Jamaica was awash in music. It filled the air; the sounds of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were giving way to dancehall music. A young Jamaican girl, who ran like the wind, dreamed of Olympic gold.
Today, Candice Stephenson, JD ’11, rocks the L train from Brooklyn to the offices of Spotify in Chelsea. Hot Country, Today’s Top Hits, and Rap Caviar playlists are the likely soundtrack for the 25-minute ride. Gold, platinum, and diamond are the precious minerals of which dreams are made (in the music world).
While simultaneously completing her J.D., at Miami Law, Stephenson pursued a joint Master's degree in music business and entertainment industries in 2011. "The [entertainment law] course offerings at Miami Law provided a solid legal foundation which continues to guide me throughout my career," says Stephenson.
It has been a fascinating journey for the 31-year-old. The move from Kingston -- where cousins were like siblings -- to South Florida, where it was only mother and daughter -- was a huge adjustment. Settling into authentic understanding what it was to be an only child took a bit.
Stephenson replaced extended family for school activities and spent her middle- and high-school years considering running track (a sport she excelled in during her earlier years in Jamaica) but deciding she was too "prissy" to be outside and joined the cheerleading team. Her early interest in music opened a path to music and television production at her magnet high school and honed her skills behind the camera and on set.
"I was interested in television," Stephenson says, "but not the creative side."
At the University of Florida, she studied communications and television. She interned at a Caribbean music label working on radio promotions over her first summer. As a rising junior, she went to New York to intern for a music management company that represented the reggae fusion artist Shaggy. "I learned about managing an artist," she says. "It was a very exciting time. Shaggy was the first big Jamaican crossover musician since Bob Marley."
The summer internship turned into a longer term gig. Stephenson headed to the cold of New York when all her classmates were going south for breaks and holidays. As she became more involved in projects at Big Yard Music Group, she realized that all the people who were in positions of power had post-graduate degrees in law.
"They were running labels and networks and various publications," she says, "and they all had law degrees. Yes, you've got to understand the creative side, but to run these businesses, there are a lot of legal implications. And everyone has a J.D. or an M.B.A.
"While I'm not keen on the creative side, I appreciate what it takes. By the end of my senior year, I had decided to go to law school," she says.
Stephenson was looking for a very particular program, perfectly tailored to her goal. "I wanted IP and contracts, not tax and evidence. And Miami had the strongest program in Florida."
By her second year at Miami Law, she was excelling: as vice president of the Association of Caribbean Law Students, a CALI Award recipient, a member of the Entertainment and Sports Law Society, Dean's List, and business affairs director of Cat5 Music Publishing at the Frost School of Music.
Sheepskin in hand, Stephenson spent most of a year trying to foment a plan to conquer the entertainment industry before heading back to New York. “I knew that to succeed, I had to be in New York or Los Angeles.”
She gradually started in the business, first as a music publishing administrator reviewing licenses for the gambit of music catalogs -- from Hip-Hop to Bollywood. The next year she was a rights and clearances manager at Eastern/NFGTV, the media production that co-produced the VH1 reality television show, Love & Hip-Hop. She learned a lot but didn't love the work. In 2015, Stephenson moved to ABC News, where she found the content more interesting.
In May of 2016, she got a call from a recruiter at Spotify out of the blue through LinkedIn. The interviews went well, including with Horacio Gutierrez, J.D. `98, who had just arrived at the streaming music/video giant the month before as general counsel. She was hired as associate counsel of rights clearances.
At Spotify, Stephenson sets and maintains a process for handling all audio and video synchronization clearances, including negotiating, drafting and finalizing all synchronization agreements and related clearance agreements with rights-holders. She also works with the key contacts internally and with labels worldwide, and works in tandem with Spotify business teams, including Original Content and Label Relations, on global licensing and production release agreements. Another part of her job is to manage live sessions held at Spotify offices and other venues worldwide, including maintaining template audio and audiovisual agreements, and drafting and finalizing all related agreements.
"We are at the cusp of the mobile streaming revolution, the challenges that come with navigating often uncharted territory can be both frightening and incredibly rewarding. The scope of my job shifts often and there is never a dull moment," says Stephenson.
Watch Stephenson tell her story: