets and merch. I still enjoy watching from the seats and not the “VIP” section, because I’m forever a fan of music. The day I stop being a fan is the day I know it’s time to find where I buried my fun.
CELEBRATING WOMEN OF COLOR IN MEDIA 2017