For me leadership is about setting a clear vision, laying out the path and the tools and the metrics by which we’ll get there and then allowing people the autonomy and the freedom to bring to the table what they specialize in to help you achieve those goals.
I had the pleasure to interview Ed Walker. Ed is the Vice President of Live Production at VEVO. Vevo has been described as “the world’s leading all-premium music video and entertainment platform.” Vevo hosts music videos from the big three record labels (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group). This is why you see so many top artists on Vevo videos. Vevo is the platform responsible for providing newly released music videos from top artists in top video quality. Thanks to its partnership with YouTube, you simply have to subscribe to a Vevo-driven artist YouTube account, such as Justin Bieber or Ariana Grande, to enjoy this type of content.
Yitzi Weiner: Hi Ed, thank you so much for joining us. You have a really fascinating career. Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career trajectory?
Ed Walker: Yes, sure. While at university studying creative music and sound technology, I was working freelance at management companies, helping them out and doing entry level jobs. From there I took a role working at a creative agency, boasting more off brand execution experience doing work with different brands, mainly alcohol brands but also a luxury product. From there I went back into the music sphere, focusing solely on music production.
I was doing festival production, tour production and also a little bit of freelancing with experiential event production and management.
Once I was working at a music venue in the UK and Vevo was hosting an event there and that’s where we met. From there I started freelancing at Vevo in the UK which turned into the full time production role for Vevo in the UK. Since then I have progressed within the company.
Yitzi: So you must have some stories about meeting interesting people. Can you share with us the most interesting story that happened since you started your leadership role at Vevo?
Ed: Interesting varies from person to person, right? So for Vevo and for us here, we will work from tier A all the way down to managing office. So we get the full gamut. For me, the exciting thing about working with Vevo is the ability to work directly with artists such as Lorde, Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus, and to work directly with them on the creative and the execution of their vision or parts of one of their marketing projects around an album or video.
So when we worked with, for instance, The Weeknd, we did a format called “Vevo Presents with The Weeknd”, which is where we worked with him, his management and his record label to host a live concert, which we filmed that coincided with the launch of his album Starboy. We were ingrained in the process of the album and then translating his vision and his album narrative and creative into a live show. So my team got to lead the creative and the execution of the show that premiered his new album Starboy. For me the most exciting things that I get to do here is working directly with artists and helping bring their vision to life and being entrusted with the ability to do so by these amazing, creative and polished professional people.
Yitzi: Fantastic! Can you share the funniest mistake you’ve made and what lesson you learned from that mistake?
Ed: Yes, I made multiple mistakes. I think that experience is built on mistakes. So when I interview people for my team one question I always ask is tell me your biggest mistake and why it happened, but more importantly how you recovered from it.
One of the biggest mistakes I made at Vevo is when we used to produce an annual concert in the UK for Hallow. We’d have maybe 5000 people for the attendance and I took on a lot in the pre production. For some reason I forgot to book the local crew to help load out of the show. So we got to the day of the show and it became very clear that we needed 35 local crew members to take down the stage, the lighting, the audio, and it was 11:00 at night and we needed to load out at 5:30 the next morning. So, I’d say that was a pretty large mistake! As I said, my question I ask all potential employees is how to recover from that and, you know,utilizing my network of people, we managed to do the job that we needed. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s about how you recover.
Yitzi: That’s great. That is an excellent story. I really appreciate you being so honest with us.
From your vantage point, can you share a story that you think personifies what makes Vevo stand out from the other similar, music distribution companies?
Ed: The way we approach creating content with an artist or the artist management and record label is a very collaborative and engaging process that is tailored specifically to the campaign or event.
Other companies may have a format or a concept or an idea that they want to commission with an artist. So what they’ll do is they’ll find the artists that pulled up the project and they’ll commission a production company to go on and tape the idea. The very nature of doing that releases the creative control of that project to that production company in collaboration with the office.
I’ve been lucky in that Vevo had the foresight to build up an in house production team. It consists of all directors, people who have experience in the roles of director of photography, really great editors, production managers, creative producers and logistics producers. So we work directly with them with one to craft and hone the idea. Once that’s approved, we then have a team of internal producers and then get the kit equipment and crew. We need to go and shoot it and execute the project, we’ll bring it back in house and then we have a team of amazing editors who work and obviously my guidance and the guidance of my EP to facilitate the final part of that project, which is the edit. So from creative ideation through production, through a delivery of the campaign. We also have a really great marketing team and PR team to roll out the PR story of that particular project in collaboration with the artists and team and the labels.
So we are literally a one stop shop.
Yitzi: Ok, that’s great. Fantastic. So are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think this new project will help people?
Ed: At any given time we probably have 10 to 15record labels or management companies working with us. We work with five of the most exciting and most relevant up and coming artist of the year and we have five of those campaigns a year. Previous artists have included, Lorde, Khaleed, Julia Michaels, Jesse. We’re currently in the process of picking the first lift artist for the US campaign as well as the first lift artist for the European campaign. Both of those artists will be promoted across territories globally but we’re still honing in on the submissions we’ve got and picking the artists that we’re most excited about. So I can’t give you any names right now. But we just released the second part of the campaign of Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson. I feel like that is a really important project for us.
Yitzi: That’s great! From your experience, what advice would you give to other leaders and particularly managers to be a fantastic boss?
Ed: A very good question. For me it’s about setting a clear vision, laying out the path and the tools and the metrics by which we’ll get there and then allowing people the autonomy and the freedom to bring to the table what they specialize in to help you achieve those goals.
Yitzi: We’re almost done. Do you have a favorite life lesson quote and can you share a story of how that was relevant in your life?
Ed: When I was at school back in the UK, we used to have an end of the year keynote speaker, someone who had made an impact came in and gave some words of wisdom. One year a retired army general spoke to us. In one part of his speech he spoke about a campaign that that wasn’t working out as it should. Then to wake everybody up, he used one person’s name from the audience. He used my name and said “and Ed Walker will be fully aware, it’s never too late to make a change”. That got a lot of laughs and, made me get very red. I was about 14, but this stuck with me, and then I digested it and, it really, really did stick with me. For me, the way that I used that lesson is key.
You can spend months planning a project and then you’ll get to execute it but you have to be able to make a change. There are tens of examples I could give you where we’ve been producing massive, massive things and something that was so sacrosanct and immovable just wasn’t working out and you just have to accept that it’s time to change it and it’s never too late to change. In the end those things improve what you’re doing.
Yitzi: This is really fantastic. I want to thank you so much for your time.