Charese Fruge’ Talks To Jessica “Mo” Hiromoto
This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on May 18, 2021
After starting as an intern in 2008, it didn’t take Mo long to jump right into the business full-time. “I was able to find my first official gig right down the hall as an assistant in Urban Marketing at Warner Bros,” she says. “As many of the people reading this may remember, 08’-09’ was one hell of a year for everyone with the big recession, and the music business was not spared, neither was my job. I ended up losing what at that time was my dream job, I was devastated, but persistence pays off and two days later I had a seat downstairs in the radio promo department assisting the AAA, Rock and Alt format heads.
Later in 2009, I made a leap into the Sony system and became the West Coast Promotion Assistant at JIVE, after sitting in that seat for 4 years, I survived the merger with RCA and got promoted to Coordinator. In 2014 my mentality was ‘regional or bust’ and just when I thought my time was up, the West Coast Regional position opened at Atlantic, and I found my current home. In 2019 I was promoted to Senior Director of Rhythm Radio Promotion and there you have it!”
You won’t believe (or maybe you will) what made Mo want to get into the music business. “Michael Jackson. No, for real… Michael Jackson,” she says. “His music reached everyone, everywhere, brought people together instead of tearing them apart. His music could make people put their differences aside and just enjoy the magic that was blasting through their speakers, that is some powerful stuff and I wanted in,” says Hiromoto.
Some of Mo’s biggest accomplishments so far include: “Most recently, the #1’s from Cardi B with ‘Up,’ and Silk Sonic’s ‘Leave The Door Open.’ The team also just laid the groundwork for Pooh Shiesty at Rhythm radio, which was no easy sell, but a very proud moment,” she says. “We all know how hard #1’s are to achieve, it takes a team effort with all hands on deck and no one forgets their #1’s… but the nitty gritty game of artist development warrants some of my biggest accomplishments … like when Don Toliver grabbed the top 10 slot the same week Cardi went #1, Tirelessly educating pop radio on who Roddy Ricch is and why it is important to find a slot for ‘The Box’ even if it is not the ‘norm,’” Hiromoto adds. “In the early days of streaming, having a song like Gnash’s ‘i hate u, i love u’ and showing radio how to use streaming metrics as a tool to help read the tea leaves and find hits that might not be as obvious, but the audience craves. Those are the moments that really make you feel like you are helping shift the culture and that is A TRUE ACCOMPLISHMENT!”
Atlantic has an impressive A-List of artists to work with. Some of Mo’s most exciting experiences stand out to her. “Doing the KWIN Rooftop Party with Pink Sweat$ and dancing our asses off with the entire staff, way past when his set had closed in 100-degree weather,” she says, “is the first that comes to mind. Bringing Flo Rida to a winner’s house for the ultimate ‘My House’ party… Making sure everyone during the Snoop Lion playback had a blunt in hand before Snoop arrived to set the right ‘mood,’ ya know, the usual.”
Some of Mo’s favorite artists she’s worked with over the years include: “Back at RCA, Miguel was my promo baby, it was incredible to see his career launch into the oblivion and watch his hard work bring him to the Grammy Stage,” she says. “It’s hard to pick a favorite at Atlantic… but the ones I was able to bond with early on in their careers were Ava Max, Charlie Puth, Cordae, Pink Sweat$, Portugal. The Man, Mahalia, Brynn Elliott, and Why Don’t We.”
The world of promotion changed considerably with the onset of the pandemic, but Mo and the Atlantic team rose to the occasion. “During the pandemic we definitely had to shift in the radio dept with our ‘travel and close’ mentality and introduce Teams and Zoom into the repertoire to maintain contact and access to our artists,” says Hiromoto. “It wasn’t necessarily a negative because it provided an opportunity to get creative and do the live from our living room moments, live stream shows, create full blown virtual promo runs through IG Live and Zooms etc. and it weirdly brought everyone to an even playing field… seeing clients and artists in their homes, hearing the doorbell ring, seeing people’s internet go out, it sort of humbles everyone involved and you almost felt closer during those moments.”
Mo has learned a lot about herself from the pandemic. “I’ve been learning the importance of the bigger picture. How important basic needs are, and that for most people, all we want is to be loved and accepted at the end of the day.” During the downtime she found a way to stay busy. “In the beginning there was a lot of wine being consumed… but now there is rarely a week that goes by where I am not hopping on the Peloton at least 5x/week,” she says. And her priorities when things get back to normal, “Seeing my family back home in Ohio and a solid day party with good vibes and an insane DJ with my nearest and dearest friends!!,” she says.
The last 13 years of Mo’s career did not come without its challenges. “Being a perfectionist gives you another level of anxiety, I have been getting better at stepping back depersonalizing, journaling, meditating and accepting things for what they are… but any good promo person knows that most things are negotiable so sometimes acceptance is harder than you think!!!!” She says. “I used to get so upset when things didn’t go exactly as planned because you spend so much time advancing and thinking of any possible deterrent that could throw off a promotion or pitch but there is beauty in going with the flow.”
As for advice for Women who want to get in to record promotion, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Being a woman in the industry is more prevalent than it has been. (THANK YOU TO THE OG GLASS CEILING GIRLS!!!) and I am so lucky to have learned from some of the best, Andrea Ganis, Wendy Goodman, Beata Murphy, Lori Giamela, Ko-Fung Shih, Jennifer Liss, Heather Luke, Sherry Alaghehband, Deb Urbont, Lea Pisacane, honestly my list of promo goddesses goes on and on,” says Hiromoto. “These ladies have been guiding forces for me, provided a safe space for me to ask questions, they gave me the confidence that I can and will do everything I want to do, they remind me to take a moment to smell the roses and celebrate the wins when they come. They have taught me to fight for my unequal fair share and opened doors that I didn’t always have the key to.”
What keeps Mo up at night? “Thinking I may miss my alarm for artist promo (yes even via Zoom) I still get anxiety as if I’m going to be late for my flight, it never fails.” But she does make it a point to find balance. Her priorities: “My family, my friends, my boyfriend, the team and my therapist!” And as for as what we can look forward to from Mo? “It’s very simple,” she says, “Making more exceptions to the rule.”
Follow Mo Hiromoto @yourgeishamo on Instagram.