Melanie McClain


Melanie's career in itself is wildly impressive. She's led YouTube Music's US Hip-Hop programming, worked on Pitchfork's social media team, executed music-driven marketing campaigns and activations for Budweiser, and many more. We were thrilled to get the chance to speak with Melanie about her role in finding and signing world-building, genre-pushing, and left-of-center artists and musicians to Secretly's ever-growing roster


You choose to be public with your ideas, work, artist discovery, and even stock picks - in a sense giving off the message that you’re confident with your skillset so why hide it. Did that confidence in your ideas and the process come naturally or did you work towards it? What role do you think it’s played in your career thus far?

In the beginning, it didn't feel confident and thought I was speaking into the void. I didn't have a lot of friends who liked the same music as me until my last 2 years in college. Eventually, the unsigned musicians that I supported or worked with received mainstream attention, which created unshakable confidence. It has definitely played a significant role in my career and helped me authentically connect with musicians, media people, and music executives. I believe passion and foresight are important in building relationships and showcasing your abilities in the many areas of life.

Previously, you've mentioned world-building is something you look for from artists; a component that newer artists/teams find challenging or restrictive by budget. That said, are there any indicators you would recommend to artists to be mindful of and keep an eye out for to reassure them they are staying on track?

I think the ability to create things beyond songs is an indicator of a world-building artist. My favorite artists build their world with playlists, behind the scenes content, merch, and the set design of their concerts. Over the years, I felt like I've stepped into Lil Peep's world when I saw his mattress on stage at Webster Hall in 2017, I step into Bree Runway's world every time she posts '"Breehind The Scenes" content from her music videos, I step in UNIIQU3's world when I stream her JERSEY CLUB JAMZ playlist, and I step into Smino's world when he drops his silk pillow hoodie. I think creatives can stay on track despite budget restrictions if they focus on creating content that helps people understand their story and help people with similar experiences feel seen.

You took on the significant role of helping build Secretly’s publishing division on the A&R front - what are some challenges you’ve faced through the process and how have you overcome them? In reflection, would you have tackled them differently?

I'm the first full-time publishing A&R at Secretly Group and I've signed artists like NNAMDÏ, Darryl Rahn, Corbin Canvas, Heno. and Kenneth Whalum. I think a challenge I face is making sure I'm not only supporting those musicians and musicians that I would love to become their publishing A&R. I want to use my platform to support inspiring artists who have deals at other publishers, independent musicians who are not interested in a publishing deal, and artists with the potential to gain the right leverage for a pub deal in the future. In this role, I really want to change what is considered in "the world" of indies and make genre-pushing Black musicians from around the world feel supported by an indie community that is historically really white.

Lastly - with genres becoming more fluid and so many artists blossoming between the lines, what are some of the names you’re most excited about?

I'm really excited by artists in the Black diaspora who are creating their own path instead of trying to fit in. In 2020, I've been really inspired by Lous and The Yakuza in Belgium, SAULT in the UK, Lady Donli in Nigeria, Haviah Mighty in Toronto, Asuquomo in Ottawa, and mwami in Uganda.