2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Music Executives Share Their Wish Lists

Like the rest of us, music executives have spent the bulk of 2020 in quarantine. Used to frequenting concerts and conferences as well as traveling for tours and promo, they had to adapt this year to a new normal of Zoom calls, rescheduled events, and taking inventory on new business. It was a year for reflection and pause, which no doubt has affected Q4 celebrations.

With the holidays in full swing, Billboard tapped execs from across the industry — including individuals at Netflix, Spotify, TikTok, Peloton, AWAL, EMPIRE, Universal Music Group and more — to get a sneak peak at wish lists this year. Below are some of the innovative, music-inspired gifts currently saved in the carts of top industry leaders.

FASHION

Masks are popping up on wish lists this year due to sheer urgency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Julie Gurovitsch, talent executive and music booker for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” points to artist designs created to benefit Crew Nation, which also includes a bespoke face-mask ($15). The fund “provides global relief for live music crew members,” she says. While Spotify’s head of creative artist partnerships Ashley Graver suggests masks from Hedley & Bennett ($22-$45) for their “style and comfort.” The company donates one mask to first responders and front-line workers for every mask purchased. “[Owner/founder] Ellen Marie Bennett spoke to the Spotify music team during one of our Zoom happy hours over quarantine,” she says. “I fell in love with her story of building the business.”

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Activewear and loungewear are also reflected: Peloton svp music Gwen Bethel Riley selects the company’s reversible Sherpa Vest  ($248) “in Deep Green Metallic and for cooler weather in L.A. and hitting the slopes in style this ski season,” she says, while TikTok music, label partnerships’ Brandon Holman opts for the OffHours’ ultra cozy Homecoat ($295) that’s “more than just a robe” and perfect “for the indoors and meant to be worn all hours of the day,” he says. LaTrice Burnette, president of 4th & Broadway and an evp at Island Records, is a fan of UGG’s classic Slippers ($100), which she calls “complete euphoria.” “There is nothing like the feeling of slipping your feet into a pair of UGGS,” she says. “The sheepskin lining is so comfortable.” Meanwhile Martha Earls, owner of EFG Management (Kane Brown), has a “good pair” of Vince cashmere jogger pants ($195) in mind, because “we still have a few more months of comfy clothes before we have to wear belts again,” she says.

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TECH

Music professionals have their fingers on the pulse of the intersection between music and tech, with many items this year a nod to that connection and highlighting the latest in futurist and cutting-edge goodies. AWAL’s head of A&R Pete Giberga is drawn to the Eero 6 wifi system ($229), which ups internet speeds in his “crowded household with lots of devices working at once,” he says. EMPIRE’s vp of A&R Tina Davis is betting on Amazon’s Alexa Talk Socket, a mobile accessory that provides Alexa or Google Assistant hands-free. “My nieces and nephews have Androids. Need I say more,” says Davis. “Siri please order two Alexa Talk Sockets. Ok three. One for me!” She also notes free selfie auto tracker app TikTrak as a must to enhance social media visuals. “I figure if I get this gadget, I will not have to hold the camera while they take 1,000 shots for just one video or picture.”

“The Tonight Show” talent executive Julie Gurovitsch says the best purchase she’s made during the pandemic has been the Ember mug ($129), a “self-heated rechargeable smart mug, which keeps hot beverages at your ideal temperature for up to 1.5 hours,” she says — “a godsend for slow coffee drinkers like myself.” EFG’s Martha Earls is already planning for travel to resume in 2021, citing LeanTravel’s Compression Packing Cubes luggage organizers ($24-$37) which help to “compartmentalize everything you have so you can fit a lot more in your suitcase,” she says.

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GEAR

Many professionals in the music industry are often former or current musicians themselves, which is why music equipment tends to find its way onto many wish lists each year. Jake Posner, Hallwood’s svp of A&R and manager of Arizona, reintroduced himself to DJing during the pandemic after early years spent spinning for his fraternity. He’s into the Pioneer DDJ-400 with Rekordbox ($249) as a “great buy for anyone looking to start back at the basics,” he says. Peloton’s Gwen Bethel Riley also jumped on researching turntables for her home office while in quarantine, and is opting for the Sonos Five speaker ($495) which “looks dope” and is also “app controlled, easy turntable compatible and a great solution for a smaller hi-fidelity sound space, customized audio,” she says. And for anyone wanting to “give the gift of tone,” music supervisor and Noise/Racket founder Brienne Rose (“Search Party,” “Russian Doll”) says DIY guitar effects pedal and electronics kits service Build Your Own Clone is a safe bet. “DIY is in, and they make the best pedals and effects kits,” she says. She also recommends local L.A. record store High Fidelity for “hand-picked vinyl, great selections and awesome people,” she says. “I’ve found everything from the Best of Roy Orbison to Platters records, to a super cool low-key Christmas album with a 1981 Christmas song by Suicide — yes, that exists.”

