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Carole King & Jon Platt: Notes on Inclusive Leadership | SXSW 2021

Jon Platt
Chairman and CEO at Sony Music Publishing
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SXSW 2021
March 16, 2021, Online, Austin, USA
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About speakers

Jon Platt
Chairman and CEO at Sony Music Publishing
Carole King
Singer-songwriter

Jon Platt is an American music-publishing executive and a former DJ. He is Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing after having spent 17 years at EMI Music Publishing.

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Carole King Klei (born Carol Joan Klein; February 9, 1942) is an American singer-songwriter who has been active since 1958, initially as one of the staff songwriters at the Brill Building and later as a solo artist. She is the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the US, having written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100. King also wrote 61 hits that charted in the UK, making her the most successful female songwriter on the UK singles charts between 1962 and 2005

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About the talk

Sony Music Publishing Chairman & CEO Jon Platt is joined by Grammy Award®-winning singer, songwriter, bestselling author and environmentalist, Carole King, for an enlightening conversation about inclusive leadership. Each chronicles their journey to the top of their fields and shares their philosophy on inclusion through a singular lens – Jon as the only Black CEO to lead a major music publishing company and Carole as a musician who knew no boundaries. #SMPatSXSW

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SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. An essential destination for global professionals, this year’s online event features sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. For more information, please visit sxsw.com.

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Hey everyone, I'm John Platt, the chairman and CEO of Sony music publishing and I feel very lucky today to have a conversation with a friend of mine, you want to talk about our journey and the basically inclusive leadership. But this this friend of mine just happens to be one of the greatest songwriters and musical artists of our time, the one and only Carole King. I'm so excited to be able to do this with Carol just last month. For album tapestry celebrated its 50th Anniversary, which is an incredible feat. Incredible accomplishment to such a landmark album

and a body of work. I'm over the years, you know, just watching the person. I feel lucky to be able to even work with Carol marszalek, call her boyfriend and you know just from afar just been able to to witness how much she has expired. When the songwriters women artists and just enjoy. Musicians and songwriters all over the world is incredibly. It's incredibly just great for me to be able to sit next to it. Now, like I said, throughout her career, she's broken down. So many barriers whether she realized it or not, at the time and and

fought for so much for Women rights and giving a voice to so many. That weren't represented at that level in this in the music business you know it myself being a person of color, having achieved what I've been able to achieve. We both realize there's so much more work to do but we're happy to to have this conversation with you all today and it's your experience is hoping to inspire some of you so with that, but we'll just we'll just jump right into it and I just started off with you don't care what I think it would be great. Just to set the table for both of us to give like a brief, a brief

story of how we got to where we got to get our lives so I can I hand it over to you. Well, thank you John and it's my pleasure to call you friend, as well as the person I work with it. At Sony publishing. Sony music publishing has a new name. Now, that's so awesome in the logo and I'm very excited about it. You spoke about, you know, you mentioned breaking down barriers as we each have in our way. I, you know, when for what I wanted to do and I was lucky to be

raised in a family where neither of my parents ever told me anything. But yeah, go for it. You know, the idea of my gender was never an issue at home and so I did kind of just go for it and really the barriers. I didn't have obstacles in my professional career. That I perceive cuz I just kind of went for stuff and things happen where I had the obstacles was balancing that with my personal life because I was married to my co-writer and he was really a driving force, I was just happy to be

a mom and, you know, didn't do my thing at home and write, write the music and I love doing that and I would go into the Publishers offices and play stuff, but he was the driver, Jerry was driven. He really wanted us to succeed and get her but the infringement in my personal life was that it was hard to separate that and he didn't, you know, his work partner was also his life partner and that was challenging and then Jerry, of course, I'd rather challenges and I think we both had the

challenge of being very young. So that's where I ran into the, the challenges, as I like to say Jerry had a day job. When we, Successful with. Will You Love Me Tomorrow? He quit his day job, I still had to touch me at a very, very early age of my life and, you know, but once I became super passionate about it, I grew up in a single-parent home and my mother. She worked In the East but I guess was called swing shift. So she will work from like 3 to 11, I will have you. So you know those evenings, I will be home by

myself, just listen to the radio and you know, recording songs off the radio of my tape recorder and what not but I just always had the she never told me I couldn't do it. You wanted me and then she just I will be out and about like you know do you know. CZ and parties is like a fifteen-year-old you do to me and she would just allow me to do those things and and in the end I had the I had the benefit of growing up in Denver Colorado. And so it became a very important Story part of my journey is that, you know, in Denver we didn't have an FM black radio station, it was only an

AM black radio station and the signal will get really really weak it at night time. And so but the the FM stations I would do the signals really strong and my older brother could be regrouping. I live in Oakland California. A person that move to Denver. When we was, I was going to the fourth grade fourth, the fifth grade and my older brother. He started listening to music and which is today called classic rock, all the little songs. And so, and you know how that's why you listen to that music or whatever. And, and so, the more he played it on the radio, the

more I really started to like it. I didn't I didn't realize how important that was in my life, where I got to realize that a song with the song and no matter who was singing it. And I started to learn like, you know, a great song is a great song. What what pushes it into one job or another is the production of that song? And so but the bones of the great song is pretty much the same across the board. And so I was able to like, you know, as I then became a DJ and then got into the music business. I had this Expensive knowledge of music,

that people that cry, Frankie look like me didn't have are wearing expected to have is a better. Probably a better way to say it, and it, it, it didn't, it didn't allow me to be put in a box and and so are, you know, it became a big part of my journey and, and how I've gotten to where I am and I'm just super thankful to be here like take me to you and I can just called all of your songs and whatnot. But I grew up listening to them and and that I didn't know that I thought everyone was like me when I was growing up your enemy. I thought everyone like all types of music and you know I've

been right I signed when I was at another company that signed rod temperton And I remember having a dinner with him and and I cuz I would always look on the back of Records when I was a kid as a lot of kids did, and I'm reading on the back of right beside get this meeting with Rod temperton, because he's thinking about changing Publishers. And so we're at dinner in London and you know, I'm nervous is is, is I don't know what, cuz he's one of my favorite songs by artist and so on and add, for those who don't know about Tim Burton Road songs from Michael Jackson on Quincy Jones soap, so many

people, but, but he's either white guy from England who wrote all of these Big R and B hits. And another another example that music has no color, you are a mean and so I'm sitting with Rod and we're having a general business meeting in about an hour into the meeting, like you don't be impolite and being be executive and I finally, I can't take it anymore and Ice Age Ice Age. And I just started, I just went in the fan motor and he was like, you're, you're quite a passionate young man and and long story short week we ended up doing. He left

that publishing company, and came to work with, with me, before he passed away, all those stories, they, they, they, they make up who we are, how did you Embrace that? I guess when you, when you started, the people started to come to you and tell you that, you are opening doors for others in and whatnot. Did it get it? What was that? What was that trip? Like to keep my feet on the ground, you know, and stay down to earth and I like to believe that I succeeded because in my mind I'm just like, at this point, I'm a nice Jewish grandfather. But I am aware of all the things that

I have done that have been recognized, and that's kind of the way I think about it. That I've always just set out to do a task for a thing or accomplish something or get the next record or or whatever and Like, you know, I didn't see any barriers. I really didn't, I just didn't know they were there, and the fact that I have inspired people to go for it, whatever it is for them, and women. In particular, who have said, oh, you know, Carole King inspired me to try this or whatever, I think that's great. And I'm really

glad that I wasn't conscious of doing it because when your conscience is doing it, you are creating barriers to overcome that have nothing to do with your ability, to overcome them. And I want to ask you in turn to talk about that because you faced obstacles but you apparently didn't see them as based. This is an obstacle because I'm black, it was an obstacle in a problem to solve some talk about that. Yeah I think I just never Have you to myself as a victim? I was I wanted to do

what I'm doing right now. So badly that when I faced an obstacle I I just took it as a sign that I needed to work harder and were smarter and in it. Maybe I wasn't good enough yet and which just made me dig in even more. And, you know, looking back there were some of those things. Maybe. Because of the color of my skin maybe, but I think those things make you tougher. I think they make you, you have thicker skin and once you do get into a disabled come successful, you start to realize you're surrounded by other people with thick skin as well and they may not have gone through the

the journey. The challenges that I've gone through what they're going through their own set of challenges, most likely and it just toughens you up and it and it did. It gives you a Brazilian that I wouldn't trade my journey for anything in the world. I'll just say it. I won't, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. All parts of it, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think, all the sum of all the parts that made me who I am and, and, and put me in a position to, to run the largest music publishing company in the world and work with songwriters like you,

they wrote America song book and I'll call it. I don't think that would have happened if I hadn't easier journey. I just don't you have to have your gold, you have to go for your go, do your homework, do the hard work that you have to do to get their work at it? But just kind of ball. So be confident and if you have a vision you have an idea you know approach it as if they can be done and that will convey to others. But the other thing that you have that I like I share and I actually this I have always been conscious of and I guess I get it from my dad

because he was similar like you know I hate see the guy in the elevator and say Hey, how you doing? You know, he just acknowledged everybody and I like to do that because I did not get where I got without so many partners without business. Advisors and people who helped me in a luau Adler, for example, in the early days Sherry today, you know? And and you I mean you are the business side of what I do. And one of the things about you that I treasure is you respect your writers and it's it's a mutual sort of respect each of us has our

role in bringing the music to people and you are aware of all the people around you and you treat them with respect and you understand the music and who you are in the gifts and the abilities you bring to the work you do I think is what got you there. I just want to say, you know, I want to, I want to clarify, of course, I saw things or notice things on my journey, but there's a couple of ways you can handle it. You can let them beat you down. You want to meet or you can you know, you can or you can or you can deal with it in a different way. I think, the best

way to deal with it is like you know do what they think you can't do or what they telling me you cannot do, you know what I mean? And I always just last summer someone that I was speaking to someone I said if I were to describe my life with someone to this date and I think it still is it is true right now as we speaking it's like the ultimate work around you and I mean, I just learned how to work around situations. I can do this is having okay, I'll work around that. This is going on. Okay, I'll work around that and Whether it's right or wrong or fair or unfair. I honestly,

I don't really know to be honest with you, I said, I do know, but I don't really care to the level to wear when I say, I don't care. I'm not going to let anything stop me from what I truly believe. If of what the ultimate goal cuz the goal is still the goal. And you know it in the reality is things are supposed to be hard when you really really want special things if they did, they not supposed to be easy and it's supposed to be hard and I embrace that very early on. And I just think that and I tell young girl, people now, like when things are hard, you probably need to

lean into that you wanted me, you probably need to like take really refocus because that's that's just where the magic happens. It's just where the magic happens. And if you love it so that much it's not really that hard. At the end of the day you wanted me. Like it's just because it is, what are you doing it for? Are you doing it? Because you want to be the best? Are you doing it? Because you want to make a mock The money. Are you doing it? Because you love it and if you if it starts when you doing it because you love it it's probably going to work out for you at the end of the day at

some point is going to work out for you. That's really a good point and I would say to people that are coming up now who see the barriers that maybe we. If you said you were aware that I really wasn't even aware of it. I just wasn't, I was brought up as I can do anything but for people who say, why me, how can I do that? Well, first of all, I would say, why not you? And if you see the barriers then you know, like you said, work around them, work, past them, just keep going. Never give up. I

work on an environmental issue. Being trying to address climate change by reducing our logging in national forests. In Saving the northern Rockies, medical meaning of anything to do with me being a woman, they wouldn't have had anything to do with race. If I were, you know, look like you, but there are obstacles there and I've been doing that for 30. You and I will never give up until we get this done. And that to me is the attitude. You can be discouraged for a minute, but then you pick yourself up and you keep going, cuz if you have a vision of gold, a

thing you want, you know, when if you wanted, especially for the right reasons, you know, if it's all about you, you know, it's okay if you want to go and be a star, okay, fine, you know, that's great. Then that's your vision and go for it. I'm just saying there was an extra lift but you'll get the lift from the goodness of what you're trying to do. I think you get the additional lift of leadership is is, do you have the ability to put others before yourself? You are saying and that's it so funny with your cuz if you're the leader, you see yourself

in front but if you're with the to me my personal thing, a true leadership is, do you have the ability to put other Before you Rodger faction, who has been so instrumental. He asked me was the key to unlocking. The leadership code for me to be honest with you, and I'll come back to that, but he, he came in my office in LA and he keeps he gave me a raise and it was some pretty some rays. What it was like not in my contract or whatever and I was like, wow, what what is what is thank you? First of all of it like why why he said well, you know, you

use your, figuring it out and I'm like, what are you talkin about? I thought I was speaking it out. Pretty good at what I did and he said, you know, you, you are now breaking people along with you on the journey and and that year, I had started working with some other people in the company, not an A&R, which is the part that I have. And he was like, you're including people and he said you don't, he said I know you, you're thinking what it does for you he said but you don't know what it's doing for them and and he said You figuring it out and it was like he unlock the code you are a

mean and and and because you know in in the music business and particular A&R is kind of like a singular roll. I mean it's like you had your own little thing and you working with your word is that you're working with him. You're in your own little Silo, for lack of a better word and and that's okay, but if you really want to lead a team and run a company and so and so far, you have to be inclusive and and you have to like trust people. Yummy Rodger facts in this is a white man who was the first person to say, I think you should run Emi music publishing when I'm when I leave and they sold

it from under at this point. But I'm back running sony-atv. But he, he said that he believed in me. Jody Gerson hired me. You wanted me to 1995 Guinness. Steve Cooper, who was at Warner Music Group. What's the first person to say to me, I want you to run Warner Chappell music, publishing, you know, three, three, white people who saw something in me and you know, you can be you can be given the opportunity, it presented the opportunity, but it's up to you to make something out of the opportunity. You know, when you were when you were, you know, coming up and you're asking people, can you

hear my songs? Can you send that when you get the opportunity to show what you want to meet and then we'll see what happens. But I want to go back to your environmental story and you say you've been working on this for thirty years and you know of a really close friend of mine. It breaks, bring it back to 7 to close friend of mine. Told me when I was younger in the business and he said everybody, basically everyone who has a dream will get an opportunity to realize that dreams. He said there's no losses as anything. There's only those who quit before their turn comes and I just carried that

with me. Throughout my entire career. Just picked up Little Gems from people along the way, but that was something that was so meaningful because it's true. I was 30 years old when I got the opportunity to work at Emi music publishing as the lowest man on the totem pole. By the way, at 30 years old, and a few months before that, I started to think, like, my crazy, like, for pursuing this dream-like broken LA. And am I crazy? And that's all the story. I'll tell it in my own way. I said I almost like wimped out and was like, I was going to go back to Denver, and DJ,

yawning mean and it was, I said it's almost like God was like, all right, all right. All right, let's, let's open the door for this guy. He's going to quit on us. Like he's worked hard enough as much better man. And but you have to keep working at it, if you truly believe in it because you will get your shot. But I firmly believe that. I firmly believe that if you don't get there this way, try that way. Go around it, Go different way. And if you end up, you know, sometimes life. Brings you to a different career that maybe is the career you should be doing. So if you want to be a rock

star or, you know, great gospel singer or whatever and have Fame and Fortune. And that doesn't happen. You may find your past is somewhere else and you will find a way to serve God, or the community, or whatever, your services, be attuned to what your path is. Have your dream, try to get there and along the way, let yourself be guided and and and work with I don't know what the spirit of can do. I will do this, I will Master this. I will achieve this and maybe he will, and maybe you won't, but the

journey itself is amazing, is god. Wow, you just touched on something that I wish I wouldn't have remembered to bring up is when I left in my Andy and Mike was the number one music publisher at at that time before it was sold and I went to Warner Chappell who was not supposed to say not the best and so I was in Denver for whatever reason and I was riding with a friend of mine and he said what's the difference? And he's not in the music, that's what he said. What's the difference between The other company, you work that in this company, and no one has ever asked

me that know how to have a thought about it. And I said, well, you know, at the other company, I work that we were the best. We would number one, like we were the best all the time I said in this company is not the best, but we're working to be the best I said, but I learned something about myself along the way I said he said, what do you mean? I said we'll be in. The best is like being known as the best is like amazing who wouldn't want to be known as the best I said but it's and it's fun. I said it's really fun I said but it's not as fun as the journey to be in the best and

and it just you just when you just said that you just reminded me of that. And I, and I firmly believe that like, every one's path, you know, 6s or Partnerships or whatever. It's all part of the journey. I just look at people when I get excited, like, the young people that I work with it. It's only music publishing. I'm like, oh my God, they have no freaking idea like how fun this journey is going to be for them. And I think when we be coming to these roles like you get back so much with your time and you know what the for me if it's a different thing I think when we when we get into

these roles you have to remember the things that for me that I've been through and and if I can get a spider and give opportunities to others than then I have to do that and I actually honor that and I and I embrace it and you have to just do what you feel is, right? If you do what you feel is, right, doesn't mean you're right, but if you, if you doing what you believe is right, you could just impact so many things in business and just in the world. And, you know, the last thing I'll say is, is it was an eye-opener for me on the responsibilities that I have is, is, you know,

I was, he's actually since passed away but I was talking a couple years ago before I came to Stony. So. Pharrell and Andre Harrell Uptown records and you're Mary J. Blige Jodeci and even P Diddy all or his, you know, his creation. He said you know you know Big John you going with none of us have gone before and and I was like, I got to what you mean. Say, none of us have ever achieved what you have just achieved. Now, these are people who I thought was way more successful than me and achieved way more than me people that I looked up and And I thought about it, I think he's right

and then I never looked at it that way. I never looked at it to be the first, you know, African-American to run a major music publishing companies and it just it just let me know the responsibility of my responsibilities to do a great job. Can I do a great job and I create opportunities for a lot of people and I think a lot of people, they lose sight of that, and they get caught up in the fight and the fight is important, but you also have to be great at what you do. And that's the biggest thing that you have to offer to open the doors for others. And I look at the 50th Anniversary up,

tapestry, like you're great at what you do, you're nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the second time. And that is it open so many doors and inspiring so many others? And that's just you being you. So, I just want to applaud you for that. You know, the most fun thing for me to do is have a conversation with somebody and I truly truly have enjoyed this and I love working with you and you know thank you for the work you do. And thank you for breaking barriers just by being who you are and doing what you do. Keep doing it, I love you. Go to

the cafe and have some lemonade and chocolate chip cookies traveling will be nice. Thank you John you take care.

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Jon Platt
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