Photo by Yuri Hasegawa
Susan Genco ’88, copresident of Azoff MSG Entertainment in Los Angeles, which manages artists such as Gwen Stefani and Maroon 5, says that as unlikely as it seems, her long-standing career as a music executive began in Schneider.
“It’s really funny to think about that as a second-year at Wellesley, I was dealing with live music and music contracts and ended up in this position,” Susan says. The economics major became a DJ at WZLY and joined the Schneider Board of Governors, which was responsible for booking bands that came to campus. Susan had booked a band one spring to perform in the fall semester. That summer, the band had a hit, and their representative informed Susan they would no longer be able to perform. They didn’t bargain on the fact Susan wouldn’t stand for it.
“But I said, ‘We have a contract,’” Susan recalls. “Now I have this agent yelling at me, saying they wanted to get out of this commitment for their artist. I stupidly just kept saying, ‘But we have a contract!’” They performed, honoring the contract to the letter.
Standing on the other side of the music spectrum, Susan has a different perspective. “Now if that happened to one of my bands, I would have been on the phone and said, ‘They can’t come,’” she says.
Growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., music was always an important part of her life. “Music is what changed my life,” she says. “You didn’t have [the] internet, so that you didn’t understand when you’re growing up in a relatively smaller town, you don’t get the sense [that] there’s a huge world outside with people who don’t look like you,” she says. “It was music that made me realize the city I grew up in wasn’t representative of the whole.”
With a dream to live in New York, she took a job at Citicorp. “Music is what drove me, but I guess I felt that was a passion that you did outside of work,” she says. It wasn’t until her roommate brought up a career in music that she gave the idea any thought. “She said, ‘It’s not called the music music, dummy,’” Susan remembers. “‘It’s called the music business.’ There’s a whole industry around music. Frankly, it just hadn’t occurred to me.”
Through a Wellesley alum, she met an entertainment attorney who encouraged her to get a law degree. That led her to Harvard Law School. Right after graduating, she lucked into her big break: a job at Clive Davis’s label, Arista Records. She later landed in Los Angeles, where she became head of business and legal affairs at EMI North America, ran operations at Capitol Records, and later led business affairs at Warner Bros. Records. As the industry morphed, she adapted, running music and business affairs at Activision Blizzard’s Guitar Hero, a series of music rhythm games.
The mother of three later consulted for the likes of music mogul David Foster—that is, until Irving Azoff, CEO of Azoff MSG Entertainment, called. She’s now overseeing a company that manages artists from Bon Jovi to Meghan Trainor. Susan’s children have also influenced her personal taste in music, introducing her to Car Seat Headrest and Billie Eilish.
Reflecting on her career path, she says, “I decided I could contribute to music using the skill set I had, which was to be on the business side of the industry, and I’ve never looked back.”