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International

Contrary to popular belief, the international department is not responsible for foreign artists in the U.S. In fact, it's just the opposite. The international department at a U.S. label (which is understood as the domestic label for our example) shepherds U.S. releases through the release and marketing process in all other countries around the world from Canada to Singapore. Everything that happens around a record's release domestically happens the same way around the world. Major record companies are equipped with satellite offices that release albums in virtually every country. The label infrastructure is virtually identical to the U.S. in each territory, albeit on a smaller scale. The International Department consists of a marketing team of between two and 10 people who escort each record through its international release, similar to the way a product manager works in the U.S. Each International Product Manager works in direct coordination with their counterparts in other territories. An international product manager is assigned to every project that has an international release anywhere outside the U.S., even if it's limited to Canada. Each product manager maintains a roster of artists and is responsible for keeping all the other territories apprized of the U.S. release schedule. Each individual country dictates its own release schedule, but relies heavily on the international product managers to inform them and update them on all news from the U.S. Obviously, not every record gets released in every country. It is the responsibility of the international department to constantly communicate with the labels around the world to review the release schedule. They introduce new artists and new albums from established artists to the rest of the world. And collectively, decisions are made about releases, scheduling and timing. Of course, there are cultural differences and musical idiosyncrasies that factor into these decisions. The U.K., for example, generally doesn't do well with country or southern rock. By the same token, a rock album that doesn't perform very well in the states may be absolutely huge in Japan. For the most part, superstar artists are simultaneously released around the world. In the case of most new artists, however, international releases are scheduled after a foundation has been built in America. A new artist may initially release a debut album domestically. Not before a story develops and airplay and sales begin to increase are additional territories interested. Canada is likely the first country raise an eyebrow to a new release because so much of the culture and media is shared with the U.S. When a foreign territory decides to release a record, the international product manager literally ushers the project through the system. First, in order to manufacture the product, each territory needs basic elements from the international department: album music (masters), artwork (original films), single edits (masters), photos (original slides and prints) and more. Secondly, to properly promote the release, each territory also needs information from the international department: bio's, radio and video airplay information, sales stories, publicity updates, touring updates and any other pertinent U.S. info that tells the success story. Because all countries in the world do not operate on the same schedule for a specific release, the international product manager has a rough job of accommodating all the requests from around the world for the artist's time. If the U.K. company requests an artist for two weeks of press and promotion, Japan needs a week for the same purpose around the same time, and the artist is considering a tour in the U.S., the international department has to work around all requests. Never forget that there is a budget for international promotions, and those international promotional trips, events, and efforts can be costly. Furthermore, depending on your label's corporate structure, these international budgets will come from different places. You (or more likely your manager) must be aware of the label's marketing budget and financial structure for your international marketing and insure that it is being spent and coordinated wisely. Sometimes outside territories wish to release different singles from what other territories release. They also often ask to alter the artwork slightly or do their own photo sessions for exclusivity purposes. Sometimes certain countries have problems with certain logos or song titles for cultural or political reasons. It is the job of the international department to try to accommodate and appease each nation. Each territory has individual requests that need approval above and beyond what has already been approved for the U.S. So, the international department spends a lot of its time chasing approvals and OK'ing "deviant" requests from foreign territories. The tools the international product manager has to work with are only the tools that the domestic product manager provides. Sometimes these need slight alterations to oblige foreign territories. It's invaluable and extremely helpful when artists and managers are cooperative, giving in to cultural differences and approving requests that come from other countries. After all, each territory asks for specific things for a reason: they know their countries.
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