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For other audiophiles on your list, Netflix’s director, music marketing, Andy Lykens suggests Akai’s MPC Live II ($1,199), an all-in-one portable studio which he describes as “like sticking killer speakers and an audio interface on an iPad and your only app is a digital audio workstation (DAW),” he says. “Well-known by the beat-producing crowd, I’ve been using it to tinker with mix-meter jazz fusion and I find it surprisingly flexible for the genre.” He suggests taking a quick online tutorial to get a feel for the basics. “Think I can get Santa to bring me a vocoder this year?” he asks. While 4th & Broadway’s LaTrice Burnette offers Sade’s THIS FAR vinyl box set ($179), which contains remastered versions of the legendary band’s six studio albums on pure 180-gram heavyweight black vinyl. “Who wouldn’t want Sade’s complete discography on vinyl? The ultimate vibe,” says Burnette.

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HEALTH/WELLNESS

To curb work-from-home fatigue, many wellness items are popping up this year: AWAL’s Pete Giberga has his eyes set on the Concept 2 rower ($900), dubbed the world’s best selling indoor rower, as it “sets the standard and engages the most important muscles in your body,” he says. Netflix’s Andy Lykens is a fan of Power Yoga ($22/month, $180/year), an online program for the practice that offers “direct and simple — not easy —  routines that are challenging in the moment, and a great way to tune into yourself,” he says. Introspection is also a by-product of isolation: TikTok’s Brandon Holman included the Best Self Journal ($31), a 13-week goal planner, on his wish list. “New Year’s resolutions are always challenging to maintain,” he says. “This goal setting journal is a great way to plan and track your progress.”
4th & Broadway’s LaTrice Burnette suggests a gift certificate to one of her go-to New York City locales, Vanessa Marc Spa which offers facials, skin rejuvenation, laser and body treatments and “will revive your drive, whether you can spare an hour or devote an entire day,” she says. “Their oasis is designed to pamper and refresh you, but also to help you discover personal solutions for optimal well-being.” Burnette is also eyeing the Peloton Bike+ ($1,895) which is a “great way to get your workout in while remaining productive, since everyone is now working from home,” she says. EFG’s Martha Earths  “really wants” the treadmill version, the Peloton Tread+ ($4,295). “It’s my expensive, big ticket item,” she says. “I’m more of a runner than a cyclist.” To go along with it, she’s also asking for a Theragun ($599) — which provides deep muscle massage treatment for sore muscles — and products from Sweetwater Labs, a local company she discovered while in New York City last year. “Their Miracle Healing Salve ($30) is for dry, winter skin and it completely eradicates that and is all natural,” she says. “They also have rose petal face oil ($40). All of that winter skin that happens in New York, totally gone.”

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DÉCOR & HOME

With homes becoming both dwellings and places of work this year, design embellishments also run rampant on holiday lists: Gurovitsch swears by Cereal Magazine’s striking City Guides photo diary series that spotlights Copenhagen, Paris, London, Sydney and others. “I like to say that I work to travel,” she says. “These make for chic coffee table books and provide me with a momentary brain vacation.” Noise/Racket’s Brienne Rose suggests a virtual online shopping session with Folklore Santa Fe, which offers “hand-crafted, ethical and sustainable pieces,” while Netflix’s Andy Lykens lists Bright Black Candles’ limited edition IDA candle ($35), which is dedicated to Ida B. Wells, a “feminist activist and one of the many black women who fought for the right to vote,” he says, and commemorates 100 years of Women’s Suffrage. “[Music marketing manager, Netflix] Jackie Shuman on my team gave me the tip.” TikTok’s Brandon Holman is hoping for a black tea Edition Candle ($68), from luxury hotel chain Edition Hotels, which contains their signature scent — a blend of citrus, smoke, chocolate, pepper and floral notes. “Miss traveling? Bring the scent of your favorite hotel to your home,” he says.

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Elsewhere EMPIRE’s Tina Davis cites Fresko’s V8 food vacuum sealer ($99) as a new find that helps “food and wine last longer in the fridge of freezer,” she says, while Hallwood’s Jake Posner is concerned about his work-from-home set-up, selecting the Everlasting Comfort Office Memory Foam Under Desk Foot Rest ($33) and a bottle of Jose Cuervo’s Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo ($199) — his “big brother/CEO Neil Jacobson’s gift of choice,” he says — for Zoom happy hours. Spotify’s Ashley Graver is a fan of personalization, pointing to custom flower arrangements or homemade care packages from Matriarch LA — which is “owned and run by a bad ass female & mom of two named Kelsey,” she says — cheese boards from Lady & Larder ($50-$90), which was a recommendation from her boss, Spotify’s Marian Dicus — and Veuve Clicquot’s “retro chic” limited edition Clicquot Tape Collection inspired by the 1960s. “I love that it comes in a box that is multi-purposeful and a collectible,” she says.

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CHARITABLE CAUSES

Activism is at the top of mind for the industry in 2020 as well. Peloton’s Gwen Bethel Riley is suggesting family and friends support the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation who do “critical work to support music programs in our schools through the purchase of their holiday cards or e-cards,” she says. Noise/Racket’s Brienne Rose suggests making a donation in someone’s name to Angel’s Heart Dog Rescue charity, a local shelter in Los Angeles, California.”[Owner] Janet Cook goes up and down the coast pulling high-risk dogs from shelters, to care for them and adopt them out to families,” she says. Netflix’s Andy Lykens is asking loved ones to “flex your allyship muscles this winter” with a donation to support the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization founded by Bryan Stevenson that “provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons,” he says. “Bryan penned ‘Just Mercy,’ an incredible book that taught me a lot about inclusion broadly, and the prison industrial system specifically.”

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