LeAnn Camille Hackney ’90
Jimmy Fontaine
Musical Marketing: Navigating the ‘big personalities’ — and partnerships — of the music industry

LeAnn Camille Hackney ’90 is a matchmaker — she forges partnerships between top music artists and big businesses. As an executive vice president at Atlantic Records and the head of the global brand partnerships council at Atlantic’s parent company, Warner Music Group, she was behind the partnership between the NFL and singer-songwriter Bruno Mars, who performed during the 2014 and 2016 Super Bowl halftime shows. She also develops brand campaigns, tour sponsorships, and endorsement deals.

What do you look for in matching artists with brands?

Companies want to engage with consumers in a fun way — music provides that. We look for partnerships that seem organic. Even before an artist is signed, I meet them and assess their likes and dislikes. I ask them what they wear, where they shop, what they like to do. Their answers give us ideas of what brands we might be able to reach out to.

You started out on Wall Street. How did you switch to the music industry?

Music was always a part of my life, and I knew I wanted to do something with entertainment. So I went to Harvard Business School and met a lot of people in the industry. I started calling Princeton and Harvard alumni in entertainment — I think I took 65 informational interviews over the course of 18 months. The day I graduated from business school, right before walking across the stage, East West Records (a subsidiary of Atlantic Records) called me and offered me a job.

What is the toughest part of working in the music business?

There are a lot of really big personalities, and it sometimes can be challenging to navigate them.

What do you enjoy the most?

To see an artist build and sustain a career based on doing something that they love. There is no better satisfaction.  Interview conducted and condensed by Jessica Lander ’10

Leann Camille Hackney’s Musical Tastes:

I’m a Michigan girl at heart: I love top-40 radio. I also love UK dance/house music and East Coast hip-hop.

Favorite Artists:

All the kids on my label — I can’t pick favorites. Outside of Atlantic, my favorites include Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Lil Wayne.

Best Show:

My nights are spent at shows — sometimes I see four shows in one night. I saw U2 at Madison Square Garden, and it blew me away. We’ve heard the same songs for decades, but they were able to use the visual and staging elements to make it seem new again.