Charese Fruge’ Talks To Kristina Waters

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on July 14, 2020

Kristina Waters got a jump start on her career in the music industry while studying at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. In 2015, she landed a dream job as a college and lifestyle marketing rep for Universal Music Group’s °1824, a marketing, content, and experiences team powered by university students and young creatives from around the world. She was there from the very beginning of the launch of artists like Halsey, Maggie Rogers and Billie Eilish. Now Kristina is an Associate Director of Marketing for Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) and rising up the ranks quickly thanks to her amazing track record and hustle. “Watching these amazing women and their careers explode in 2020 and seeing them go from Troubadour artists to Forum artists is one of my career highlights,” she says about Halsey, Rogers and Eilish.

How did it all start for Kristina? “In 2009 I began volunteering for Artist Arena/Selena Gomez’s website,” she says. “I moved to LA for school and was hired by Todd Goodwin and Frank Hill to be one of the LA college & lifestyle marketing representatives at °1824. Following my graduation, I began my full time career at UMe as the marketing team’s Digital Coordinator and have worked my way up to Associate Director of Marketing. I am one of the team’s project and franchise managers, focused heavily on post-‘90s pop and rock music. Plus I bring my college audience perspective and experience to artists such as Ringo Starr, Rush, Elton John, Diana Ross, and more.”

Another of Kristina’s career highlights was working on the launch of The Beatles’ Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Editions in 2019. “I got the opportunity to work alongside VP/Marketing Tom Smith, which was such an honor,” she says. “And ‘Abbey Road’ was such a pivotal album for the band and is so close to many fans’ hearts. We hosted an event commemorating the anniversary at the Capitol Tower, and it was one of the most joyful, celebratory events I’ve ever been a part of,” says Waters. “We had a blast working with °1824 to have the iconic album backdrop set up for photo ops on college campuses across the U.S. and at Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas. Who doesn’t love The Beatles?”

Another impressive launch Kristina is known for is the development of the recent Women To The Front microsite. It’s a comprehensive music-themed site which debuted in honor of International Women’s Day this year. It celebrates the numerous accomplishments of women in music across all genres and professions with a mixture of top-shelf music curation, informative feature content and playlists. “It’s important to know the history of incredible women who have helped pave the way for modern musicians,” says Waters. “Without Shania Twain’s crossover success in the ‘90s and ‘00s, maybe women in music would still be confined to one genre. Diana Ross & The Supremes greatly influenced every female-group following them. Lady Gaga created a path for Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande,” she says. “It’s so important to celebrate the strides women have made in music and the incredible art and influence that has come from these songs and statements that changed the world.”

“We were so grateful to partner with The Honey Pot Co. and Health-Ade Kombucha, two women-owned and operated businesses to celebrate some of their successes and favorite songs, too,” Waters says about the launch. “It was such a fun campaign that brought tons of women at UMe together. We all contributed our favorite songs to the playlist and agreed on the look and feel of the branding, editorial campaign, and women in the industry that we wanted to highlight. In 2021, I hope to make this campaign even bigger and more inclusive.”

Obviously, mentoring young women who want to get in to the business is important to Kristina. “I’ve had so many women take me under their wing during my career, and I want to pay it forward,” she says. “Jane Gowen, EVP of A&R/Marketing at UMe, has taught me so much about working with artists and managers, and she’s trusted me to handle situations that I wasn’t sure I could handle alone. I did it with her support! Sujata Murthy, SVP of PR at UMe, and I have had some extremely stimulating conversations about the industry, and she’s always offered honest advice and guidance. There are too many women to name, but I am so grateful to each of them for their kind words and empowerment. I look forward to having a team of my own someday and nurturing young female talent!”

The industry has changed so much and so fast due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most music lovers, Kristina misses live shows the most. “I’ve always loved them and not being able to attend one since Tame Impala in March has been so sad!” she says. “As someone who works in the recorded music industry, I’m grateful that my job hasn’t been impacted. I know we all miss watching our artists do what they do best. I’m very much looking forward to live events returning when it’s safe,” says Waters.

“Working from home has its easier days and its harder days, but I’ve found having a routine and taking time of out my day just to listen to music with no distractions has kept me sane,” says Waters. “During this time, so much has happened in the world, and it’s provided such a good opportunity to discuss issues that affect so many of us and our artists. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that we’re having productive conversations and making change where it needs to happen, and for that, I am grateful.”

Despite the pandemic, Kristina says the industry was constantly changing anyway. “But that’s a good thing,” she says. “I’m very excited about content creation and how it’s taken on a life of its own, especially in the fully digital space we’re in now,” says Waters. “We have the power to consume and listen to so much more music than previous generations, and I think that makes us all better music industry professionals. We hear a lot more of what our artists, peers, and fans are saying and we have the opportunity to learn and change the way we do things all the time. I love music because it will never be a stagnant industry, and I like to be kept on my toes!”

As for her future, “I love being at UMe – you can always find me there! I have a few campaigns that I’m working on for later this year that I’m extremely excited about,” she says. “Right now, I’m invested in a variety of projects, but I’m really excited about The Buckleys debut album ‘Daydream,’ which is coming in August. In catalog, we usually don’t have the opportunity to work new releases, but I’m so proud of this band and think the album is phenomenal. They are siblings from Australia whose music is very hippie country, and this project is unlike anything I’ve ever worked before. I’m having so much fun being a part of it!”

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