Alamo Records' Drew de Leon on Authentic Brand Partnerships and Boyz II Men
Drew de Leon is the head of digital marketing at Alamo Records, and formerly the director of digital at Def Jam. With over 11 years of experience in the music industry, he currently heads digital for artists such as Rod Wave, Lil Durk, YN Jay, Sainvil, ALX and more.
In 2010, Drew started the music agency Blank Label, where he develops artists through digital marketing and brand partnerships. Starting in 2016, he co-founded the global music and tech community, The Digilogue, with a belief of paying it forward for indie artists and music professionals. The Digilogue programs music educational conversations, career resources, and artist discovery content.
Outside of music, Drew is also a basketball enthusiast and loves the Knicks. He also actively embraces his Filipino heritage and enjoys spending time with family and friends.
We caught up with Drew for our Liner Notes series to learn more about his musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work he's proud of and admired.
Drew, tell us...
Your earliest musical memory.
I remember being obsessed with "The Sign" by Ace of Base. I was on a family trip and I couldn't stop dancing to the the song off my dad's Walkman.
Your first concert.
I grew up listening to '90s R&B and hip-hop. My first concert was seeing Usher at the Meadowlands Arena. It was such a surreal experience to listen to his music in a massive venue but also special because I got to share the moment with close friends.
Your favorite bands/musicians.
I'm a '90s R&B baby! I have to say Boyz II Men is my favorite group of all time. I remember when my family moved to Florida and all my mom played was the Boyz II Men II tape. I was introduced to the incredible harmonies and singing abilities of the group. That was the moment when I fell in love with R&B music.
How you get your music these days.
Even though I work in music I always make time to listen to new artists. There's so much talent out there! I enjoy discovering music on platforms like Audiomack that support indie artists.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
Madison Square Garden.
Your favorite music video.
"Mo Money Mo Problems" by The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy and Mase. I remember being in 8th grade and was like this video is EPIC! They don't make music like they used to. Also one of my favorite tracks to date.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
I'm a big fan of the Music Business podcast led by Sam Hysell and Jordan Chude.
A recent project you're proud of.
I'm proud of Rod Wave's SoulFly album which was released this past March. It was a massive team effort and we collectively were able to get our first #1 Billboard album. It's been incredible to see Rod Wave's music inspire millions over the past 2 years.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I would have to say Polo G's album called Hall of Fame, led by one of the most talented digital marketers in the game, John Salcedo.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
Outside of music, musicians/artists should always identify their interests and build content around them. For example, if you're passionate about health and wellness you can create weekly content that highlights that. It can be a workout or you showing fans how to prepare a healthy meal. Because you have an audience that loves health and wellness and you have consistent content, you can approach a brand that you add value in that space. Most importantly, be intentional with what brands make the most sense for you. If it doesn't feel authentic, your fans will know.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
I think brands need to have a better understanding of a musician's audience and their expectations of a brand partnership. The musician/artist may have a massive audience but may have no interest in what you offer as a brand. As a brand, it's also important to work with artists who will genuinely like and support you and not treat any deliverables just as a paid partnership post.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Music brings people of all walks of life together. It supports you on your lowest low and your highest high. Music is the heartbeat of humanity.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
I'd be in the tech space advising and investing in companies and communities I care about.
Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.