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Chico State

Distinguished Alumna and Vice President of A&R at Universal Music Publishing Group Cristina Chavez

Distinguished Alum and and Vice President of A&R at Universal Music Publishing Group Cristina Chavez

In hindsight, requesting an interview with Cristina Chavez the morning after the Grammys was not great timing. The vice president of artists and repertoire (A&R) at Universal Publishing Group had a busy week, taking part in panel discussions, mixing it up with some of the world’s most talented musicians, and rooting for projects to win music’s biggest honors. She took the call anyway, and over the course of a 40-minute conversation, displayed the charm, wisdom, and humility that has keyed her success in the music business since her graduation from Chico State.  

“Relationship building is a big deal in this industry,” said Chavez. “It’s not about just knowing someone; it’s about building trust. You can only do that in a real way when you’re not scared to be who you are. People have to accept one another and build a relationship based on that.”

Chavez, who came to Chico State from the Bay Area, stepped on campus with a plan—to work in the music business. She never wavered.

“I actually had my whole life mapped out, starting with coming to Chico. I needed to get away from home, but not too far, and I knew Chico State had a good music program and that the business program was top tier,” Chavez said. “It worked out for me beautifully. The teachers were great, the school was great, and I learned a lot.”

She credits her Chico State peers and professors with encouraging her to be herself and helping instill the confidence she has in her social skills, a tool she uses every day.

“There aren’t too many places like Chico. It’s just a cool, fun town and I just felt allowed to really be myself,” Chavez said. “That helped me flourish and build on my confidence that I’ve taken with me into this business.”

Internships at KMEL Radio in the Bay Area and the TV network BET in Los Angeles while she was still in college proved especially formative for Chavez. After graduating, she parlayed her internship into a job at BET where she worked for five years before becoming the associate director of Rhythm & Soul at ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers). In 2020, Chavez started her own company, LD’s Collective Entertainment Group, Inc., and became senior vice president of A&R and management at Hallwood Media. And in March of 2022, Chavez became the vice president of A&R at Universal Publishing Group.

“My job is basically a salesperson,” she explained. “I’m selling songs, I’m selling writers, I’m selling producers, I’m selling sessions. So, a lot of it is knowing who to talk to and how to talk to them in a way that ensures you are on the same page and have the same goal, which is always to get on that top-100 radio.”

What does it mean to be recognized by Chico State as a Distinguished Alum?  

It means a lot to me because it gives me a chance to shine a light on a department that deserves credit for motivating me and helping me want to learn and do more. We may not be one of the big schools, but the teachers are outstanding and the education sets you up for success. It makes me proud to represent Chico State.

What professional and life advice would you give to students today?

In terms of professional advice, I would say to be a person of your word and follow through with everything that you say you’re going to do. People are always saying: ‘we should connect’ or ‘we should do this project or that.’ It never happens, though, because people will act like they want to put in the work, but they don’t actually really want to do the work. So, I always say follow through. If you see someone at a party, and you’re like, ‘we have to connect,’ follow through with that connection. Even if nothing comes up, at least you did your part and you’re providing proof that you’re a person who follows through. And that’s the kind of reputation you want to have.

As far as your personal life, I would say to remember that it isn’t rocket science. It’s about building relationships, maintaining relationships, and finding ways to be of service to others. When you’re doing those things, you’re using your time wisely.

How do you create positive change in the workspace and world?

I want to love where I’m at, not just be here. So, for me that means actively working to build team camaraderie, and mentoring. I mentor a few younger people in the industry, mostly women, and I try to feed into them as much as possible. I didn’t get much of that when I was coming up, but I want them to have a better experience.

I also want to create positive change in the world through music. Music changes people. It can change an opinion or spark an idea, or even prevent someone from doing harm to themselves or someone else.

Do you actively look for artists to work with who want to accomplish something deeper with their music?

I do. That’s a core value of mine, and it has been from the very start. Whenever I take meetings or I’m listening to the music, I’m always listening to the context and asking myself whether it’s something that will touch people and stand the test of time. I’m not in it for the trends and for what’s going to happen right now in this moment. There’s nothing wrong with that because those can be hits too. But I want something that’s going to stick and stay around for a long time. I want to love what they’re saying and be proud to know I was a part of something good that’s making a positive impact on peoples’ lives.