Amazon Music
VP of Music Industry Ryan Redington oversees an array of teams, including but not limited to Artists and Label Relations, Artist and Genre Marketing, Programming, Editorial, Catalog, Latin and ALPS (Artists, Labels, Projects and Services), as well as the Amazon Music for Artists app. That’s a pretty enormous remit, which also encompasses the macro of industry relationships and music campaigns. Moreover, he's passionate about growing Amazon Music’s DEI efforts and programming, for which he serves as an executive sponsor in North America. Frankly, we need a nap after just listing Ryan’s duties. Yet for some reason he added the ordeal of conversing with us to his enormous stack of responsibilities.

Your job has huge scope. What’s a typical day like for you?

Well, it's a lot of fun, and all these things work when you have incredible people. No day's the same, and that's what I love about it. I think if I came in and worked on the same five reports and then went home, that just wouldn't work for me. I love that I get to work closely with the music industry, but I also get to help my leaders set the priorities and then really think about how to scale a highly complex business across many different verticals—not only the streaming service but also the commerce business with merch and physical music and working with Twitch and Prime Video on livestreaming strategies and video on demand.

What did you envision as Amazon's role in the streaming world when it started, and what’s your sense of that now?

If you look back to our earliest days of digital music, we had a download business—but at the time, iTunes was the download business. Moving into streaming, we saw that we had a healthy, growing physical-music business that we were very proud of, but we never quite got the traction on the download side. So when we were looking at the streaming space, we spent a lot of time thinking about what our role would be. I was in many management and label conversations trying to get them to talk about streaming and not just the physical-music business.

Our first step into the marketplace was attaching a streaming service to Prime. That worked really well for us, because Prime was a growing subscription service that needed to add a new benefit; music ended up being a perfect choice. That also gave us natural distribution and allowed us to scale our music service relatively quickly. From there, we launched the full catalog, Amazon Music Unlimited, followed up with our free tier and got into high-resolution audio with HD and spatial audio and scaling globally.

We took our first steps into streaming in 2014. Things changed as we continued to grow our service. Alexa hitting the marketplace and creating voice as a real differentiator early on was a nice tailwind to help grow our business. And then, as we thought about looking left to right across Amazon, we asked, "How do we use our commerce business? How do we use Prime Video and Twitch to make connections others in the marketplace haven’t? How do we help artists find new fans, and how do we help fans feel like they're really connected with artists in different ways?" We have a large physical-music business, and we have really exciting, growing livestreaming and merch businesses. Connecting those dots and really driving that fan journey across multiple touchpoints has been a big part of it.

You and I had a stroll around the L.A. HQ during Grammy week. Can you say something about how your physical locations fit into the larger Amazon Music value proposition?

We’ve got some really interesting space in New York City as well, though not quite as large as L.A. will be. We have offices all around the world and we're thinking about the same things there. So while L.A. may become the flagship, this is a consistent thought all around the world. If you were to make it to Tokyo, we'd show you a really great studio we've established there.

But this is getting back to the question of how to create content that helps artists and fans connect in different ways. And as you saw, we are building a merch room on-site. So there's a physical component to that, but there's also a lot of audio and video content-capture spaces. The new space is still being built out, but we're really excited about the prospects of having artists come through and be able to listen to their music in Dolby Atmos or in Sony 360, but then work with the artists around what's important to them and how we can help them connect with fans and actually bring that to life—not just through recorded music but through the content we can capture at that space.

That content could be an interview in a podcast, something for our DJ Mode stations or original videos that can surface in our app and on social platforms that let artists express themselves. To a certain extent, it lets fans peek into the artist's head. And so if you start to think about an immersive experience to facilitate that connection, we're really hopeful that the space in Los Angeles ends up being a hub.

This seems to reflect the necessity for artists to provide a constant flow of content to fans.

