Shani Gonzales, the new head of international A&R for Warner Chappell, is an American who makes sure Americans hear music from outside America.
Gonzales has form in this area: Before joining Warner Chappell last year, she spent nearly six years at rival BMG, where she rose to co-head of A&R for the U.K. and U.S. and hooked up emerging talent with superstars — for example, British writer-producer P2J and Team Beyoncé. P2J ended up co-producing multiple tracks on Bey’s Lion King: The Gift album and went on to work with Doja Cat.
She’s also signed and developed megatalent herself: She A&R’d the early years of Justin Bieber during a stint at Def Jam, and signed a young Travis Scott when she was at Epic Records. Gonzales grew up in New York but traveled to London regularly with her Trinidadian father and Jamaican mother, which gave her a rich understanding of multiple cultures.
“I love artists who rip up the rules and create something new,” says Gonzales. “People who aren’t content to stay in their lane. You just know that great things will happen when you get in a writers room or studio with a spirit like that.”
At Warner Chappell — the world’s third biggest music publisher, turning more than $488 million in the nine months prior to July 2020 — Gonzales is both global A&R head and managing director of the company’s U.K. branch, the latter of which is a new role that will see her relocate to London in January.
Warner Chappell Music CEO Guy Moot says Gonzales has a “tenacious drive” and a “natural affinity and intuitive connection to her writers,” praising the number of songwriters she’s catapulted to the top with determined effort.” And in her year at the company, she’s already landed a cut on a Top Five hit in the U.K. for American hip-hop producer Tay Keith. Across the course of her career, Gonzales also developed talent including Bibi Bourelly (Camila Cabello, Rihanna), Claude Kelly (Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars), DJ Khaled, Juice WRLD, Nate Cyphert (Florida Georgia Line), Saint JHN, and WondaGurl (Drake, Rihanna, Travis Scott).
“Rebellious voices have always changed the world, and at these moments when the stakes are higher than ever, that’s what we need,” says Gonzales. “The artists, the songwriters, and the producers who aren’t afraid to rewrite the rules and take the chances that ultimately change the game and change the world.”