Warner Records has named Karen Kwak executive vice president and head of A&R, joining the company on Nov. 1 and reporting to co-chairman & CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck. She will be based at the company’s Los Angeles headquarters and work closely with the team to steer its A&R department.
A veteran executive, Kwak most recently headed her own company, KK Consulting, working with RCA Records (Britney Spears, Maluma), Epic Records, and Three Six Zero (Tiesto). Prior to setting out on her own in 2016, Kwak spent 12 years with Universal Music Group, rising to EVP of A&R, U.S. recorded music, serving all of UMG’s U.S. labels. She was previously EVP and head of A&R at UMG’s Island Def Jam Music Group, which she joined in 2004 and where she worked closely with Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Big Sean, Nas, Frank Ocean and Justin Bieber, among others. While at IDJ, Kwak was responsible for matching Rihanna with the song “Umbrella,” which became a global smash, and also signed The-Dream to the label. Prior to IDJ, Kwak held senior posts at Arista Records, LaFace Records and Motown — where she began her career as an intern ascended the role of VP of A&R administration.
“Throughout her stellar career, Karen has been the force behind countless hit records and chart-topping artists,” said Bay-Schuck. “Her great ears, deep knowledge of all facets of A&R, and invaluable relationships across the industry make her a fantastic addition to our senior management team. With Steve Carless also joining us shortly, we have brilliant A&R leadership in place to take us into the future. Tom Corson and I are thrilled to welcome Karen to the family.”
Added Kwak: “This is my first post at a WMG company, and I’m incredibly excited to become part of such a dynamic and forward-thinking label. Aaron has assembled a phenomenal A&R team, who are signing and nurturing a fantastic array of amazing, leading-edge talent. I’m looking forward to working with the entire Warner Records family, and I want to thank Aaron and Tom for this wonderful opportunity to help shape the future of one of our industry’s iconic companies.”
A number of former Def Jam executives are currently employed at Warner Records, including promotion head Mike Chester, publicity chief Laura Swanson and EVP of Urban marketing Chris Atlas, among others.