Zafris Lecture: Making Artist Development the Priority

By 
Allen Bush
February 23, 2011
James Diener, CEO/President of A&M/Octone Records, is the featured speaker at the 18th annual Zafris Distinguished Lecture for Music Business/Management.

James Diener, CEO/president of A&M/Octone Records, will give the 18th annual Zafris Distinguished Lecture for Music Business/Management titled A&R and Artist Development Strategies for a Changing Music Industry. The lecture takes place on Friday, February 25 at 1:00 p.m. at Berklee's David Friend Recital Hall. This event is NOT open to the public.  

Diener founded the independent label Octone Records with a vision of giving artists the best of both worlds—majors and independents—building success over time with less emphasis on immediate sales.  Octone's holistic approach to artist development became the subject of two case studies published by Harvard Business School, and the label is now home to platinum-selling bands such as Maroon 5 and Flyleaf, and developing acts such as K'Naan and Hollywood Undead.  The label was spotlighted at the 2011 MIDEM conference for the branding deal for K'Naan with Coca-Cola, bringing the band into Coke's massively successful World Cup 2010 Campaign. 

Diener also served as senior vice president, A&R/marketing for the RCA Music Group, where he signed and developed platinum singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, and vice president of A&R/marketing at Columbia Records/Sony Music, working with Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash, the Jayhawks, Tony Bennett, Roger Waters, Iron Maiden, Terence Trent D'Arby, New Kids On The Block, and others.  He is an accredited record producer and voting member of both NARAS and the Academy of Magical Arts. Diener graduated with honors with a bachelor of arts in both economics and sociology from Johns Hopkins University.

The annual James G. Zafris Distinguished Lecture Series for Music Business/ Management is Berklee's first endowed visiting lecture series, founded by the college's board of trustees in 1992 and named for James G. Zafris, founding member and longtime chair of the board.  Zafris lecturers have included Destiny's Child manager Matthew Knowles; former CBS Records head Walter Yetnikoff; award-winning producer Arif Mardin; Bruce Lundvall, president and CEO of the Blue Note Label Group; and Hilary Rosen, then president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).