Kara DioGuardi balances songwriting, TV work

Mon Jan 4, 2010 9:39pm EST
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By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - It might be necessary to coin a new term to describe Kara DioGuardi: Rather than a multihyphenate, she's a mega-hyphenate.

The songwriter-producer-publisher-A&R executive-"American Idol" judge starts 2010 with a slate of songs to write, artists to develop and exasperated sighs to give fellow "Idol" panelist Simon Cowell.

In 2009, DioGuardi wrote songs for new albums from Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Miley Cyrus and Cobra Starship; in addition, as senior vice president of A&R at Warner Bros. Records she added J.R. Rotem's Beluga Heights imprint to the Warner roster. All of this came on top of her ongoing duties as co-owner of music publisher/management shop Arthouse Entertainment, which just signed hitmaker Mike Elizondo.

One reason for the stuffed-to-the-gills resume is DioGuardi's voracious interest in the music industry -- she started out as an administrative assistant at Billboard magazine 10 years ago -- but it's also a reflection of the ever-changing dynamics in the industry. Music executives now need vast reserves of business acumen to survive and a willingness to adapt to new opportunities. "Music has never been bigger," she says. "Music is huge. But the business is in trouble."

Billboard: What are your songwriting sessions like?

Kara DioGuardi: I have such a strange job. The other day I was in Nashville and I worked with Darius Rucker -- I'd never met him -- and we had that commonality because he's seen me on TV and he can be like, "Oh, you're cool," and I can be like, "I love your records." But it's basically, "Hey, nice to meet you, now take your clothes off."

You have to look for where we can come together as two people who have experienced similar things. There isn't a person in this world that hasn't had their heart broken, or fallen in love, or been hurt by or helped a friend. So you find that common denominator and you build from that.

Billboard: You went from writing songs for yourself to perform to writing songs for others to perform. What kind of transition was that?   Continued...