Ad Lib: Capitol Music Group's Brian Nolan on Music, Migos and Marketing

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Brian Nolan
Brian Nolan Credit: David Hall

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Brian Nolan has a music fan's dream job.

As the senior VP of Capitol Records' in-house division focused on brand partnerships and licensing, Nolan is tasked with bringing new or under-exposed music to potentially huge audiences.

In this episode of Ad Lib, we touch on his work with artists ranging from Halsey to Migos. "What's fascinating," he says of current streaming trends, is the recognition of hip hop "as the the most popular genre in the world."

We go deeper into how the music industry has adjusted to, and evolved with, the rise of streaming—and how he decides what to surface for advertisers, movies and TV shows.

"The beautiful thing about what my team does is that we operate in the undefined space," says Nolan. There are, for example, different departments at the label that have clearly defined mandates. They learn every Tuesday, for example, whether a given song is being increased in radio rotation.

For Nolan, though, "a lot of it is idea based and the cream rises to the top. The challenge is to have those ideas come to life in the most authentic way that helps the artist, helps the campaign and ultimately makes the brand feel good about their work—and moves the needle for the brand. How you thread that needle is a very fine thing."

He cites as an example his work with Apple and Sam Smith, whose second album, "The Thrill of it All," came out in November. It includes a track called "Palace" that Nolan diplomatically says "was not necessarily a song identified as a hit." But the Apple team was drawn to it and plucked it out of relative obscurity for its global holiday campaign in a spot called "Sway."

"That was an example of them having an amazing vision, a beautiful song, an artist that really resonated with their consumers and they made this short film that was seen around the world," says Nolan. By December, the song had topped the Billboard charts.

Here's the spot -- a little something to watch while you listen to the rest of our conversation:

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