Few music industry vets approach the level of royalty in the radio world that Andrea Ganis, Variety‘s Hitbreaker of the Year, inhabits. She rose through the ranks at Atlantic Records until they had to create a new title for her: president of promotion.
“Atlantic was a powerhouse then as it is now, so I got to work legendary acts throughout my career,” says the New York native. “My early years began with the Rolling Stones, Bette Midler, Abba, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Phil Collins, U2, Stevie Nicks and so many more, including songs that I forgot I promoted until I hear them in a store and point up and say, ‘I worked that record!’”
That streak has continued over the years, particularly with the remarkably consistent current regime of co-chairs Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald, who have steered the ship since 2004. Ganis began her career as an assistant at Polydor Records and quickly became the first female on the company’s national promotion staff. After a stint at Infinity Records (“They closed — apparently Infinity wasn’t forever,” she cracks), Ganis arrived at Warner Music’s Atlantic label and quickly became a legend at the company and within the industry. However, she is quick to share credit not just with the company’s leaders and her teams over the years, but also for the guidance she received along the way.
“Harry Anger and Arnie Geller mentored me during my Polydor days, but ultimately it was Doug Morris who really taught me the business,” she says of the longtime Atlantic president who became the only person to be CEO of all three major label groups. “He came to my office every day to discuss the development of our records and would make me study sales reports, imparting that sales was the way to truly judge if a record was real. And Julie Greenwald is a great role model since she is an executive without peer.”
Although formats and platforms and so much else about the music business has changed over the years, the basics of breaking a song remain the same (to paraphrase a legendary Atlantic artist). “Promotion is an art that morphs in tandem with the trends of radio as well as the broader currents of culture,” she says, “but ultimately the tenets are the same. First and foremost is the music itself, and then the strategy created to expose it.”
Along the way, Ganis has had a front-row seat to the history of modern music. “There are so many artists I’ve been lucky to be involved with, and I love breaking music from so many different genres,” she says, launching into a long list that includes INXS, Stone Temple Pilots, Hootie and the Blowfish, Jewel, Matchbox 20, Skid Row, Brandy, Kid Rock, Tori Amos, En Vogue, Aaliyah, “and of course our current super-bigs, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Coldplay, Lizzo,” not to mention this year’s chart goliath, Roddy Ricch.
“Roddy’s album was released in December 2019 and immediately exploded,” she says, shifting smoothly into virtuoso promo mode. “Within the first two weeks, ‘The Box’ went from 33 million to 60 million streams. So we immediately targeted pop radio, which wasn’t as open to playing hip-hop artists out of the gate. The overall enormity of this song changed that. It was groundbreaking.”
And although she may have blazed a trail as a female executive in the male-dominated world of promotion, for her it’s all about “team success over individual success,” in service of the artists. “My own staff is built with outstanding executives of both sexes, so I view it more as ‘Forget gender but do a job with integrity, diligence and teamwork that you are proud of, and continue to listen, teach, learn and inspire those around you,’” she says. “But joy also comes in birthing the babies who we continue to build and develop — you never know who’s going to become our next superstar!”