I met Brontë a few years ago at one of the many Girls In The Garage events that brought Montreal’s DIY music scene together. We can’t remember the first time we met, but we’ve kept up our friendship across countries, too many DIY shows, brunches and coffee dates to count. OJ, black coffee and water is the go-to order.
Fast forward a few years later, and at 25 years old, Brontë Jane is one of the youngest women Creative/A&R Directors in the industry. Brontë has continued to inspire my work and drive, as she has for many others in Montreal and internationally. Acting as the integral creative voice at independent publisher Third Side Music for over 5 years, her unapologetic passion for supporting artists has made an impact across the music industry. Her signees include SOFI TUKKER, Matthew Tavares, Blonde Redhead, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, BadBadNotGood, POND, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Haiku Hands, Helena Deland, Pottery and beyond. During her tenure at TSM, the company has seen over 45 NMPA/RIAA Certified Gold, Platinum and Multi-Platinum awards, including for colloborations between her artists and the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Panic! At The Disco, Post Malone, John Mayer and Kali Uchis.
This past November, I was lucky to catch her for a dinner date while we were in the same city. I wanted to get her insight into working in the music industry, as well as some new music recommendations.
Tell us a bit about your career in the music industry. I know that you started out in music journalism, and eventually moved into Creative/A&R Direction at Third Side Music. What was that transition like?
I started working in the industry when I was 16, so I guess it’s been almost nine years now. I found that music journalism was, in a lot of ways, incredible A&R experience. The process of listening through an inbox full of new or unreleased music and then having to execute strategic yet curatorial decisions can really help develop one’s ear and opinionated voice. The transition into Creative/A&R Director, therefore, felt pretty natural.
You’ve spoken about how making TSM a home for artists and songwriters is a high priority for you and your team. Tell us how you support your artists and optimize their development. Why does TSM stand out from other big music companies?
I like to think of our artist roster as incredibly deliberate. Since TSM is such a hands-on and creatively involved publisher, we’re always hyper-aware of the staff-to-artist ratio. I have no interest in signing stuff just to “sign stuff” if that makes sense. It’s quality over quantity for us, always, which inherently allows each artist on our roster to really exist in their own lane. I have found that, at the most basic level, the best way to support and optimize an artist’s development is to not overextend yourself as a Creative/A&R. You have to have the bandwidth and capacity to put all of your resources and energy into every artist you sign.
What artists have you signed since being at Third Side Music? Do you have any signing stories that stand out?
BadBadNotGood, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Blonde Redhead, and SOFI TUKKER, to name a few. One story that stands out to me was when my boss asked me to fly to New York for an A&R meeting with Kazu Makino (of Blonde Redhead). I must have been only 20 years old at the time (and a massive fan of the band), so the stakes felt high as it was my first ever proper “A&R meeting” and I was doing it alone. Blonde Redhead is a name that I still pinch myself to see on our roster.
You and your artists have been awarded over 45x Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum Certifications during your tenure at TSM. How does that feel, as likely the youngest woman existing as a Creative/A&R Director in the industry?
It’s truly a testament to our artists’ multi-faceted abilities and overall growth. Someone I’ve worked with for a while now, Matthew Tavares (formerly of BadBadNotGood), is now 6x Platinum and is a true chameleon in the room. Matthew’s credits list ranges anywhere from Kendrick Lamar to Taylor Swift to Joy Again. It’s an honor to be able to work with someone that dynamic.
You’ve traveled the world to do keynotes / speak at music conferences and have provided mentorship to others in your field. What is your advice for aspiring A&R/Creative types wanting to get into the industry?
Be indispensable. Don’t ask questions you can find the answers to on Google. Drink more water.
Who are some artists that you’re loving right now who you don’t work with?
I’ve been pretty obsessively listening to Amen Dunes, SASSY 009, Paradis Artificiel, Okay Kaya, and Kali Malone. Also been returning a lot to Deux, The Clientele, Clan of Xymox, Section 25, Suicide, Dadamah, and My Bloody Valentine recently.
What were some of your favourite records/EPs from 2019?
Excluding Third Side releases again, I’d have to say Dry Cleaning’s Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks, Ana Roxanne’s ~~~, Kim Gordon’s No Home Record, Black Marble’s Bigger Than Life, Helado Negro’s This Is How You Smile, Big Thief’s U.F.O.F. and Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors.