Charlie Walk: The Innovation Interview

Charlie Walk, Chairman of JWalk shares his thoughts and insights on how technology and innovation are impacting the music industry.

As Chairman of JWalk, Charlie oversees all strategy and creative development for the brands in the JWalk portfolio as well as cultivates opportunities for new business and out of the box partnerships. Charlie brings to JWalk his extensive music management and marketing experience as well as his proven ability to identify trends and build companies through non-traditional, first to market strategies that ultimately create internationally recognized lifestyle brands. Some examples include, Equinox, DeLeon Tequila, VitaCoCo, Moonshine and SoulCycle.

Prior to J Walk, Charlie served as President of Epic Records. In his three years at its helm, Walk transformed Epic from a traditional record label to a progressive, multi-faceted entertainment company and built a culture of innovation. During his tenure, Walk established a creative haven for superstars such as Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Ozzy Osbourne, Duran Duran, Tori Amos, Good Charlotte and George Michael, while pioneering pop culture trends and cultivating edgy new sounds with the signing of artists like The Fray, Natasha Bedingfield, Sean Kingston and Sara Bareilles. These artists not only expanded the breadth of Epic’s artist roster, but also proved highly profitable for the label.

Walk’s time at Epic was largely defined by his embrace of the digital movement and approach to making artists household names. As the music industry underwent a dramatic transformation, Walk focused on the unconventional with a series of new deals and revolutionary marketing initiatives. Some examples included a partnership with Yahoo for the first ever user-generated video for Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie”, the first ever personalized pop song with Jessica Simpson, and a digital partnership with lifestyle mogul Rachael Ray. Walk also initiated an exclusive partnership with ABC, making Epic the first label to showcase its artists through integrated television campaigns, introducing them through a new medium while providing a modern platform for album sales and downloads.

Over the course of his career, Charlie Walk has been an unstoppable force of momentum. As an entrepreneur, marketing expert, digital pioneer, Fortune 500 consultant, brand builder and music executive, Walk has consistently delivered beyond the status quo, using innovative tactics to turn products into brands and artists into icons.

His groundbreaking style has earned him a number of prestigious accolades throughout the years. Esquire Magazine cited him as a “visionary” who seeks opportunity and innovation. Details Magazine followed suit several months later featuring Walk in their Mavericks Issue, alongside the likes of Ryan Seacrest and Timbaland, as an “agent of change” with the ability to “bend the future to [his] will”.

Walk graduated from Boston University’s School of Management.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation is everything in my world. If you are not innovating and changing something, then you are part of yesterday, not tomorrow.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Education, Education, Education…our kids are our future (I have 4 of them), so it we don’t give our children tools to innovate and live in this ever changing world, we will continue to fall further behind our peers.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

Will Smith once told me, “Being realistic is the most common path to mediocrity.”

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Being successful at work and home. That balance is the hardest thing to achieve in life, and rarely are my stars all aligned. But when they are, I hold on to it for as long as I can. Its the best feeling in the world.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Digital all the way – I need to share, save, curate, edit what I read, and its really hard to do this with physical content.

What does the future hold for the music business?

It’s an exciting time for the music business now when you combine the entrepreneurial spirit of independent labels & artists with the firepower of the most progressive majors. There is nothing more powerful then a major label when it comes to the overall game plan and execution for global success. It is more true than ever that Major labels add the additional scale and creative input to make the difference on a domestic and international level.

With Google Fiber coming online in Kansas City brands will have a new platform to reach and interact with their customers. How do you see brands and media companies adapting their content for interactive Smart TV’s

Interactive Smart TVs have been around for a few years, Samsung is one of the leaders in that space with its own apps and platform to provide richer content, games, and tools via their TV sets. More bandwidth will help people consume more content, but there is still a long way to go for consumers to be comfortable with the lean back TV experience being as interactive as an iPad. My kids all use their iPads as an extension of the TV to get the interactive experience – it might be hard for the TV to win that battle.

Which brands do you think would best suited to implement Augmented Reality into their advertising and marketing campaigns? Are you currently using Augmented Reality for any of JWALK’s clients?

Augmented Reality has been much hyped over the past few years. It is an interesting technology, but the killer use case / app has not yet been developed.

We have a lot of fashion clients so we are looking at apps that can overlay fashion information around you in real time…kind of futuristic, but true. Add this to a Google Glasses and you can imagine where we be in 5 years time.

How social is too social when it comes to artists and brands interacting with their fans and customers?

Never too much. Fans can’t get enough of being part of the experience, and those bands that are the most authentic and engage with the fans in innovative ways will be the winners of the future.

What will be the big trends in 2013?

JWALK. CONTENT. MOBILE …in that order.

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