Dani Chavez of Ultra Records on Lady Gaga, Black Coffee, and Musicians as Brands

Plus, how music brings total strangers together

Dani Chavez is a Los Angeles-born, New York-based executive who currently serves as the head of digital at Ultra Records. In her time there, she has overseen releases from Sofi Tukker, Icona Pop, Nghtmre, Black Coffee and more. 

Previously, she worked for hip-hop podcaster Reggie Ossé (also known as Combat Jack) and at Shelter PR, a bicoastal personal public relations firm for the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Hilary Swank. A graduate of NYU, she spent her college years working at A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs' Fool's Gold Records in Brooklyn, where she first fell in love with dance music.

We caught up with Dani for our Liner Notes series to learn more about her musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work she's proud of and admired.

Dani, tell us...

Your earliest musical memory.

Going to see No Doubt at the Gibson Amphitheatre in L.A. when I was around 3 years old. I was obsessed with Gwen Stefani and was amazed by the way she commanded the crowd.

Your favorite band or musician.

Lady Gaga is my all-time favorite. Her vocal range is incredible, her songs are for everyone, and she is hands down one of the best performers I've ever seen. 

How you get your music these days.

Pre-pandemic, I would discover new music when out at shows or clubs. Now it's mostly via algorithmic playlists or radio.

Your favorite place to see a concert.

I love music festivals. They're the best and most efficient way to discover new acts.

Your favorite music video.

Mariah Carey's "Fantasy (Remix) feat. ODB." It's simple, fun, and a great example that you don't need massive budgets to create a visual that represents you/your track. Also Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty" video. 

Your favorite music-focused TV show or podcast.

I was a big fan of Making the Band back in the day. Outside of that, I don't consume a lot of music-focused TV or podcasts.

A recent project you're proud of.

In February we rolled out South African producer Black Coffee's new album, Subconsciously. It was 2-plus years in the making, and on release day we had support from all partners across every market globally. To see a project like that come together and be celebrated internationally even in the midst of a pandemic was very special.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

I watched the Billie Eilish documentary and was really impressed. Not just with her and her team, but the way the director and producer told the story. I've been a fan for years, so I really enjoyed seeing her in a more in-depth, raw setting.

How musicians should approach working with brands.

If you're a musician approaching a brand, don't just think "What can you do for me?" Instead, ask "What can I bring to them?" Partnerships go two ways. They need to be organic and mutually beneficial. 

How brands should approach working with musicians.

Musicians—whether you're just starting out or on your 27th Grammy win—are brands. They have their own image, audience and values. It's important that brands remember that and try to elevate them, not change them. 

What music can do that nothing else can.

Bring complete strangers together with no questions asked. You don't see sports fans sharing water, but at any GA pit it's the standard. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.

I'd either be a criminal defense lawyer or a safari guide in South Africa. 

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.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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