About This Episode
In this another captivating episode of the Brilliant Thoughts podcast, brought to you by Success Magazine, we have the privilege of engaging in a fascinating conversation with Gordan Dillard as our special guest.
About Gordan Dillard
Gordan Dillard is a seasoned music industry professional with a remarkable career in Artists and Repertoire (A&R) operations. As the Executive Vice President of AR and Artist Development for Capitol Music Group, Dillard brings a wealth of experience in discovering and nurturing talented artists. With a keen ear for exceptional music and an eye for emerging trends, he has played a pivotal role in shaping the success of numerous renowned artists. Dillard's strategic insights and deep industry knowledge make him a trusted leader in the dynamic landscape of A&R, driving the growth and innovation of Capitol Music Group's artist roster.
Notably, he has played a key role in managing the career of renowned artist Doja Cat.
A&R - Artists and Repertoire
Gordan has recently assumed the EVP and A&R (Artist and Repertoire) roles for Capitol Music. A&R is akin to being the mastermind behind the scenes, orchestrating the creation and development of music. It is synonymous with being the label's manager, intimately connected with the artists, and deeply involved in music-making.
Gordan further explains that as an A&R professional, he works closely with artist managers, spending time in the studio, and curating a team of songwriters and producers to bring an artist's vision to life. A&R and artist development focus on nurturing the talent and devising strategic plans to elevate the artists to new heights.
Gordan shares that his passion for music and admiration for industry icons like Kevin Liles (@kevinlileskwl) and Russell Simmons (@unclerush) fueled his desire to become an A&R specialist from a young age. Being surrounded by music while growing up, Gordan was captivated by its power and how it evoked emotions within him. He aspired to make his mark as an A&R professional and eventually become an entrepreneur and executive, much like his role models.
Gordan began with an internship at Motown, which was a stepping stone toward his current position. He has embraced his true calling in the music industry through gradual evolution and unwavering dedication.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling.
In their conversation, Gordan reflects on his experience, sharing that when he relocated to New York, he had some family support in the city, including his sister. However, he always had an independent spirit and followed his instincts. He had a dream and saw a bigger picture beyond his hometown of Oakland. Gordan vividly describes the metaphorical glass ceiling he faced, acknowledging that he could see beyond it but lacked the tools, networks, and music community to reach his goals. He had to break through that barrier.
During that time, Gordan's sister worked at a record label in the finance department, which gave him the opportunity to navigate the building and connect with people. He mentions working with a talented rapper named John Gilchrist and another R&B singer named Marcel Williams, both from Oakland. Gordan saw the hardships he encountered as part of the journey, crafting a roadmap and learning the ins and outs of an industry that was new to him. He aimed to build relationships organically, ensuring he didn't rub people the wrong way. Despite the challenges, Gordan always believed in his aspirations and never had a backup plan. He didn't initially understand the role of a manager in its entirety, but he knew he wanted to be an A&R professional.
It wasn't until Gordan entered a certain space and interacted with managers that he realized the immense influence they had on an artist's career. They had the ability to generate ideas, collaborate with artists, and possess a significant level of control (not in a negative sense) over the business aspect. Gordan emphasizes the freedom he found in that space, as he didn't want to be confined by a regular paycheck. He preferred to determine his worth and actively pursue the financial rewards that aligned with his value. Management provided that opportunity, allowing him to make decisions based on a different set of priorities focused on the long-term success of an artist's brand rather than short-term gains.
Gordan's approach to his career is driven by survival instincts and making strategic moves that set him apart in the industry. He emphasizes the importance of considering an artist's longevity and brand, as well as aligning decisions with personal values and the desire to go beyond mere financial transactions.
Creating Value: "Not trying to be great at a million things but being a master at a few things."
Gordan emphasizes the importance of creating value and becoming an asset to others. He suggests that instead of trying to be great at a million things, it is more valuable to focus on mastering a few key areas. Gordan gives examples, such as seeking an accountant who excels specifically in accounting or finding a manager who is excellent at managing. He applies this principle to his own career, where he concentrates on mastering the fields of music and entertainment.
Gordan shares a personal experience from his internship to illustrate this concept. He wanted to stand out among the other interns and be eligible for a job opportunity. Gordan took on a specific responsibility as a liaison for travel arrangements. He formed a strong relationship with the travel agency and became the go-to person for managing all the travel needs. He invested extra time and effort, even working on weekends without compensation. When he eventually decided to leave, his departure left a significant gap in their operations, showcasing the value he had created. As a result, they had to find a way to retain him and offer him a paid position.
Tristan complimented him by commenting on the sense of entitlement sometimes observed in individuals starting out in various industries, where they expect to be paid well or start in higher positions without having established themselves or created significant value.
"I need to create more value for myself to then become valuable even for my next level."
Gordan explains that people often focus on appearances and what others think of them rather than their actual personal growth. He acknowledges that even though he may already hold a certain level of value in people's eyes, he is constantly striving to create more value for himself in order to reach the next level and be valuable to those at that level.
Gordan emphasizes the importance of continuous growth and change. He sees them as the only way to progress and elevate oneself. Just like playing sports, where one cannot compete at a higher level using the same skills and knowledge as at a lower level. In order to excel, one must continuously learn, improve, and adapt. Gordan notes that not everyone has the dedication and consistency required to reach the highest levels of achievement in their chosen field.
Tristan shared his observation of Gordan surrounding himself with high-level individuals or groups, which motivates him to constantly strive for improvement. He asks how Gordan finds and gets involved with such people. Gordan responds by saying that it requires patience and an openness to the opportunities life presents. By treating people equally, having good intentions, and being a good person, one tends to attract similar energy and encounters. Through connections and conversations, one can find themselves in rooms with influential people and forge valuable relationships.
Gordan shares an example of a recent conversation with Jerry Beats (@jaroslawdudziak), whom he met through a mutual friend. Initially, he wasn't sure if he should meet this person, but he decided to do so. As a result, he discovered a studio space where he and other artists have been producing great work. This connection also opened up potential business opportunities that wouldn't have been possible if he had declined the initial invitation.
On "Taking Chances" and A Break-Up that led him to be “in the best situations to be involved in."
When asked by Tristan how he became (@dojacat) Doja Cat's manager, Gordan emphasizes the importance of taking chances, being open, and building genuine relationships based on value and good nature. He believes that treating people properly and putting out positive energy leads to positive outcomes. Gordan shares a personal story about how his breakup with his ex-partner ultimately led to him meeting Doja Cat and becoming involved in one of the best situations he has ever experienced.
Gordan attributes his connection with Doja Cat to a mutual friend he met during a trip to Miami. This friend was looking for a new manager for an artist he was working with at the time, and Gordan eventually became involved in managing Doja Cat's career. Although he maintains a relatively quiet presence on social media, Gordan aims to use his story and platform to inspire and help people in their own journeys.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.