Posted: March 13, 2008
by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen
Carianne Laguna, vice president/general manager A&R of Blackheart Records, was born into the music business. Her father has been Joan Jett's manager since 1979 and is president of Blackheart Records, Jett's label.
At Blackheart, Carianne finds and signs new artists to the label and finalizes the production and track listing of the albums. She is also artist liaison/relations which includes coordinating with management, publishers if applicable, and artists. As creative director she oversees all the creative decisions, including videos, visual branding, merchandising, websites, etc., and creates all the layouts and a good portion of the artwork for the albums and the promotional materials. In some cases, she creates artwork for the merchandise, and oversees branding for the label as a whole. She is also involved in the management of Jett.
Blackheart Records' roster includes Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Girl in a Coma (who recently toured with and opened for Morrissey and also were rated as Breakout Band of the Year by Blender Online), The Cute Lepers, The Vacancies, and The Dollyrots. They are continuing to sign more bands in the coming year.
Once upon a time, as the story goes, there was a teenage rocker named Joan Jett. She was making rock and roll history in the teenage group called The Runaways. When that band broke up, she met hit songwriter/producer Kenny Laguna. They saw in each other a kindred spirit and set about to work together. Laguna thought she was great and expected no problem convincing record labels to put out the record they had just finished.
But he was wrong. No one wanted her. Today there are only three or four behemoth labels, but imagine a time in the past when there were 28 major labels, and they all turned down Joan Jett. So Jett and Laguna decided to start their own record company, manufacture their own records, and sell them...sometimes from the trunk of their car. Guerrilla marketing was invented. Blackheart Records was born. Jett became the first woman in rock and roll to own her own record company.
What was it like growing up in a music business family?
That's a difficult question because I don't really have anything to compare it to, but I'll give it a try. For one, for the first five years of my life, I was on the road with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I'd my own bunk and even made an appearance on one of their tracks. You can hear my little voice saying "I wuz wock and woll" on the live version of "You Don't Know What You've Got" on I Love Rock n Roll. Once I hit kindergarten, my music business career sort of went into a hiatus, especially when I was sent home from first grade for having a dyed pink streak in my hair that my father had done while I was on the road with them.
During my senior year of high school, I wrote for an online music reviewing site, and then once in college I started to intern at labels. I interned at Putamayo in the Marketing department and at W.A.R. also in the Marketing department. I also interned at Interview Magazine in the fashion department, which was incredibly intense and not unlike the movie "A Devil Wears Prada," except the magazines editor was an amazing woman named Ingrid Sischy who was really cool and a woman I admire. But the rest of the department was sort of the like that movie. Eventually, once graduating, I began working at Blackheart Records. My childhood definitely prepared me for my career as there was no separating between life and work. The music business was very much a constant part of my collective memory and experience. I guess you could say I learned by osmosis.
Is it true that you were named after the Hollies hit "Carrie Anne?"
Yes but my parents decided to change the spelling.
What kind of artists does Blackheart Records want to sign?
Artists that we love. We have to really love the music because of the amount of heart and soul that gets put into working with a band.
How do you feel about free downloads of the Internet?
It depends on the context. I don't appreciate illegal free downloads that seem to pop up constantly.
How active are you in the management division?
I'm very involved in the management. Right now, Joan Jett is the only artist that we officially manage; however, we always try to help our artists in anyway we can as far as advice and guidance. Some of our bands are without managers, so we try to help them where we can. In the past, Kenny has managed The Kinks, Darlene Love, Adam Curry, Great White, Metal Church, Laura Branigan and The Eyeliners.
How important is YouTube and MySpace for your artists?
Very important for our artists as well as any other online outlets to reach as many people as possible. All of our bands have a MySpace page as does Blackheart Records.
How active is Joan Jett in Blackheart Records?
Joan is very involved in the music aspect, of course. She produced The Vacancies, one of the bands on our roster, and is involved in the overall vision and direction of the label. She's incredibly supportive of all the bands on the label and has contributed in various ways, whether it be appearing for a cameo in their videos or on their album or going to their shows.
First concert attended
A Joan Jett concert in Long Island. I was probably around one year old.
First concert worked
I was an intern at W.A.R. when I was in college in Colorado. I would poster for the upcoming shows at the Fox and the Boulder Theater, for the artists on the label. To be honest I can't totally remember if it was a Melissa Ferrick show or a Sally Taylor show, but I worked one of those.
First industry job
An internship at Putamayo Records in the marketing department. I loved it. I'd a great boss, and I loved working in marketing for a label that hit such a varied market.
Honestly, any time I go to one of my bands shows, it reconfirms what I like about my career. The bands that are on the roster are just full of talent and integrity and are so passionate about what they are doing. I'm always so amazed by them. Its an honor to work with them.
Watching what is happening to this industry. While I'm trying to find silver linings, it's difficult to see American Idol winners top the charts, not that they aren't talented, its just the packaging with which they are marketed. Music for the masses, delivered directly into your brain through advertising and glossy TV. Its just when I see so many amazing artists creating this amazing material and playing their souls out, going from club to club, building their fan base, it just frustrates me that the purity in music, not to mention rock n roll has been somewhat bastardized. I mean, even the term rock n roll is so abused and misused. Fame has become superior to the integrity of music. But on the brighter side, this is the age of the indies and after we all adjust to the changing landscape, there will be a lot of incredible new opportunities and exciting changes that we will see in the way this industry works and the music and entertainment that will be produced.
The state of the industry.
Best business decisions
Signing all the amazing bands that are on our roster.
Best advice you received
Always surround yourself with employees that are happy to be there. My father had given my this advice, and he had gotten it from Chuck Norris. He actually refers to it as "The Chuck Norris Theory." It's not something that had always been able to be implemented, but right now, we've a great energy at the label and everyone is very excited about what is going on at the label.
Mistake that you've learned from
Not doing my homework in regards to signing bands. In the beginning, I'd fallen in love with bands without finding out their plans for touring, what their expectations were, what their history was like. I've definitely learned to find out what their level of commitment is from the get go. In this industry, you need to live and breathe it because there's always someone there to take your place. There are so many amazing bands out there, you have to be able to dedicate your whole self in order to have a chance of getting out there.
Most memorable industry experience
Being on the Vans Warped Tour in 2006 with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. It was like nothing I've ever experienced and so amazing to see such camaraderie between bands on the tour. People refer to it as punk rock summer camp, and it really is the best way to describe it. It's quite incredible how a tour of that magnitude, logistically, is pulled off day after day. It has such a community feeling, that is so important between artists and fans. Bands come out to support other bands, and everyone hangs out on the stage during sets, it's a really nurturing and supportive energy. It reminds you what music is really about.
Industry pet peeve
Attitude and pretension.
If I wasn't doing this, I would be...
...an interior designer , fashion designer or an acupuncturist.
My father, Kenny Laguna; my mother Meryl Laguna; and Joan Jett.
Carianne can be reached at 212.353.9600 x18 ; e-mail: email@example.com