MBW’s Inspiring Women series profiles female executives who have risen through the ranksgh the ranks of the company, highlighting their professional journey – from their professional breakthrough to the higher responsibilities they now assume. Inspiring Women is supported by Ingrooves.
Last year, Doreen Schimk was appointed co-chairman of Warner Music Central Europe alongside Fabian Drebes, the duo claiming the first dual management of a major label in Germany.
Schimk left his previous position as general manager of media and brands at the company, after spending eight years as director of promotions and coordination.
Since assuming the co-presidential title, she tells us that she has focused on building a culture of belonging for artists and staff, as well as strengthening the label’s national activities. .
The fruits of this labor include the launch of Atlantic Records Germany, which focuses on German hip-hop. Schimk says, “We want this label to be a place for culturally relevant artists and to have more of an indie start-up mentality, rather than the typical major label approach.”
The artists have signed Atlantic Records The Germany that Schimk is passionate about includes German/Russian rapper Vero and Austrian talent Yung Hurn. “There’s a lot more to come – we’re about to negotiate with a lot of artists that I can’t talk about right now,” she adds.
Schimk also worked on launching an all-female rap songwriting camp, SHE, which took place in Berlin in mid-April. The week offered networking and mentorship opportunities to help improve the representation of women in hip-hop.
Prior to Warner, Schimk worked at Sony Music Germany for almost five years after starting his career as an intern at Edel Records in the promotions department in the late 90s.
She skipped college and instead spent her post-school years DJing before landing in New York in search of a career in the music industry. “Music was the only thing I was 100% passionate about,” she recalls. “It was always about music.”
Although she doesn’t speak English, Schimk landed a job in New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood at a bar, where she ended up serving drinks to Spike Lee, Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah.
She says: “It was a chic and trendy bar at the time, I was the only German waitress there and I kept saying, ‘My name is Doreen and I need a work.’ I realized that everyone wanted to get into the music industry and I had no idea what kind of education or training I needed to get.
Luckily, a friend in Hamburg informed her of an opening at Edel Records in Germany and within 48 hours of sending her CV, she returned home and started working.
Here we chat with Schimk about his career to date, gender equality in music, promoting German hip-hop on the world stage, and much more.
Through the different roles you’ve had in your career, have you learned the biggest lessons?
One lesson is that it’s good to have mentorship or people who are there to support you. I’ve always tried to surround myself with people who can support me or learn from. Also, it is very important to be passionate about the things you do as well as to be courageous and ambitious. Have an open mind and get out of your comfort zone, be open to new things and keep going.
“I have always sought to surround myself with people who can support me or from whom I can learn.”
You’re involved in running the all-female rap songwriting camp, SHE – can you tell me about the inspiration behind starting it?
Globally and locally, there is a lack of female talent in the business; artists, songwriters and producers. We believe, with Atlantic, Warner Music and Warner Chappell, it’s about networking. We live in a time where we have such a great opportunity to connect, not just through social media platforms, especially after two years of the pandemic.
So we are building a program where female artists and songwriters have the opportunity to get to know each other, learn from each other and support each other. As a brand, SHE could be the new home for female artists and the creative scene in Europe and around the world. I see it as a huge opportunity.
Aside from mentorship and community, what do you think could equal the gender balance in the music industry on the talent side?
Advance gender equality and inclusion. Inclusion is a very important thing that everyone should achieve and it is about being open regardless of our cultural background. Also, not just talk about it. I keep saying, “actions speak louder than words”. It’s the small steps that make the difference — doing things every day.
“[When it comes to gender equality in music]it’s the small steps that make the difference.
In the UK and the US, there has been quite a bit of action on the corporate side to bring more women into leadership positions in the music industry. Is this work reflected in Germany?
I think Warner mostly does a lot of work for gender equality. In our organization at the moment, we have almost 50% women and men [employees] at management level. There are several initiatives that we will push even further to make it clear that a lot of action is needed.
This year we’ve created the SHE songwriting camp, but we’re also developing a lot of different formats where women can talk about their issues, so I think we’re in a good place. But of course, there are a lot of opportunities that we have to take in terms of how we place a woman in terms of festival lineups and certain roles, for example.
German hip-hop has generally not done a good job of translating outside of its home country – how can it break through the language barrier and compete with powerful markets like the United States?
We see that every year, the rap genre is the most successful across Europe and especially in Germany. Of course the language barrier is there but I think there will be new ways [for it to break through]. Especially because we now manage DSPs and social media platforms globally – on the one hand they will focus on local rap, but on the other hand global music genres will have much more impact at worldwide.
Do you have any strategies that have proven to be particularly effective in promoting German music abroad?
Yes, of course, this is our signature strategy. But I can’t talk too much about what it’s like for Warner Music. There are individual things but I don’t really want to post them, I think they should be more subdued.
What are the biggest challenges that come with working in the music industry in Europe right now and how are you coping with them?
We really focus on our home market and see how TikTok is influencing new artists and songs and looking at how listeners engage with different genres. We’re in a very disruptive market situation, so it’s important to realize what’s in our market, what’s the topic that’s culturally impactful outside of global mega trends.
How about the most exciting development happening in the music industry for you today?
I think this goes beyond our traditional recording business – we are looking to explore new sources of revenue across all digitization, such as creating NFTs or avatars. Living in such a digital world now, there are lots of new ways to explore music and it’s fascinating.
What would you change in the music industry and why?
Advance gender equality and inclusion. The more inclusive we become, the more successful we will be.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps? Is there anything you wish you had known before starting your career?
Be patient with what you do and also be ambitious. I think it’s very important, whatever you do, but especially if you have the ability to change things — talk about it. It’s something I had to learn, it didn’t come naturally.
MBW’s Inspiring Women series profiles female executives who have risen through the ranksgh the ranks of the company, highlighting their professional journey – from their professional breakthrough to the higher responsibilities they now assume. Inspiring Women is supported by Ingrooves.The music industry around the world