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Chuck Nelson
V.P. Creative and Artist Development
Word Entertainment

Fast Facts:
  • Vice President, Word Entertainment
  • Earned Bachelorís Degree in Religion and Sociology and a Masterís Degree in Clinical Psychology
  • Played in a band for ten years
  • Works with popular Christian artists, such as Sixpence None the Richer, Michael W. Smith, and Amy Grant.

    What is your job, and how long have you been doing it?

    I am the Vice President of Creative and Artist Development at Word Entertainment, and I’ve been there since 1993. My primary responsibility is to handle any needs relating to the artist in a “visual” manner. This includes photography, album packaging, artist imagery, merchandising, videos, EPK (electronic press kits), and live performances apart from touring. As part of artist development, I help artists in areas needed to enhance their careers. Some examples include things like coaching an artist or helping with choreography.

    What role does your job play in the music industry?

    My role is vital to the overall development of the artist and to our company in general. While Music is the backbone to success, how we "image" the artist impacts record sales and their career. My role is important in the industry in that I maintain relationships with managers, Public Relations personnel, and other managers on behalf of the artist. Much time is spent representing the artist to the outside world.

    Are you/were you ever a musician?

    Yes, I play guitar, sing, and write songs. I played professionally for about ten years during the eighties in a band called Sojourn. We played cover tunes and original tunes, primarily in Texas. We never signed a record deal, although we came close on a couple of occasions.

    What subjects did you study in school that help you to this day in your career?

    None of them, yet all of them. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion and Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. The degree plan had nothing to do with what I do now, but it affects everything I do. The Bachelor’s degree affects the knowledge of my faith, which plays a big part of the business I am in. The Master’s degree shapes the way I look at the world. It also helps with managing employees and dealing with artists.

    What has been useful about higher education is that it taught me how to think, not how to do a job. It was the beginning of ongoing education. Is it directly applied? No, but it affects my job in a secondary way.

    Do you meet many famous musicians? Do you ever feel nervous or intimidated by them?

    I have met many, many famous musicians. Some of them include my good friend Amy Grant, Kenny Loggins, and Dan Fogelberg. I remember playing in my band and seeing people like the Clash and KISS coming in to watch us!

    When I was younger, I used to be nervous around a lot of famous people. Many musicians have so many opportunities available to them because of their profile, but the more time I spent around them, the more I found out they were real people. I am not intimidated now by meeting famous musicians, but I do find myself in awe of their talent sometimes, like being around Michael McDonald. Aaron Neville and I were recently working together on a project, and when he opened his mouth to sing, it just blew me away.

    Did you follow a specific career path to get where you are today (i.e. internships, college degrees)?

    I wish I could say I was smart enough to plan the path, but I wasn’t. I do believe that there was a path to where I am now, but I was not cognizant of it at the time. When I was seven, I lived in London right across the street from Paul McCartney. I listened all the time to my parents Herb Alpert records, and listened to the radio all the time, too. London was really hopping at the time.

    I learned how to play guitar and played music for a while, but I didn’t think I could make a living making music, so I got into the business world. I went to work for a marketing company in Chicago that produced concert tours. Then I went to Word, which was also in music. So although it was not necessarily a deliberate choice, I always went down the music path in business.

    Do you have a current project or album you are working on at the moment?

    The major project is in conjunction with World Youth Day (a worldwide Catholic youth rally in Rome). As part of helping sponsor World Youth Day, we are putting out a CD made up of various artists (Aaron Neville, Sixpence None the Richer, Burlap To Cashmere) called “One.” The objective of the project is to significantly expand and broaden our existing market. This is great because it will introduce our artists to a new audience. This is something that has consumed a lot of time, but is something that I am very passionate about.

    We are also working on concerts and Web casting associated with the activities in Rome. Other projects include CD packages for Phil Keaggy and Kelly Minter. Also, getting ready for producing a new Jaci Velasquez video. We are producing a showcase for the New Orleans Gospel Music Workshop America.

    What roles and responsibilities do you see the music industry having in society?

    First and foremost, music’s role in society is for entertainment purposes. The thing is, music has the opportunity to make its producers responsible for its content. Music can send a powerful message, both positive and negative, to its listeners. Music itself is powerful because it can transcend language. You can listen to music from any region of the world and appreciate it. But the lyrics can also have a powerful influence. It is up to us to decide on what message we want to send.

    If you could choose a different career outside of the music industry, what would you do?

    I would still do something in a creative capacity in a creative business. I love to travel and see the world, so I would like to do something on an international scale. Perhaps something that could incorporate a creative capacity in an international setting.

    What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career like yours?

  • Work hard.
  • Get familiar with a number of different disciplines, something with a general feel.
  • Be prepared to pay your dues. Remember, a lot of people want to work in the music industry.
  • Be willing to sacrifice a lot, expect less money, and work long hours.
  • Develop good relational skills when talking with other people; many executives in the record industry have outgoing personalities.
  • Recommended areas of study to become a record label executive would be business, law, and music.
  • The important thing, though, is to have that passion for music. You need to be able to know music and know talent. If you don’t have that passion for music, you have no business being in the industry.


    1. HEART OF EVERY MAN: Gabriel's Harp
    2. AIN'T IT GOOD: Salvador
    4. IT'S ALRIGHT: Winans Phase 2
    5. THERE IS STILL A DREAM: Aaron Neville and Rachael Lampa

    Click on a track name to play the clip.
    For more information about this artist and album, click on the icon below.
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