Few executives embody the phrase “do it yourself” like Jacqueline Saturn.

When streaming began to snowball in 2015, so did the popularity of the independent distributor. For the first time, streaming was generating more revenue than physical sales and digital downloads, and artists were developing a more direct relationship with their fans than ever before.

Meanwhile, Universal Music Group ruler Sir Lucian Grainge and Steve Barnett, Capitol Music Group’s topper at the time, made the call to relocate CMG’s distribution arm to the West Coast, empowering Caroline, its independent-services division, which now operates as Virgin Label & Artist Services. It became part of the newly formed Virgin Music Group in September 2022.

In deciding who should help run it, Barnett knew precisely whom to call; it was the same innate leader he’d tapped when relaunching indie darling Harvest Records in 2013 and the same promotion machine he’d spent nine years with at Epic Records, where he’d witnessed her break Oasis in the U.S. and push Incubus’ “Megalomaniac” and Modest Mouse’s “Float On” up the Alternative radio chart.

Thus, in 2015 Saturn was named GM of Caroline, in which capacity she doubled the company’s marketshare, scoring 14 platinum and 17 gold certifications, as well as #1 debuts from Migos, XXXTENTACION and NF and splashy bows for Lil Baby, Trippie Redd, 6ix9ine and Huncho Jack.

She became president of Caroline in 2018 and president of the reconstituted Virgin in 2021. To this day, Saturn is the first executive in the office and the last one backstage after a concert.

You were at Epic for 19 years. Why did you leave?
I was ready for a change. I’d been doing promotion for a long time, and I’d always had a desire to run a company.

Steve Barnett had been at Columbia for a while. When he decided to leave Sony altogether, there was this big party at a Mexican restaurant. We were having fun, and we were all really sad that he was going. At the end, someone went, “Steve, take me with you!” And he goes, “You’re not going with me, but she is.” He later called and said, “I have an opportunity for you.” Steve’s the best salesperson on the planet. He had me meet with Lucian, who had this incredible vision. I couldn’t not go.

So you went from promoting records to running Harvest as GM.
Steve made the transition so much easier than it might have been; he reminded me that this was an opportunity to connect with everyone I knew. I was already friends with managers, promoters and agents. I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s all I have to do. I’m good at this.” I learned so much from those relationships. And, really, the entire job is promotion—it’s about promoting artists, promoting labels, promoting my team and my vision. It was an incredible experience. And it was at Harvest where I learned about distribution.

Even before you were a distributor, you were drawn to hands-on artists with clear visions, like Oasis and Pearl Jam.
Working with Oasis was one of the most exciting times in music, let alone my career. This was during the time of the [second] British Invasion, which was a wild ride, to say the least. I was lucky enough to continue my relationship with Noel Gallagher when we put out his solo music through Caroline. Working with Pearl Jam [Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready and Matt Cameron] also taught me a lot. I remember having a one-on-one meeting with Eddie where he played me the music for what I believe was Yield. He gave me all the CD refs to take home and listen to. I didn’t sleep a wink that night—I couldn’t believe it. This experience taught me the value of putting in the time and developing honest relationships with artists. At the end of the day, while we can all be a bit starstruck at times—all these amazing artists are just people too—they need strong teams around them who can listen, be honest and give a candid opinion.

Would you say the role of a distributor is more important than ever?
In this job, the sky’s the limit. There’s a path for everyone—if there’s a roadblock in one place, we can keep moving and find opportunities somewhere else.

We believe in supporting independent artists and labels who’ve already put a lot of time and effort into building their vision. At Virgin—and, before, at Caroline—we strive to do the best job for our partners, and in this day and age, that means something different for everyone. That’s what I love about this business: Everyone’s goals are unique.

Read the complete interview here.