John Smith Named Next Associate Director of Smithsonian Folkways RecordingsJohn Smith, who has over two decades of music industry experience, has been named the new Associate Director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, effective June 11, 2018. A division of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Folkways is the nonprofit record label of the national museum of the United States, distributing close to 60,000 recordings of American and international music in physical and digital formats to over 250 million people a year. Smith will replace Dr. Atesh Sonneborn, who announced his retirement after 20 years as the label’s much beloved Associate Director, becoming the third person to hold the position.
Director of the label Huib Schippers is delighted with the appointment: “We’re very fortunate to have someone of John Smith’s caliber and experience for this crucial position. John has a long history with Folkways across the areas that the Associate Director will oversee so he can hit the ground running. In addition, his experience and passion for A&R fit seamlessly in our future vision for the mission-driven non-profit label as a vital and vibrant presence in the contemporary music industry.”
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, honoring Folkways founder Moses Asch's mission to "document the people's music." The new Associate Director position reflects the label’s continued commitment to extend and reinterpret this legacy in the modern age, placing further focus on the expansion of its roster of living artists who embody the spirit of Asch’s mission.
Smith will oversee all key production and business processes of the label, from A&R to production, marketing, and sales, working closely with staff and stakeholders to further the mission and ethics of Smithsonian Folkways. He brings an extensive and broad knowledge of the music industry, including expertise in A&R, record label operations, business management, sales & marketing, distribution, and publicity & radio promotions. Prior to his new role as Smithsonian Folkways’ Associate Director, Smith applied his skills at numerous record labels and radio stations, in addition to founding the GRAMMY-nominated Free Dirt Records in 2006, which has released recordings of acclaimed artists such as Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge, Pokey LaFarge, Chumbawamba, Anna & Elizabeth, and Dori Freeman.
This is Smith’s second tour of duty at Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. His journey began in 1999 when he was hired as a marketing assistant. Between then and 2014, he served countless roles in the organization, including head of the sales department, international distribution manager, and manager of operations for the Sales & Mail Order division. Over the years, Smith produced and compiled numerous albums released on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and has worked under all three directors of the organization since Folkways Records was acquired by Smithsonian in 1987.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings team once again,” says Smith. “The label and everything it has done over the past 70 years—to educate and to give a voice to the often unheard—has greatly influenced both my professional and personal life. It is a deep honor and privilege to help steward the organization into the future. I’m looking forward to bringing in a new group of diverse, contemporary artists into the Folkways family, and working alongside my colleagues in furthering Moses Asch's vision.”