At Work With Jacqueline Saturn, President of Caroline Distribution
This is the fifth installment of Rolling Stone’s series At Work, in which we explore the fast-changing music business from the perspective of a different industry leader each week. Read earlier pieces in the series here.
From the moment Jacqueline Saturn wakes up — at 4:47 a.m. each day, on the dot — she’s at work. Saturn leads a global team as the president of Capitol Music Group’s independent distribution and label services division Caroline, where she’s doubled the company’s market share in the U.S. and scored dozens of hits with artists including NF and Trippie Redd. But while the executive works out of the iconic Capital Records Tower in Hollywood, she makes a point of being available over email and phone no matter where she is, believing that her passion for work should always shine through. Saturn, who spent nearly 20 years at Sony’s Epic Records before landing at Capitol in 2013, spoke with Rolling Stone about what she loves most about her career, what’s changed about the music business, and what hasn’t.
What’s the first thing you do every day?
Every single morning, my alarm goes off at the weird time of 4:47 a.m. — I think I picked that because I was like, “Oh, 4:45 sounds so early” — so that I can have time to really start my day the way I want to. I need to be able to get up before my family wakes up, exercise, listen to tons of music, and just have the best time. It’s my favorite part of the day, and the only part of the day that’s mine. I work out, walk our dog, get the kids ready for school, and in between those times it’s also reading emails, looking at charts, checking the news. Sometimes I will have people come meet me for early-morning meetings. It’s a flurry of activity. Until 7 a.m., it’s completely hectic.
And when you get to work?
I never have the same schedule, but there’s always a series of meetings — with our teams, or artists, or various partners. Lots of opportunities to riff and come up with creative ideas. The agenda for our two-hour intensive team meeting every Wednesday is always: What are we working on? What needs to be accomplished? We try to be really efficient with our time, because we work in a very fast-paced business. What I like the most about my days is brainstorming with label partners and artists, being a part of those decision-making processes. And I love sharing new music.
Speaking of that: How do you discover new music?
There’s no one way. There are certainly people I work with who send me things they’re excited about — and there’s also the opportunity for anyone I work with to get something in front of me. Sometimes people I don’t know send me music, or I come across a self-releasing artist and the music really strikes a chord.
And my kids, in the car on the way to school, always get to pick a song. They’ll play me things I’ve never heard. I’ll say, “Where did you hear that?” And it’ll be from Spotify, from TikTok, from some lyrics they came across and found the song for.
“I feel it’s the most important thing to always call people back. I want to always be available.”
How do you approach your work on the craziest, most hectic days?
I have a lot of energy, luckily. I’m always looking at emails — from right when I wake up to the office to before bed — and I feel it’s the most important thing to always call people back. I want to always be available. Sometimes one of my kids FaceTimes me in a meeting and I have to tell the artist or manager, “I’m so sorry, hold on,” and listen to something about soccer practice for a second. It’s kind of funny that this is the world we live in now, but you have to prioritize and do that.
Work usually doesn’t end at the office: There are usually dinners, meetings, a showcase. We often look at each other at the end of the day and are like, “Yes, we did it!” There’s definitely a feeling of glory about getting through the day. There’s no control over the schedule. Sometimes I get home by 9 p.m., and other times midnight, and I still have to flag a bunch of things to my assistant for the next day. But I still know that even if I’m tired the next day, I’ll be excited to get up early and have the valuable time in the morning.
What are some of the most unusual situations you’ve ever found yourself in for work?
I actually don’t really have any of those. But I feel, every day, like it’s strange that I’m doing this as my job. I have to pinch myself because I’m so excited to work with certain people and start a relationship with them. There are times that are so magical — like when you’ve fallen in love with an artist, just begun the relationship, and they come to share music and you’re just so proud. For example Donna Missal, an artist I work with, just put her new single out [the other week] and we’re all on cloud nine right now. She posted a crazy video dancing in her underwear. We’re all just like, “Yes! Donna!” I love having these moments with artists.
As a manager, what do you look for in young people trying to enter the music industry?
It’s a fast business. People talk about things like TikTok, but it’s not just about that: It’s about being in tune with new opportunities, new developments, new audiences that we can reach. We could wake up tomorrow and have a different partner. You have to be on top of everything. Sure, there are certain jobs that require a certain skill set, like if you’re applying to work in the finance department, it’s different from applying to work in the digital music department, but what we’re really all doing is trying to reach different audiences. You have to be able to move fast.
We still need people who are just passionate to be a part of something — people who are just so passionate about music — and that is the same as it was 15, 20 years ago.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
I was always passionate and, like, excited to just get the tickets to the show. One of my first bosses said to me, “Don’t ever change. Always keep your personality, always keep being excited.” I wasn’t ever trying to be the coolest; I was just always vocal about the things I loved and music that I felt mattered. I think there are times people don’t want to give an opinion because of a political situation or something — but if I loved something I would always just say it. I have a lot of energy and I am vocal about things, and I think the best piece of advice is to stay true to yourself.
Whether at Caroline or other companies you’ve been involved with — what’s been the greatest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?
It’s such an exciting time right now, seeing new opportunities for young women in the business. I’m just so happy that the challenges that were in the past don’t feel like they are now, if that makes sense. The music industry now is a different environment.
How do you unwind at the end of a long day?
I love walking my dog around in the neighborhood; it’s really peaceful. But I’m not really an unwind type of person. I love to go running — exercise to me is a type of relaxing. And then at the end of the day, I mean, my kids hate it, but I might try to like, come in and lie in their bed for a minute. They’re like, “Get out!” I love it.