Interview with Matt D’Arduini, Vice President A&R at Island Records & Vice President 4th & B’way Records
During the past decade, Matt D’Arduini has emerged as a prominent, New York-based A&R exec who has been successful in the dance and pop music fields. First establishing his credentials at dance label Robbins Entertainment, D’Arduini then moved to Island Records last September (2013). He now holds two job titles: Vice President of A&R at Island Records, and Vice President of 4th & B’way (Broadway) Records, a label imprint (popular in the 1980s) which has been reactivated by Island Def Jam.
D’Arduini’s rise to success is a notable story, that even in today’s changing music business, a creative, hard-working individual can still start working in the mailroom, and work his way up to become an A&R exec. First landing a job in the mailroom at Robbins Entertainment 10 years ago, D’Arduini was eventually promoted to A&R Manager and then A&R Director, by discovering new talent and bringing hit records to the label.
At Robbins Entertainment, D’Arduini signed hot Dutch producer/DJ Afrojack, French producer/DJ Cedric Gervais, Belgian dance duo D.H.T., and he worked closely with multi-platinum Eurodance act, Cascada. Now at his new position at Island Records & 4th & B’way, D’Arduini was invited by Island President David Massey to join his Island Mercury creative team as VP which has already had major success with dance/pop acts Avicii, Afrojack (who is now signed to Island) and Swedish DJ duo, Cazzette.
We are pleased to do this interview with Matt D’Arduini. He tells how he got started in the music business, he discusses his work at Robbins Entertainment, and his new projects at Island and 4th & B’way Records.
DK: How did you get started in the music business?
D’Arduini: I’m from Rutherford, New Jersey, just outside of Manhattan. I first got involved with music during my high school years. I hosted a Rutherford High School TV sports show which aired on the local Comcast channel. I also worked for a publicist named Tracey Miller who recognized me from the TV show. She said she liked my personality (on TV) and thought I could do well in public relations. So I went to her office for a meeting—she ran her own PR company. At the time, I was a senior in high school.
Tracey offered me a job, working part-time at her PR firm and full time after I graduated MSU (Montclair State University) where I majored in Communications. I started setting up press interviews for our artist clients, which included India.Arie and 3 Doors Down.
DK: How did you land your job at Robbins Entertainment?
D’Arduini: Tracey informed that she would be moving her company to the Atlantic City area but I told her I wanted to work in New York City. She noticed that I had great interest in dance music, because I played it at the office all the time. She called Cory Robbins (owner & President of Robbins Entertainment) and two months later, a job opened up at Robbins which I accepted even though it was only a mailroom shipping position.
Working in the mailroom turned out to a great learning experience, because I had the opportunity to sit in on the A&R meetings. Cory Robbins is a team-oriented guy—he wanted everyone to be involved. During this time, I also got to meet Eddie O’Loughlin (Founder of Next Plateau Records and Talent Producer for The Voice) whose office was in our building. I spoke to him daily and asked him about the music business. Eddie was great—he guided me and taught me a lot about the music business.
DK: How did you become an A&R exec at Robbins?
D’Arduini: I was invited to the A&R meetings. I began researching for music on the internet. I heard this compelling remake of the song “Listen To Your Heart” by D.H.T and brought it to the A&R meeting. Cory loved the record and thought we should sign it. It was amazing to hear “Listen To Your Heart” on WKTU in NY and experience the record became a big record for the label. It was also a great feeling when I was promoted to A&R Manager shortly after that.
DK: What were your projects and signings at Robbins?
D’Arduini: I worked with Cascada on their albums—we helped pick songs and give the group direction on tracks and music. We signed (female dance artist) Ameerah, who had the hit “Sound Of Missing You” as well as Bastien Laval who had the hit “Restlessness” and Tom Hangs & Shermanology’s “Blessed.”
Then in early 2010, I saw Afrojack (perform) at the Santos Party House in Manhattan—I was very impressed by him and how he interacted with the crowd. It felt ahead of its time. I started following (his career & music) very aggressively. I was listening to an Afrojack show which was streaming from Europe. I heard about a minute and a half of “Take Over Control” featuring Eva Simons, which I loved…it had a squeaky beat. I recorded this section and played it for Cory Robbins, and he really liked it. I then reached out to Eva Simons’ manager and contacted Afrojack’s reps. I went to Amsterdam to meet with Spinnin’ Records, which controlled the master for “Take Over Control.” We then licensed “Take Over Control” from Spinnin’, plus two more singles by Afrojack.
DK: You’ve become a successful A&R exec whose expertise is dance & pop music. How did you get into dance music and EDM (electronic dance music)?
D’Arduini: When I was growing up, I remember going to Tower Records and discovering dance compilations. I would pick up import UK compilations by Ministry of Sound. I loved European dance pop—I was excited by high energy music.
DK: How did you land your current A&R job at Island Records?
D’Arduini: A friend of mine, Rami Samir Afuni, is a songwriter/producer who is signed to David Massey’s publishing company (Massey is President of Island Records). Rami introduced me to Massey, and we had a great meeting. He later offered me the A&R position at Island, and an opportunity to help revive 4th & B’way Records, which was formerly a street-oriented, dance and hip-hop label established by (Island Records founder) Chris Blackwell in the 1980s. 4th & B’way had great artists like Eric B. & Rakim, and Noel.
DK: What are your new projects at Island and 4th & B’way?
D’Arduini: We’re getting 4th & B’way up and running. We are bringing fresh ideas to this brand, and sign and license new artists. I’m also overseeing A&R for two artists: Cazzette, a duo who is signed to 4th & B’way/Island, and a new female artist named Kiesza, who is signed to 4th & B’way/Island. In addition, I’m in the process of signing new artists, and I supervise remixes.
I’m excited about the opportunity to bring great dance music to our labels as we resurrect 4th & B’way. It is great working with David Massey, Steve Bartels (President/COO of Island Def Jam), Michele Anthony (Executive Vice President, US Recorded Music), Chairman Barry Weiss and the team they have assembled at our labels.