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Def Jam director Christian Castro on how he networked his way into a career

There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned hustler, and that’s exactly what Christian Castro is.

The new Director of Label Catalog at Def Jam’s story inspires you to go get it however which way. With that distinctive title, Chris is in charge of cultivating streams around music that are 18 months or older.

Previously working for many other record labels including Warner, Sony, Roc Nation, and Columbia, Chris has learned many lessons along his journey that has prepared him for the role he assumes today.

Kulture Hub had the opportunity to sit down with Christian where he gave us more insight into his journey and how he’s navigated through the music management industry. Castro began his career in music working as an intern at Universal Music Group while in Graduate School pursuing a Masters Degree in Mass Communications.

From day one, he knew this is what he wanted to do. He explained,

“As soon as I walked in, I knew this is where I wanted to be! Everyone was in hoodies and sweats, no one had on a tie, and at that moment I just knew this was for me.”

During his time at Universal, Chris would always do more than what was asked, making sure to cement his work ethic to his new bosses and colleagues. He’d stay at the office as late as they’d let him, choosing to do it for no money but out of respect and passion.

As his time at Universal came to an end he found himself another internship at Columbia Records in which he admitted to me that he hated. However, he was still able to take some good from it. While on an errand, Christian ended up on an elevator with Monee Perry who was the Director of Digital for Roc Nation at the time.

One thing led to another, and before he knew it, Chris left Columbia and started interning at Jay Z’s Roc Nation.

“The thing about the Roc Nation internship was that the company was so new I was getting real tasks daily. I had to update the artist’ social media, I had to update the company’s website, even sometimes write articles for the Roc Nation page.”

Chris’ combination of active learning, likability, and relentless work ethic led him to a paid position at Roc Nation where he served as an assistant to Monee Perry and Alecia Smalls.

As Smalls and Perry moved on with their careers, this left Christian once again in search for a job. Around this time he was able to leverage his connections and called in for an interview at Island Def Jam.

Having some familiarity at Island Def Jam from Roc Nation, Chris landed the position. He spent about four years at Def Jam as a Digital Marketing Coordinator. Eventually, Chris left Island Def Jam and joined Sony Red.

Sony Red created an Urban Label under their umbrella in which Christian worked as the Digital Marketing Manager. With this addition to Sony Red still being in its infancy, all of the departments were one-man departments. Chris explained,

“My first week on the job I had to create and pitch a Digital Marketing Plan for Nick Cannon… Before sitting down with him and his manager I literally stayed in the bathroom from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. rehearsing what I was going to say.”

The whole experience at Sony was different from what Christian was used to at Island Def Jam. While at Sony, Chris sat down and pitched marketing campaigns to people like Salaam Remy and Kevin Lyles. This experience helped Chris go from not being the best at public speaking, to being the go-to guy at Sony Red whenever an artist was ever considering signing there.

After being at Sony only a few months, Chris made the decision to leave. While the experience was cool, he knew there was more he wanted to do. He decided to try his hand at entrepreneurship and work with clients on a freelance basis saying,

“At this time, I don’t have a job, however, I have all of these connections. As well as my friends Rahim Wright & Jesse Edwards who has started 740 Projects and that was doing REALLY well! So I said fuck it I’m gonna work for myself.”

As most entrepreneurs would say, Chris’ first year being self-employed was very testing and difficult. After the first year of moving and shaking at different events citywide, going to 2-3 a night, Chris became the go-to guy when you wanted to get an artist to give some credible looks at a label. His demand was so high he was turning down numerous artist weekly!

“I got to point in which I was turning down 6-8 clients a week… I used to go to events looking to meet certain people, then I became the guy people came to an event to meet.”

After testing the waters, Christian still felt like working with a label was his best route. Having so many connections and experience at this point, he knew his credentials were enough for a Director title at a label. After only applying and interviewing for about a month, he got hired as Director of Online Marketing at Warner Music.

This time, for him, it was challenging not only being reintegrated into a conventional workspace, but he also had some reservations,

“Going from working for yourself back to an office setting is weird, you have other people to consider when making decisions, you have a boss, your schedule is being made for you. As well as I have all of these connections that co-workers want me to share with them, CC them on emails, introduce them to so & so. It felt crazy to me, so at first, I was a little apprehensive.”

After only seven months at Warner, Chris was offered the opportunity to become the Director of Catalog at Def Jam.

He describes the opportunity to return to a place that gave him one of his first industry jobs, as well as somewhere in which he spent four years as irrefutable! “Of course the numbers made sense,” Christian said humorously.

Now working back at Def Jam, and having his clients outside of the label such as Joyner Lucas & Solo Lucci, when asked ‘What’s next?’ He said nonchalantly,

“I never plan ahead, I always live in the moment.”