How has your role changed since you launched Big Machine in 2005 and what have you learned?
That’s a great question because it’s become so many different things. When we first started the label, I was really a glorified vice president of promotion. I always had had at least a voice in what acts were doing what, what singles came out, etc., but at the end of the day that was never really just my call.
But working with [former DreamWorks principal James] Stroud gave me the opportunity to really be involved with all aspects of a label. James really allowed me to learn how to run a record company. Obviously I had to learn a lot more about marketing, learn a lot more about distribution, learn contracts from zero to putting a record out, and that knowledge base has expanded greatly.
Being involved in the negotiations, being involved in global marketing with all the Universal companies that we work with is fantastic. Obviously we’re involved in different parts of management with different artists. We’re not day-to-day managers of anybody, but we have different strategic consulting management responsibilities.
We’ve always felt that we always wanted that open door policy. If you can save a new artist heartache, [you should]. It’s about saying, “You shouldn’t do this and this is why. We’ve been here before. This is 20-plus years of experience saying, 'You can try that. Here are two or three things that could happen if you go down that road'.”
And when you have new families come in—because it’s very rare when it’s just an artist, especially as we’re delving more and more into younger artists—there’s a lot family involvement. And they don’t know anything coming in.
Until you’re on the job, there’s no on the job training. And so, whether it’s everything that we’ve gone through with the Swift family or if it’s just a new act that we want to sign that’s a family act that we’re hoping to land literally today. There’s a lot of family involved then. It’s three siblings, and their parents are very involved, and we invite that. Nobody knows their kids better than their parents. So why not use that knowledge base? They’re experts on their kids. So we welcome all that. With Kate & Kacey, their dad, Frank [Coppola], is a very smart man, and so why shouldn’t we have him in the circle of the knowledge base?
The first act you’ve signed to your new Republic Nashville label is Fast Ryde. What’s the story behind their signing?
I had just gotten back from Australia. I was there for the second week that Taylor was over there. I was in the office Monday, and Harry, my assistant, says, “Hey, Allison,” our VP of A&R “wants you to hear this CD.” I’m like, “Alright, when’s our A&R meeting?” He says, “Thursday.” I’m like, “Alright I got a couple days, right?” So Monday goes by, Tuesday. Thursday I said, “Let me play this. Get ready for Allison. See what she’s got.” And I’m like, “Oh my god.” I played the first song, it’s amazing. Play the second one, “Are you kidding me?” I call her before the meeting, “Why didn’t you break into my office?” She goes, “I tried.” I’m said, “You’re right. Harry told me. You know what, if they can breathe, they’re signed. Get them in here.”
And they ended up being these two young, cool guys [James Harrison and Jody Stevens] who have this whole thing going on. It was one of those beautiful situations where something fantastic happened right under your nose.
We told them “You want to be here. We want you to be here. Let’s go.” We told them about the Republic opportunity. They kind of scratched their head and looked at each other, and then met with [label president] Jimmy [Harnen] and myself together and they said, “Alright. Let’s go.”
You had several different releases between Taylor’s first album and her second—there was a Christmas record, a Wal-Mart exclusive, a deluxe edition—do you foresee doing different variations again between the second album and her third?
Yeah, we will do a “Fearless” deluxe re-release. There will only be one more version of the album, but she has so much music that comes out of her. There are some great songs sitting, and she and I were just talking about this last week. Like, “You know what? ‘Sparks Fly’ is a great song, and if we don’t get to that song, you’ll leave it behind and your fans won’t ever get to own it.” So that’s a song that she’s seriously considering for a deluxe re-release.
There are three or four or five things sitting that, with as quickly as she’s growing up, if we don’t get ‘em now, they won’t get out. And she acknowledges that. It goes back to the first album conversation. She didn’t really want to put “The Outside” and “A Place In This World” on the first record. I said, “They’re so important and they’re such great songs, if you don’t put them on the first record, we’ll never get to ‘em.” And she was nice enough to go along with me on that and there’s been a couple times where she’s high-fived me. She said, “You know what? I’m glad we put these songs on this record because they made the record so real.”
So that’s where she is right now. We’ve had a couple things that have happened musically during the “Fearless” campaign that will be part of a “Fearless” deluxe edition and that’s for the fans. We’re not going to shove a million copies of a re-release out there. We’re pretty knowledgeable about what the super fan wants, and so we’re going to make just enough to fulfill that need and desire. Also we very specifically, from day one, established her as a fourth-quarter artist. So there will be people going into the stores in the fourth-quarter saying, “I want to buy a Taylor Swift gift for my daughter/sister/girlfriend/whoever it is.” We’re not going to disappoint.