Laurent Hubert, Rock ‘n’ roll pilot with license to fly, new media navigator, music manager,
brand leader, change & turnaround initiator. Ideas amplifier and top talent collector.
President Creative & Marketing, BMG Chrysalis, New York City.
I love flying
It's inspiring and peaceful at the same time. Even though you need to be 100 percent focused on your instruments and make a lot of decisions, I find it relaxing. It frees up my mind, and I love seeing the world from above. Being at 30,000 feet and watching the sun slowly go down between the clouds – there's something magical about that. It's beautiful, Laurent Hubert enthuses when asked about his favorite pastime.
Whenever the music expert's varied day job allows him, he hops in the cockpit and takes to the sky. The ambitious amateur pilot is a man who's always got his hands on the controls, both at home and at work.
It's very important for me to strike the right balance between work and leisure, as I tend to be something of a workaholic.
He says his work at the music rights publisher BMG Chrysalis in New York gives him complete satisfaction, and thinks that might be why he has trouble tearing himself away.
I love the fact that my days are so varied and unpredictable. And I meet so many different people – it's extremely enriching.
As BMG Chrysalis' Creative and Marketing President for North America, it is his steady hand that guides the music rights publisher through these turbulent times.
We live in an age where companies are having difficulty coming to terms with how music consumption is changing.
This process began 15 years ago with the launch of the music exchange platform Napster. Back then, Hubert says, people still bought music – now they just consume it.
Music has become like water. It's everywhere. Our job is to make this water valuable and shape it into an appealing entertainment product that people want to enjoy, he believes. Hubert sees the key to success in the art of understanding the consumer's relationship to music – how they buy and use it. Instead of buying songs on tape or CD like they used to, people now buy access to music streams.
It's important to understand and anticipate this trend.
The French-born music supremo's route to the Bertelsmann Corporation was not the most direct:
I grew up in Paris and studied Business in France. When I came to New York in 1989 I worked in a completely different sector. After eight years, Hubert decided his career needed a new boost, and took another degree in Finance and International Management. Two years later he started as an intern at BMG.
I'd always loved music, he says,
but I didn't know the first thing about the industry back then. Of course, he had heard of the Bertelsmann Corporation, but it was only after he had completed his internship there that he started to find out about the German publishing group for himself.
I noticed how widespread and varied Bertelsmann's influence was. They had an enterprising spirit, took the initiative and supported creativity. These were the reasons why he later made the conscious decision to work for Bertelsmann, even though he had had other job offers.
The amateur pilot's career took a leap forward five years ago with a permanent contract at Bertelsmann subsidiary BMG Chrysalis in New York.
I was the first and only full-time employee here – I was doing everything myself, recounts Hubert, reminiscing on this exciting time. His ability to make important decisions even when under pressure and always keep a cool head – just like in the cockpit – helped him a lot through this period. Nowadays, there are over 120 staff members on his team. Nevertheless, the successful Bertelsmann subsidiary still relies on its start-up mentality and the special corporate culture that made it a renowned rights marketer within the music industry.
I always tell my managers to treat their departments like their own little start-up. This helps them get the best out of the company, whether through good organization or the redistribution of tasks. It goes without saying that there are always new challenges, but Hubert remains confident that these can always be overcome with a calm approach, business expertise and a willingness to make the decisions that need to be made.
He doesn't think about stress when he's at work.
I'm a doer, says Hubert.
I love getting things done and crossing them off my to-do list, just like I would in the cockpit.
But maybe it's his morning walk to work that offers him the necessary relaxation.
I love New York in the morning. When the city has still not properly woken up and there are only a few people on the streets, I get a sense of wellbeing – and a little of power, Laurent Hubert says of his adopted home.
You can already feel the special energy of the city: Like water when it's bubbling, just before it starts to boil properly. You know that the city's energy levels are rising, before falling again at the end of the day. It's a great feeling to experience each day anew. He truly discovered the metropolis for himself. Above all, it was the museums like the MoMA and the Metropolitan that got him hooked, he says. In winter, when the weather's too bad to fly, he likes to spend his time either there or watching concerts.
I like John Mayer. He's a great artist and songwriter. I love his songs – his music and lyrics really speak to me.
When Hubert looks back over his career, he feels a sense of pride and gratitude.
I've been extremely lucky to be able to work with people who have taught me a lot, and not just seen me as a source of competition. He enjoys passing this ‘luck’ on to his employees:
Don't be sloppy, don't be lazy. Use the extra hours to learn. If you do that, you'll find your path. Unfortunately, people have a habit of staying in their comfort zones. It drives me crazy – just like spelling mistakes!
In fact, he sees a willingness to learn as an important – if not the most important – key to a successful career. And he still believes he has a lot to learn himself.
I want to keep educating and challenging myself in the future. I want to keep working on our success, even if that might be in a different way than today. I love this industry, and I'd find it very difficult to leave.
And the passionate amateur pilot isn't ready to give up his flying hobby, either.
I love visiting new places, and I definitely want to fly to Martha's Vineyard sometime, Hubert says. As they say in the world of aviation: