Over the past two decades, Jeremy Welt has turned his passion for exploring the intersection between creativity and technology into culture-transforming work that’s reshaped the music, social media, and video landscapes. As one of the first individuals to recognize the need to connect fans and artists via the Internet, his career spans building and scaling some of the first-ever artist communities to pioneering major technology shifts that revolutionized the way music is created, consumed, and sold. Also a trailblazer in the video world, Welt was the first to predict the role of video in disrupting music streaming, and identifying the audience-building power of YouTube, leading to being a key man in Disney’s historical acquisition of video producer/distributor Maker Studios. With an uncommon and visionary grasp of the landscape-altering potential of emerging technology, Welt continues to use his rare blend of business acumen, artistic sensibility, and technical savvy to guide today’s creative industries into a more dynamic future.
A classically trained violinist since the age of five, Welt, a Wisconsin native, moved to Los Angeles in hopes of kickstarting his music career, but soon landed a job at famed studio The Village Recorder. During his stint as an assistant engineer, Welt worked in studio alongside artists like Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor, whose computer-driven approach to production inspired him to buy a Macintosh and begin exploring creative technologies on his own. By 1994 he’d taken an internship at American Recordings, the Rick Rubin-helmed company that quickly gained prominence as one of the first record labels with an online presence.
In the late ’90s Welt moved on to Madonna’s Maverick Records, a joint venture with WMG. Welt’s role at Maverick allowed him to innovate with the spirit of an independent label, while still leading policy and influencing major-label business via the Warner Music Group. In his role as head of new media, Welt spearheaded the label’s digital presence and boutique marketing strategy with ground-breaking campaigns, such as the first legal secure digital downloads (Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited”), marketing partnerships with MP3.com and AOL, and proving the value of online community by delivering record-breaking fan votes for Michelle Branch on MTV. Welt also began his theme of using data to drive business by leading Maverick to become an early adopter of media tracking and technology company Big Champagne, which uses file-sharing data to understand consumer behavior and demand. Continuing to break new ground in a rapidly changing industry, Welt became vice president of new media at Warner Bros. Records in 2004, leading the digital marketing team’s efforts on more than 300 bands, identifying social platforms, and giving artists their first taste of how social media could further their careers. Welt turned social-media marketing into a revenue stream by playing a major role in building a direct-to-consumer marketing pipeline and platform within the label (a first-of-its-kind endeavor that fast grew into a $15 million business).
Welt’s tenure at Warner Bros. also included seizing on the creative and promotional possibilities of streaming, playing a major role in YouTube’s first commercial deal with WMG (pre-Google), redefining the role of the “music video,” as well as leading the label and its artists to integrate streaming services from Spotify, MySpace, and YouTube into their marketing and business strategy.
Realizing that he had reached the end of the road in his ability to impact the music business, Welt exited his role as Warner Bros. senior vice president of digital marketing and strategy in 2011 and laser focused his attention on YouTube’s ability to disrupt more than just the music business and focus on video, taking an early position as head of marketing for Maker Studios (then a start-up).
Over the next four years, the millennial-focused company experienced massive growth, in part due to Welt’s role at Maker, which included working with top talent and launching RPM — Maker’s developing talent network. Welt also applied his expertise at organic audience growth for the top brands in the world, helping lead them into the world of influencers and short-form video. This lead to Welt’s keyman role in the acquisition of Maker Studios, where he was tasked with driving the YouTube business for TWDC and using Maker’s platform to launch and market Disney brands, including Marvel Parks and Star Wars. Welt’s final move at Maker was to steer the company’s talent and business into social media for the next generation of video influences on Vine, Snapchat, and early pioneers on Facebook video. Maker’s monthly YouTube views shot from 250 million to 11 billion during that time, and in 2014 Welt helped steer the company’s $500 million-plus acquisition by Disney.
A frequent public speaker and conference panelist, Welt now serves as an advisor to several startup tech companies in VR and social spaces. He believes that not only is virtual and augmented reality the next platform shift to have a powerful creative impact and profoundly shake up the culture, he also feels his skill set puts him in the perfect position to shepherd this new medium into the mainstream. To that end, he has set on his sights on empowering the creative, building communities, and bringing audiences together.