Sergio Vega is an A&R at Astralwerks Records. Sergio has worked in key positions over the years at Atlantic Records and Big Beat, William Morris Endeavor, and most recently the newly-relaunched Astralwerks subsidiary at Capitol Records, cementing a wide understanding of the music business across several sectors.
Between working in various roles at Astralwerks and Atlantic on the label side, helping put together tours at WME and having managed and developed artists yourself - what do you look for when bringing a project to the table and what have you learned to look for as signs that a project has the potential to go the distance and stand out in such an oversaturated space?
For the most part, I look for projects that feel could be activated in many different ways. Of course, it starts with the quality of the music and the presence of the artist. But I usually gravitate towards projects that stand out through the creative, storytelling, community, or brand identity. There’s a lot of great music out there but it's important to go the extra mile to put together a cohesive project that leaves you wanting more. Many artists today, even if the music is not quite there, will stand out for being able to create a unique world that brings people in. That’s the ultimate win.
That’s why I enjoy working at Astralwerks/Capitol Records. Their vision of Global Artist Development feels very right to me, given the ways artists develop as they get stage time and experiment with different sounds around the world, with different audiences, and in different channels.
With artist discovery becoming more and more difficult as a result of gatekeeping on different levels, what tools or sources do you rely on for discovery other than word of mouth and networking?
It’s going to take a bit more to reveal my secrets! I will say, it often starts the same way for many of us in the industry: spending hours going through Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, YouTube, etc. For me specifically, I like to dig very deep into what people from different countries are listening to, to get a more raw understanding of what’s happening on the ground in those specific countries. This means scouring through streaming playlists and radio charts but also going into apps, forums, and even gaming channels like Twitch to know what people are sharing with each other. That being said, I am still a big believer in finding music live. Back in NYC, I used to be a regular at showcases, open mics, and even random weekday shows at venues like Bowery, Baby’s All Right, Arlene Grocery’s, etc. You gotta keep in mind that something that hasn’t changed is the fact that every artist starts small, at times opening for bigger artists. I saw Skrillex play a show for 35 people around the time when he released Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, I also saw Chainsmokers open for R3hab, Dada Life, David Guetta, and a local DJ.
All of us love music that is why I do what I do. And if you can ace it, that love will make you try to make it work so you can catch someone play a 6:00 PM opener set that could be the next big star.
Has there been any significant career moment where you’ve made a decision against the grain and trusted your gut? What was the result and would you have done anything differently in hindsight?
I was raised to always trust my gut. This was further drilled in at places like WME, Atlantic, and now Astralwerks, where I’ve learned from some of the best in our industry that to be good at what you do you have to be confident and trust your talents. Not every artist is an immediate break-out hit, but I’ve learned to know when to take risks with talent that could require some trial to make all of it worth it.
The hardest decisions often come in the form of artists that are hard to pin down. This is something I face often, working in genres that are constantly changing and evolving like Electronic and Latin. Everyone likes different music/artists, and you will rarely be in a room where everyone is going to love something as much as you do. People will always have their opinions and in my position, it's important to follow your gut and go after what you love.
What personal project are you most excited for in 2020 and lastly, are there any artists you have on repeat or upcoming albums that you’re excited about.
On the electronic side, I believe it will be a huge year for [OTR](https://url7304.disco-mailer.net/ls/click?upn=iv09c6IKQuwif-2F-2BgKB34zYII7eu20Dxr0cHTw2YVWB60wHe6vKagUMBVHsGXzXxzuelh-2FNC8dnzQMfOdG80ZC-2FwuWPqTYxfv2sgmRmHmR6i10gZs162yNudHT8wtZXaRMKmk7ZUz2JM2RNCSfhp7XneugJ7XZNHDuE5ZqINukxMThcouEHTH6i9zuCkW0964WG-2FE1ZxRd52jd0gMKmRLGq1eLd6m9awu9onlCR4ymWH0RcQ49YxnxXMsQDWEKFMX4OnlU-2BuTGTSVeHcdvA5cTmklI7HogeGQlVUaOstHl6o1hF0FSrv3sbdVBIshg8fpFOJtVR5YpPpua1XtZtviTR59iWPtCmN-2Fu4xeqzscqhorE2wRkJ0tVncTrF-2BbU2YBnVaMxDeR6zTA3pEJS0WY-2BRotQSD5TYNUAFIemK-2B9jg1ThH7hNiQI50aSZVeVevEmK6sZpbPqEFIGvafBAzjQL7B29yNMqDHZJh4pKg4VeC0oMIXOhvojMscrPleK6yre4jTkLLK9YDTUclsGAbGn7OU8E9bIfidvf5wCt-2BhNXtJnlQU76ajX6um1tt051pqxFhGYncEgT7vN0Z-2Fvqe6sEnnYTbU-2BZSBCXL6nfxFuJ5CYejnkOxKVcoWk40a9xCAxkEeHE2PmmntYRKrwtkg3teZXqbMGv3g61ASpiNmKWsfjcciv03PU4q5yu72j3eYFoOXIy6IrHQeCe4CjR2DcCFVxhMQWDH3LT5kND91cRrpTioU-3D) and Willaris. K. Both have been working on some amazing music. On the Pop/Latin side, I am working with an amazing artist, Carmen DeLeon. Her music incorporates both her Mexican and European upbringing, with style that I’d describe as edgy Latin urban pop We have been working for over a year in perfecting her debut project, in collaboration with some top producers and songwriters from Latin and Urban genres. We’re getting very close to launching it, and I am confident that this one will get people talking._