Written by: Stef Juan | Photography: Mau Mauricio
In the ever-evolving entertainment industry, especially in the recording business, the only constant is change. In the case of Kathleen Dy-Go, Managing Director of Universal Records, it’s being constantly ready to face the challenges that changes bring to both the company and in her own growth as a leader.
“The key to success is the ability to adapt to change,” Kathleen declared. “Embrace all challenges. Running a business is not easy. Just because you come to an obstacle that seems insurmountable, you immediately give up.”
It runs in the family
Though Universal Records is one of the labels from the recording company Kathleen’s father, Dr. James Dy, founded in the 1960s, Kathleen did not take her position in the company lightly.
Finishing a stint as a trader after college to see what it was like outside the family business, Kathleen joined Universal Records as the Marketing Director of its Printing Division in 1996. Even while working, she took a Business Administration course in Ryerson Polytechnic University in Canada. In the nine years she was Marketing Director, she initiated the company’s groundbreaking marketing campaigns for the biggest international artists of that time like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, as well as for local music icons Gary Valenciano and Jose Mari Chan.
The year 2005 brought in a new challenge when her sister Bella Dy Tan, Universal Records’ Managing Director at that time, passed away. Kathleen had to step up to fill Bella’s shoes in the company as the new Managing Director. “Establishing oneself as the new head and gaining the confidence of our artists and the industry was an extremely challenging proposition,” Kathleen shared. But she stayed true to the goals that she set for myself. Under her leadership, the record label built and expanded its artist portfolio and successfully marketed its products. “Our results gave us the confidence and respect to take Universal Records forward.”
There is no “I” in Team
Kathleen’s level of confidence in the talent of the people under Universal Records’ wing is something to behold . She is proud to share that her marketing and digital team are made up of younger professionals who have their fingers on the pulse of trends in music, digital tech, and social media. “Surrounding yourself with the youth, being accepting of anything that is of interest to them is essential to surviving in this industry,” Kathleen continues.
In recent years, even until now, the recording industry is experiencing another major disruption due to the digitalization of its product: Music. “However,” Kathleen said confidently, “this is one thing we had seen coming and planned for.” She adds, “It’s still a challenge, but with a strong digital team in place, I believe that Universal Records is poised for more successes in the future.”
Another key to how Universal Records has stood the test of time is the relationships Kathleen has established with the heads of other major labels. She makes them her friends, or even rekindles old friendships. “Never burn bridges with anyone,” she advised. “At the end of the day, you’ll be the ones helping each other. It’s a small industry now.” Gone are the days of intense competition between labels. It’s all about collaboration and working towards growing the industry they’re all in.
Risks and rewards
Kathleen is not one to rest on her laurels but continues to recognize that success comes with taking risks on talent and people, especially in the music industry. “And sometimes, it really is a shot in the dark,” she said. “You really need to have confidence in the talents of your roster.”
And it’s easy to measure the success from the risks that Kathleen and her team have been taking. She points to digital platform downloads or views of each artist. Sometimes, it is also measured by the prestige of a particular project. “For example,” she said, “ when one of the songs of our artist rapper Shanti Dope was contracted for a Marvel project, or if one of our artists is able to do well internationally as in the case of Christian Bautista in Indonesia.”
Despite the naysayers, Kathleen continues to be bullish about the future of the music industry. “As you can see,” she points out, “There are still musicians who are able to successfully carve out their own niches within the industry.”
When she started with Universal Records, Kathleen’s goal was to elevate the music industry by marketing and promoting talented musicians. In order to achieve that goal, she had to run a professional and profitable business. No matter how much has changed since she started with the company 26 years ago, her goals today remain the same, even if the methods and technology have changed because the entertainment industry is continuously evolving. Should new challenges come — and they will — Kathleen is ready to take them on.