Lava Records founder and CEO Jason Flom has a “spidey-sense” of sorts for musical talent; throughout his career he’s successfully discovered unknown artists who have gone on to be superstars. Flom spent time as the CEO of both Atlantic Records and Virgin Records as well as the Capitol Music Group, and helped to break artists such as Kid Rock, Katy Perry and Lorde.
How has he done it?
“It’s called ‘instinct.’ It’s a strange talent to have,” Flom told me on the Brown and Scoop podcast on CBS Radio’s Play.it. “Music is an emotion. It’s magic. You can’t see it, hold it…you can feel it inside. When I first heard Lorde, I said, ‘What in the world am I listening to? This is incredible.’ It’s a strange skill to have. I don’t take it lightly. I always think there’s a lot of luck in A&R. You have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to be in the right mood. There’s a lot of coincidence involved. You have to be lucky.”
One of his more fortuitous signings was Katy Perry. But he passed on her when he first heard her, before coming to his senses about a month later. Here’s the entire story:
“So I met her at the Polo Lounge in LA. She walks in and sat down and I was like, ‘This girl’s a star.’ It was just obvious to me. She sat and opened her mouth and I was like she’s going places.”
She hadn’t “gone places” yet, but Flom knew there was something about her. “A real star walks and talks and wears clothes differently than other people do. My ‘spidey senses’ tell me that. She’s one of those people. Back then, she didn’t have a dime. She can still dress in a way that somebody else may dress and look like a normal schloob. But she lights it up. That’s how it started.”