Yeah. If you go back a little, it’s a bit of what radio brought with a DJ and interviews—you had that connection. With streaming services, there was a period of time where it was just song, song, song, song, song. And having every song in the world for $10 a month is an unbelievable value. But we've spent a lot of time thinking about enhancing the offering so you still have all the music in the world at an unbelievable price but also that artist/fan connection that maybe was missing in the early days of streaming services. It’s been about trying to identify those opportunities and making sure it's really vibrant and immersive inside of a DSP.

Tell us about some of the key promotions you've got coming.

You've probably seen a lot of the work we've done with Thursday Night Football and Amazon Music Live. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how sports and culture can play a role in music and how we can capitalize on those moments. We were able to introduce acts to a large viewing audience on the games; we had artists who would be performing on Amazon Music Live appear during commercial breaks leading directly into a livestreaming concert. We've been thrilled with the results.

In the future, we’ll use livestreaming more and more to connect artists and fans using Prime Video and Twitch as distribution endpoints, in addition to the Amazon Music app. We’ve also got some really exciting ideas in the merch space that we're working on. We've already integrated merch directly into the Amazon Music app, and we can notify fans when there are new merch drops. We’ve got breakthrough programs, which are really designed around developing artists, and we're really excited about some of the results we've seen. We continue to work with fans on the discoverability of new artists. We’re spending a lot of time building tools that will enable artists to help influence how Amazon Music evolves—and making sure the artists know how to use them. Each of those is in the spirit of this artist/fan connection.

Let’s talk about your backstory. Where did you grow up and when were you first drawn into music?

I grew up in the Midwest, in Iowa. I went to the University of Iowa. After school, I worked for the retailer Circuit City. They were headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. I had a few different roles there, but at one point I was managing the inventory for all the CDs across 700-plus stores. Then I moved into a buyer-type role. I was buying iPods and MP3 players. I had a Microsoft Zune player! I had an iPod and a SanDisk. I had all the hardware.

When Circuit City went bankrupt, I moved out to Seattle for Amazon. That was in 2009, so it’s been 14 years for me at the company. I jumped immediately into a role in the video organization; I was on that team when we launched Prime Video a few years later.

Shortly after that, I moved into the physical-music business at Amazon, which I managed as what’s called a category leader. So I oversaw the results at CDs and vinyl. Then I switched over to the digital side in 2013; among the things I worked on was the plan to launch Amazon Music’s streaming service for Prime. We’ve come somewhat full circle now as the physical-music business is back under me.

That part of the business, especially vinyl, is really resurgent.

I'm buying half the vinyl you're hearing about.

What do you like to listen to?

I get to listen to all types of music, which is very exciting. Even if it's a genre of music that I don't listen to every day, I appreciate the craft and the art, and I really enjoy listening to artists’ stories, what inspires them. At one point I would’ve told you Pearl Jam and Nirvana were my favorite artists. Now I’m definitely into the Americana space. I was all over Zach Bryan’s album. My wife and I have two boys, an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old. It’s fascinating to watch their experience of music develop over time.

Before we leave you, which members of your team would you like to shout out?

I have several direct reports who really deserve the lion’s share of the credit for what we do. Like Andre Stapleton, who runs our Artist and Labor Relations team, and Kirdis Postelle, who's done a lot of our artist marketing and livestreaming work. Phylicia Fant joined our team recently, and I’m super-excited about what she's brought in terms of cultural perspective to the organization. Mike Tierney, who heads Global Programming; Sean McMullan in Artist Products and Services; Adam Block, who’s our global head of Catalog Music; and Rocio Guerrero, who oversees Latin music worldwide. It’s a big team, and it’s this type of teamwork that makes it all come together—and allows us to span so many different elements of what we do with artists across Amazon: the commerce side, the streaming side, Twitch and Prime Video. It’s a really capable team that keeps it all humming.

Photos, from top: Redington, positively glowing; Redington, VP Design and Creative Byron Merritt, company chief Steve Boom and Director of Artist Products and Services McMullan learn that there’s no Twitch quite like the one you get from talking to us; Redington and better half Shannon flank Garth Brooks after his 2016 CMA Entertainer of the Year win.