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ANTONINA ARMATO: PRODUCING CHANGE

With 18 Top 10 singles under her belt, songwriter, producer and co-founder of Rock Mafia Antonina Armato has contributed to hits by Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and BTS, among them the latter’s #1 single “Life Goes On” and Top 5 “ON,” both in 2020. 

In 2019 Armato co-wrote and produced “My Family” f/Migos, Karol G and Snoop Dogg (600m global streams) for the MGM film The Addams Family and “Queen of Mean” (300m streams) for Disney's Descendants 3. Armato has also sold a musical to Disney+ and is developing two more.  

In 2017 she launched Heroine Music Group, building a diverse roster that includes Elohim, Bahari, Yoshi Flower and mehro, whose work has collectively helped drive more than 1 billion streams.

An advocate for female empowerment, Armato has set an example for aspiring artists, creating a safe and nurturing space in which young women can thrive. She is a staunch believer that there’s a career path in any field they choose.

She herself has been championed by the likes of Jimmy Iovine, her mentor, and industry veteran/12 Tone executive Steve Bartels.


You’ve mentored many aspiring female artists; what’s the most important things for them to know?
To see yourself as an artist first. Not as a female artist, not as a pop, hip-hop or country artist, but as an artist period. We’re always looking for ways to put people into boxes. It’s unavoidable in some industries. But you should always know that the most powerful tools you have are your uniqueness, your perspective and your truth. Respect those who came before you, appreciate those around you and above all else, be yourself.

What can we do to help close the music-industry gender gap?
The first change is inclusion, which I’ve seen a lack of in both the creative space and at record companies. It's funny because some of my early mentors took exactly the opposite approach. Whether that was Quincy Jones, who offered me the president position at Qwest Records in my early twenties, or Jimmy Iovine, who let me produce my artist Hoku's entire record for Interscope. The nature of who they are as executives is inclusive, and their belief in me was one of the keys to my success.

That said, the boys’ club remains a dominant presence, and I’ve always felt I’ve had to work five times harder and smarter to just be considered equal.

If we really want to make meaningful progress, we have to be the change we want to see. That’s why my biggest priority is mentoring young women to be creatively and financially independent.

You’ve taken a family-business approach to Rock Mafia and Heroine Music Group in terms of both artists and team members. Was that a conscious decision?
Yes. Because a bond of respect and trust is nearly impossible to break. And in an industry that can be cold, ruthless and cutthroat, we’re a house of love and understanding. We are pro-creator, pro-person. Our agenda is written by our artists. We are a safe haven, especially for women, to feel free to be themselves and fulfill their purpose.

The criticism of how songwriters are compensated seems to be gaining a new level of attention. What changes do you hope to see?
The situation has been abysmal. But I don’t need to hope; change is already happening for us and our artists, and the model is going to change for all music creators in the future: more money in the pockets of artists, fewer middlemen, more accountability and more fairness. It’s all happening; it's all unfolding before us. Protect your songs—protect your copyrights. Work with partners, not parasitic exploiters.

What does the increasing value of song catalogs mean for how writers are compensated?
Big Finance has seen the value of copyrights. Songs are an asset class. With the growth of streaming, their value is going to go up and up and up. So again, I say, own your masters, own your publishing and if you’re going to sign a deal, have everything revert back to you. Rights are everything. Make sure you have a financial piece of those rights. The financialization has historically benefited corporations; this next wave needs to benefit creatives.

The music business is returning to the wealth, power and prestige it once had, and I do believe more of the benefits will go to the artists who make the art possible. 

Will the increased value accorded publishing change the way songwriters approach artist projects?
It shouldn’t. Everything should be about the artist, the song, the music and the art. If you’re doing this for the money, I promise you will never have enough of it. But if you do this because you love it, you wind up encountering miracles on the journey. Because that's what a hit is—a miracle.

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