It’s no surprise that the announcement of Kamala Harris as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate was met with wild enthusiasm by large swaths of the music industry — after all, she’s a Bay Area-bred California senator who lives in Los Angeles with her entertainment-attorney husband, Douglas Emhoff. But less known is how longstanding and strong her connections with the music business are — and not necessarily with artists. A number of executives have supported her since her days as the district attorney of San Francisco, a role she held from 2003 until 2011, and many more since she successfully ran for California attorney general in 2010 and then U.S. senator in 2016.
Industry veterans Daniel Glass and Troy Carter have been “joined at the hip” in their support of Harris, as Carter puts it, since the early 2010s. Separately or together, the two have hosted events for her over the years that were attended by top executives, including Universal Music EVPs Michele Anthony and Jeffrey Harleston, Republic chief Monte Lipman, Apple Music’s Ebro Darden, Brooklyn Bowl founder Peter Shapiro and even LionTree investment banking firm founder Aryeh Bourkoff; Justin Bieber/Ariana Grande manager Scooter Braun is also a longtime supporter.
“Sean Parker introduced me to her at a lunch, very casually” in 2012, Glass, founder of Glassnote Records, recalls, “and when I met her I thought immediately that this was someone who would go very far, and could be a voice for artists and creators in DC. The ever-changing digital world and copyright wasn’t being comprehended by many people, and she wanted to know what the landscape was.”
Glass also stresses that unlike some politicians, “For her, it’s not about meeting big stars and having them do benefits: it’s about rights. And coming from California, with its very strong entertainment [industry], she really understands what is needed on both sides — the artist/creator side and the entrepreneurial side. She cares about small businesses, the independent spirit and the underdog, and that’s what we need in government. And she picks up the phone: ‘Hey Daniel, it’s Kamala. What should I know about? What’s going on?’ And,” he adds with a laugh, “she always wishes me happy Passover!”
Q&A cofounder Carter, a former top exec at Spotify and manager of Lady Gaga for the first few years of her career, is organizing a fundraising event for Harris with Roc Nation CEO Jay Brown and film producer James Lassiter (in collaboration with their respective spouses). “In DC, we need a person who’s going to really interrogate the issues and not let things slip through the cracks when it comes to policy, which we saw when she interviewed [U.S attorney general William] Barr and [Supreme Court associate justice Brett] Kavanaugh,” he says. “We need somebody who’s not afraid to ask the hard questions, but also isn’t just doing it for theater.”
Caron Veazey, former Pharrell Williams manager and founder/CEO of Something in Common management-consulting, says, “Coming from California has kept her close to the music business, and she’s been involved and aligned with many of the bills going into Congress regarding songwriters and creators. But also, I’m impressed with her leadership and tenacity — speaking as a Black woman, I know first-hand the adversity one has to overcome in order to achieve, and to do that you have to have a certain strength.”
Harris’ support for creators is seconded by attorney Aaron Rosenberg (Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez), who held a fundraiser for her 2016 Senate campaign at his home. “In the music industry, artists are in need of advocates like her,” he says. “She helped introduce the [Music Modernization Act, which brought more equitable royalty rates to songwriters] in 2018, so there’s no question that she is on the side of the creators and ensuring that they are being compensated fairly and appropriately for their compositions.”
He adds, “I think it is critical that the government and specifically the administration reflects the composition of the people, and I think that her selection as Biden’s vice-presidential candidate does just that. It is so important on so many levels, especially from the perspective of the music business, which is itself also comprised of so many different constituencies. Seeing not only a woman but a person of color on the highest ticket is a game-changer.”
Veazey feels the time is ripe for change as well. “Her nomination alone has invigorated and reenergized so many of us,” she says. “Think of everything that has happened this year: coronavirus and the almost 170,000 people who have died, leading into Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and so many others, which has led into more visibility for Black Lives Matter and the protests and all of the beautiful and constructive — and difficult and challenging — conversations that we’ve had around race. It has all made a need for real change.
“So I think that if elected — I’m going to say when elected,” she emphasizes, “the Biden-Harris combination is going to instill hope and bring a healing that we desperately, desperately need.”
But as much as the executives above are inspired by Harris’ leadership and familiarity with their business, they’re well aware of their place on the to-do list.
“I’m not necessarily even thinking about what her contribution to the music industry could be, as much as the help America needs right now,” Carter says. “She has strong relationships in our business, so I think she will be a strong advocate and all of the right people will have a seat at the table. But,” he concludes, “if she becomes vice president, she’s going to have much bigger fish to fry.”