“The impact they have had is so significant,” says Music Biz President Jim Donio of Motown Records President/Capitol Music Group EVP Ethiopia Habtemariam and Caroline President Jacqueline Saturn, who will appear as featured speakers during this year’s conference. “We look forward to hearing their insights, which will without a doubt inspire the incoming generation of young people to enter the industry with the goal of becoming its next leaders,” he added. As the two influential execs prepared for their 5/8 tandem appearance at the Nashville confab, they somehow agreed to answer our foolish questions.

What first inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I love, live and breathe music; I have ever since I was a kid. I knew early on that even though I wasn’t blessed with the ability to sing or make music, I wanted to be a part of the creative process.

Were there particular artists, albums or songs that were essential in directing your path?
Yes, when I was a kid, I loved everything from George Michael, Stevie Wonder, Phil Collins and Boy George to N.W.A, Fugees, Tupac, OutKast, UGK, TLC, Aaliyah and Jodeci. Music guided my path.

Who were your role models in the biz?
When I was coming up in the music business, there were incredible black women such as Sylvia Rhone, Shanti Das, Angelique Miles, Mona Scott and many more in high-ranking positions that I would read about. While I may not have been working with them directly, I always knew I would have my place in this business, because I saw all their accomplishments.

Walk us through a typical day—what sorts of projects are you working on?
There’s no typical day. But if I had to describe one, it would be early-morning calls with my partners talking about our plans and the status of records and projects; liaising with my A&R and marketing teams; new-artist meetings; meeting with the head of business affairs; late-night recording sessions; video shoots; live shows—it runs the gamut.

How has the Motown brand evolved, and what’s the relationship, in your view, between the original vision and where it is now?
If you look at every decade, Motown’s brand has continued to evolve to reflect the times and culture. I was deliberate in how we told the story of the work that has been done with Motown: a black entrepreneur who was extremely fearless and limitless in the way he thought about creating music and developing talent. Music that could touch people around the world and bring people together. It is my goal to use Motown as a platform to do that for other entrepreneurs who live and breathe in the same spirit of what was created back then. I want to sign and develop a roster of talent that’s reflective of today’s time and culture.

You’ve achieved much success in the streaming era, notably in tandem with Quality Control. Tell us a little about your collaboration.
We developed a partnership with Quality Control in 2015, when streaming hadn’t really kicked in. I saw that black music was prominent in the mixtape circuit, and knew our music was big around the world but was not monetized properly. Streaming really came and changed the game. When QC discovered Yachty, who was birthed out of SoundCloud, it became our mission to deliver his music to the world and take it to another level—and that’s what we did. The success of my relationship with Coach K and Pee helped foster growth and innovation for the brand.

The gender and cultural dynamics of the business are being examined more closely than ever. What do you think is most important for mentoring and empowering women in the industry and for fostering greater diversity overall?
I think that it’s every leader’s responsibility to encourage diversity in the workplace—meaning diversity of ethnicity, gender, background, religion and more—because we’re here to create, promote great music and reach people who have diverse backgrounds. I want my team to be reflective of that as well, and that’s a key part of our responsibility as leaders in the business. We must respect opinions, empower and support. Earlier in my career, there were many women of color in prominent positions who inspired me, but that quickly changed. Now I’m excited about a new resurgence of women of color in the industry. I’m determined to ensure that this is not just a trend.

Tell us a bit about what most inspired you to pursue a career in music.
I fell in love with music very early; I loved listening to the radio with my sisters when we drove in the car with my parents. I grew up in Nashville, so I was exposed to many different genres of music. While Nashville was always thought of as the mecca for country, it really was the music capital, and it lit my passion for every kind of music. As a teenager, some of my best memories were of sneaking into the Exit/ In to see and hear live music.

You occupy an interesting territory that touches both the major and indie worlds—what unique insights has that position afforded you?
Caroline is an incredible point of entry to view the whole business, and the team and I are observing and learning every day how to help our artists grow. My experience within the major-label system informs how we make decisions at Caroline, but we work with artists at all levels—and I love being completely immersed in the indie community. The possibilities for artists’ success are really only limited by their own creativity within the indie world, and Caroline is at the forefront of making deals that work both for the artist and for us.

What is your day like?
I often say that my day is like being shot out of a cannon—it’s exciting, hectic, stressful and amazing at the same time. The goal for us is to make sure our label partners and artists are happy and growing, and that means working around the clock. I don’t think this business is for everyone, but it feels perfect for me.

What’s the first piece of advice you offer indie artists?
I ask them for advice. I always listen first. They have a vision, and it’s important to understand how they see their career rolling out before I offer any advice. After that, we work together to execute the best plan that matches the original vision of the artist.

How does your background in radio promotion help you, even in this streaming-oriented marketplace?
I never considered myself just a radio-promotion person. I think of myself as a promotion person, and I use that skill set proudly, every minute of every day. It’s all about storytelling to all of our partners—whether at terrestrial radio or with any of the streaming platforms—and that’s what I’ve been doing for many years. While I realize that “success” is measured by analyzing data, rolling out strategy and looking at metrics, I always say that you have to have a passion to make all of that real.

The gender and cultural dynamics of the business are being examined more closely than ever. What do you think is most important for mentoring and empowering women in the industry and for fostering greater diversity overall?
I am in the business of inclusion. I strongly believe in mentoring, and I always encourage people on my team to talk to me and to know that my door is open for them. I love being a resource for young women wanting to get into this business, and I want them to know that we are looking for them and ready to nurture their talent. I have many women on my team; watching them shine and grow in this business is amazing. I’m seeing so many women getting promoted and moving up. It’s such an exciting time.

How many of Caroline’s many projects can you attend to at any time?
We have an incredible team at Caroline, and they are dedicated, creative and organized. I’m always involved and know about the development of all of our projects.