HITS Daily Double
"Lyor and I may
be alike...but I
think I'm much better-looking."


An Exclusive hitsdailydouble.com Interview with Island President Julie Greenwald
After her recent promotion to the position of Island Records President, Julie Greenwald received dozens of gifts, flower bouquets and congratulatory notes, but one in particular stood out: "It said, Congratulations on becoming Lyor Cohen. I hope your accent hasn't changed,'" the petite 32-year-old recites with a chuckle and a shrug. There is a faint drawl to her speech, and if you discuss the music biz with her for just a few minutes, you will immediately notice that familiar twist of semantics that can only be attributed to her boss and mentor. After a decade of working in the ranks of his Def Jam army, those aren't the only habits she's picked up from the music pioneer.

Over the last two years, Greenwald has been busy expanding and running that marketing department—overseeing its product managers, communicating with the label's three divisions [Island, Def Jam and Def Soul], and staying on top of the artists, among her duties as the point-person for all of IDJ's creative efforts. In that time, she has also become a wife and a first-time mom, a lifestyle she's only now "learning to enjoy." Somewhat more challenging in the enjoyment department was having to endure the incessant, "Omigod!"-punctuated questions of HITS' resident teenpop scribe, Shirley "Mother's Little" Halperin.

Over the 10-year span of your career, you've been a part of making the name Def Jam synonymous with instant cool.
I consider myself a youth and pop culture specialist. Every weekend, I read a stack of magazines, from The Source to The Enquirer Lyor makes fun of me for reading the tabloids, but I always want to know what's going on out there. I'll read about some movie that's coming out two years from now and get all these crazy ideas. I try to know what the kids are paying attention to. Walking down the halls of our office, you'll see plenty of young people. I surround myself with them—interns and assistants—to try to stay as close to the culture as possible. I'm now a mom and a wife, and I'm not living the life as much anymore, even though I like to pretend to.

Lyor always said, "You can't outspend them, you can't outclout them—we're not Atlantic or Columbia You're going to have to outtaste them." It all starts with youth culture and what we like to call, "the cool kid." It's not about a big corporate advertising guy lurking in the bushes going, "Psst, let me show you what's hot, kid." It's about learning how to be an act of discovery, thinking outside the box, embracing technology, street teams and anything else we can think of that's innovative. At Island, we're a rock brand. And even though we're a major label, we want to keep that small, independent spirit and be even more creative and innovative in 2002.

You're inheriting quite a legacy here.
I spoke to Chris Blackwell soon after the announcement and told him how flattered and proud I was just to get a phone call from him. But I also explained to him that I come from a company where the logo was everything. Believe it or not, that was my job—I was the keeper of the logo. Lyor told me that if one piece of wack art ever walked out the door that would embarrass the logo, it was my fault. And I took the job so seriously that everything I worked on always came down to that one question: is it good for the logo? And with Island, I am as sensitive to the fact that the palm tree means so much and has such a long, deep and rich history, that I just want to make sure we're asking ourselves the same question, "Is it good for the logo?" As long as everybody can say that in their hearts, we'll do a great job. People have asked me if I'm going to change anything, but I think the team here is so good—from the marketing department to the promo guys to A&R—and so diverse with amazing taste, that I'd be crazy to think about making changes. One of the things I am going to do is capitalize on my own relationships that are out there, furthering them and doing whatever I can to help break new bands. More doors will certainly be opening for me—maybe Lenny Beer will start taking my calls now—but really it's the team who will make me look very smart and sexy.

It's probably not surprising when people say that you and Lyor are a lot alike.
There's no question that I am 100% a student of the Lyor Cohen school of thought. I've learned pretty much everything about the music business from Lyor, Kevin (who comes from a completely different philosophy, rooted more in people management) and Russell (who has always had such great vision). Obviously, I have my own opinions now, but I think we have the same energy and plenty of it. We were the first company to have pagers and cell phones so that we were accessible 24 hours a day—to the artists, to the staff and to Lyor (who would often call at three in the morning). I worked my ass off for 10 years and I'm now learning to enjoy my life. I feel extremely fortunate—I get paid to be creative and work with some of the most gifted and talented people around. How many people can say that they can walk down a hallway and like every person they bump into? I never stay in my office; I love roaming the floors because I love talking to everybody here. In short, Lyor and I may be alike...but I think I'm much better-looking.

For the entire interview, click here or on the handy-dandy red tab above that says "doubletalk."