With Gayles ‘Abcdefu,‘ Kara DioGuardis Run as a Top A&R Executive Enters Third Decade

Since founding Arthouse Entertainment in Los Angeles with business partner Stephen Finfer, Kara DioGuardi has approached her roster of songwriters, producers and artists with a laser focus on what she says the industry needs: “Good ole artist development.”

Through Arthouse, which began as a publishing company for DioGuardi’s own song catalog, and her recently launched app, Briidge, the Grammy-nominated artist matches music creators based on their skill set, sound, location and personality, a human algorithm she sharpened while serving as a judge on “American Idol” in 2009 and 2010.

Arthouse Music Publishing and Records, for which DioGuardi is CEO, has equity in tunes by Bruno Mars, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, Halsey, Eminem, Florida Georgia Line and now Gayle, with the double-platinum Grammy-nominated “Abcdefu” finishing out 2022 at No. 15.

“Abcdefu” struck a nerve as a song that captures the all-too-human emotion of telling an ex to get lost, territory DioGuardi — the recipient of Variety‘s Hitmakers A&R Award — has explored in her own songwriting (she has written hits for Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Underwood, Jason Derulo, Gwen Stefani and more). Look no further than 2006’s “Walk Away,” a hit for Clarkson. 

“I wrote so many breakup songs. So this was to help Gayle bring her anthem about what it’s like to have your heart broken, but also to be empowered by it, into the world,” says DioGuardi.

DioGuardi discovered the singer-songwriter when she was just 14, and she felt a responsibility to let Gayle take her time to find her voice — an A&R skill DioGuardi honed in the 25-plus years she’s been in the industry, starting out as an assistant at Billboard. DioGuardi says that decision led to “Abcdefu.”

Released via a joint venture DioGuardi has in place with Atlantic Records, the song gained a wide audience on TikTok even as it was being formed, with Gayle soliciting lyrics from her followers on the platform during the pandemic. Then came support from the ASL community, which used “Abcdefu” in thousands of creator videos. Radio jumped on soon after, and the song has logged more than 467,000 spins to date. 

While social platforms crucial for music discovery give the illusion of overnight success, DioGuardi maintains that artist development is critical. “While TikTok can be a great resource for new artists to get the attention of executives inside the music industry, going viral doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to be signed to a record label,” she says. “At the end of the day, artists have to have great songs from a unique perspective and be compelling performers. That takes time and hard work.”

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