My Music Row Story: RIAA’s Jackie Jones
The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
Jackie Jones is the Senior Vice President, Artist and Industry Relations for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and serves as the organization’s chief representative in Nashville.
Jones helps elevate creators across genres while also translating copyright reform, trade negotiations, and creative policymaking for the industry. She brings together artists, songwriters, managers, labels, venues, advocacy groups, tech companies and distribution services to work towards common goals through events, conversations and educational opportunities.
Jones will be honored as part of the current class of MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row on March 23. For more details about the class and the event, click here.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up? How did you get into the music business?
I grew up in Memphis, so I have always been surrounded by so many kinds of music. I was also super interested in television growing up so it would make sense that my dream was to produce [the VH1 show] Behind The Music. In college I studied TV and film, but I kept coming back to the music side of entertainment. Once I transferred to MTSU, an internship at CMT turned into a full-time position and I worked as a producer and writer before I joined the talent team, where I produced and booked talent for both music programming and live events.
What were your favorite things you got to do at CMT when you were a writer/producer?
I got to work with a team of producers to create original content for online programming, which was so special because no one at CMT had done that before. We were able to try a lot of new ideas while creating everything from scratch, including producing the first online awards show—hosted by Taylor Swift with Lady A as the house band. It was a blast!
What did you do once you joined the talent team?
I had never been a part of live productions and helping to create musical moments on TV until CMT Music Awards and Artists of the Year, but once I started working in that realm, there was no turning back. The rush and thrill of creating a live television show is still one of my favorite things in the world.
You joined RIAA in 2019. How did that happen?
I had never really thought about this advocacy side of entertainment, but the more I got to know Mitch [Glazier, Chairman & CEO] and Michele [Ballantyne, COO], I could see how the work RIAA does truly impacts the entire music community. Their overall approach was really appealing to me because they not only believe that if the advocacy groups work together, we can advance legislation, but their passion reminds me of my own. There are advocacy groups representing every part of the industry, and we know that if we go to legislators together as one voice, we can accomplish so much more.
Now that you’re a few years into your work at RIAA, what are some of your biggest focus areas?
My focus now is to help protect and connect the music community. Whether it is through educating policymakers on how to support our industry or educating the industry on how we need to approach new technologies, it is vital that our united voices are heard. Creators deserve to be compensated fairly for their work and that can only happen when the industry grows in a healthy way.
What’s a day in the life look like for you?
From the start, it has been important to see where we have needs as an industry, then begin to foster relationships where they didn’t exist or needed a bit of nurturing. From different advocacy groups to artist management teams and other industry executives, it is vital that we all educate each other and collaborate on issues. One of my primary goals has always been to show legislators why creating and protecting music is so important. I spend a lot of time planning and hosting events that encouraging conversation between artists, industry leaders and members of Congress.
When the pandemic quickly halted in-person engagement, RIAA quickly pivoted to meet the needs of our industry and worked hard to protect all sectors with the COVID relief bills. I also worked one-on-one with creators to help them find and apply for any available resources that could help during that time.
We also moved to virtual events that focused on other issues such as a panel on mental health with JoJo and Miles Adcox, a conversation with Jimmie Allen about race in country music and began a program called Music Matters to highlight artists’ advocacy and charitable acts.
The last several months as we’ve been able to come back together, I served as executive producer for RIAA Honors: Pioneers of Hip-Hop in DC, booked a panel with Caitlyn Smith and her all-female team to both celebrate and discuss their experiences of women in the industry, am helping to launch the second iteration of the Music Business Accelerator program at TSU, among other initiatives.
In 2019 you produced the inaugural RIAA Honors. Tell me about that.
This event is a great example of us giving legislators a behind-the-scenes experience with artists, songwriters, and their teams to actively show them why protecting music and creators is so important. It’s fascinating to see the impact of these visits, whether it’s legislators talking to a songwriter and hearing about the creative process, speaking with an artist whose music they love, or just learning about how a record is made. These moments open the door for us to have more meaningful conversations and engage our community goals with policymakers’ priorities. The inaugural RIAA Honors recognized Miranda Lambert for her support of women throughout her career and Co-President of Black Music at Atlantic Records Lanre Gaba, who has fostered careers of Lizzo, Cardi B, Jack Harlow and many others. Lanre shared how she finds artists and why labels play such an important role artists’ careers. The event also acknowledged policymakers who were instrumental in helping us pass the Music Modernization Act.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, we were able to again host the celebration in 2022 with RIAA Honors: Pioneers of Hip-Hop. Grandmaster Flash, MC Lyte, UMG’s Jeff Harleston and Minority Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries were recipients of the accolade for their contributions in moving the genre forward. It was a really impactful event that shared the importance of music on culture and allowed so many legislators to get a real feel for why music matters.
RIAA is probably most known by its lauded Gold & Platinum program. What goes on behind the scenes in presenting those?
It’s interesting because prior to working at the RIAA, I only knew about the Gold and Platinum plaques because an artist would post a photo, a label would host an event, or I’d see the multi-Platinum accolade used as an awards show introduction. As I started talking to Michele and Mitch, I learned RIAA not only celebrates these commercial successes but is an advocacy group that lobbies for music rights and content protection. The Gold & Platinum program not only helps us to celebrate artists’ creativity, consumption milestones, labels at work and fan engagement, it is also great way for RIAA to engage policymakers. There are a lot of people who do not know the breadth of what the RIAA does, which is part of why I’m here: to educate and help people understand the full scope of how we are working on behalf of the industry.
It sounds like RIAA does a lot more than people realize. What do you want people to know that RIAA does?
In addition to the Gold & Platinum presentations, which are important and a lot of fun, there is advocacy going on behind the scenes where we are lobbying for the music industry as a whole. First and foremost, we are fighting for the rights of our entire community. That also includes content protection, and the RIAA has people scouring the internet for stolen music 24/7 in addition to filing federal and state court cases. Our team balances state and federal law to make sure that we’re protecting rightsholders.
Our research team is dedicated to analyzing trends and consumption, which is shared in a mid-year report and a year-end report as an asset to the broader industry as well as education tool for policymakers. As with each advancement in technology, and currently AI, protecting human creators is the priority. We are working hard to ensure that our creators are protected and that we can use AI to enhance human art, not replace it.
When do you feel most fulfilled in your role?
When an artist, industry leader or songwriter really connect with a representative, it makes me feel like the work we are doing matters on a human level. Getting to witness when it clicks that music has a broader impact on society and connects on a personal level, it’s really special.
Music and politics are two worlds that are shockingly similar—comprised of well-known people with a substantial amount of influence—so when they get together and realize that they share interests or when a representative gets excited about a project that a creator is working on, that is really motivating. It makes me feel like we all really can find common ground and be a part of something together. That’s when I feel the most fulfilled.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Have grace under pressure.
Who have been some of your mentors?
I was so fortunate to get to work with Chet Flippo, who was the Editorial Director at CMT when I started. Being in the room as he talked about new artists and new music was fascinating. He always had a clear opinion and was always kind about whatever opinion he had. He taught me that being direct and honest could also be kind. He made all of us better.
I have also been really lucky to come up alongside some strong, talented and brilliant women. I have learned so much from each of them and love that we have built this community that supports and cheers each other on. Finding peers you admire is an important part of building your network and will provide you with lasting friendships and advisors throughout your career.
What is one of your most fun career memories?
When Dolly Parton released her children’s album, she invited members of the media to bring their kids to a “Storytime with Dolly.” Just like her mother, my daughter has grown up listening to Dolly her whole life. When she met Dolly she said, “I love you Aunt Dolly,” and Dolly said, “Well I love you too sweetie.” It will forever be one of my favorite memories.
You will be honored as one of MusicRow‘s Rising Women on the Row later this month. What has your experience been like as a woman in the industry?
Nashville has an incredible music community, and I think we are lucky to have many leaders working to create environments that are welcoming to all people. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it has made me proud over the last several years to come together with others who believe in having more voices represented and celebrating our diverse experiences.
As a woman who has a young daughter, I also think it is vital that we create an environment where there are adequate benefits and support systems that enable women to thrive both at work and home. If we truly want to make space for more women executives, we need to make it possible. I am fortunate to work at a company that enables me to be a mom and an important contributor to this industry. But not everyone is so lucky. Which is why I am working to change that for future generations through my work as a founder of Family Alliance in Music.
What advice would you give new execs looking to you as an example?
Treat people well and be honest. In a business that can sometimes be known for schmoozing, nurture real relationships with people who support and encourage you. Those are the people that will be standing next to you in the good and bad times, no matter what path you take.