Conde Nast music executive Ron Ubaldo: It began with an electric guitar

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Ron at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards: ‘I want to work with artists.’

Ron at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards: ‘I want to work with artists.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

When he was 13 years old, Ronald Ubaldo received an electric guitar as his confirmation gift. Today he is Director of Artist & Music Industry Relations for media titan Condé Nast. What he did with that Metallic Blue Fender Stratocaster must have been beyond incredible.

“They picked up on clues from my habits,” said Ron, 35, when interviewed by The FilAm.

He meant bingeing on MTV and alternative rock bands, like Nirvana, Green Day, and Oasis who permeated his consciousness. His father would take him to Sam Ash to choose a guitar so he could play like the bands he listened to. When he got his gift, his older sister teased, “You better play it.” At the time, an electric guitar was somewhat of a luxury for a confirmation gift. “Let’s just say it was probably worth two weeks of groceries,” chuckled Ron.

It was a “super meaningful gift,” he said in an interview with podcaster Mel Mendoza of the ‘Basement Billionaire’ podcast. “My family invested in me and my music as a hobby, and I took the ball and ran with it. From there it was like I’m gonna get lessons, I’m gonna join bands, start bands and start recording my music,” he said.

He’s been playing more than 20 years. Where his music landed, only Ron knows. “When you’re a creator,” he told the podcast, “Ninety-five percent of what you create goes in the archives, in the trash and the remaining 5 percent of what you create is your best stuff and you should focus on constantly improving and growing from that work.”

The Queens-born Ron studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in 2009 as a Music Business Management major. That fall, he joined Sony Music’s Global Digital Business team as an intern.

“Growing up I had this great idea about Sony Music. The artists I followed throughout my life came from Sony. Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, John Mayer, ACDC, Beyonce. Sony was number 2 market shareholder. Number 1 was Universal who had Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, etc.,” he recalled.

He was offered an internship position to work on marketing projects for Sony’s Legacy Recordings. Fresh out of school, he worked on the anniversary edition of albums of Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis and other artists of a certain age. After three months as an intern, Sony hired him as coordinator for digital accounts. Around this time, too, he met a pretty account manager of Malaysian Chinese ethnicity, who would later become his wife. Ron and Sophia were married last year.

With Chance The Rapper and ‘Entourage’ star Adrian Grenier. Below, with singer and songwriter Lorde

With Chance The Rapper and ‘Entourage’ star Adrian Grenier. Below, with singer and songwriter Lorde

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In 2015, he took on a senior leadership role at Urban Outfitters as Director of Music. In this role, he oversaw content strategy, music curation, creative marketing, and overall music business.

“My mom always gave me shit (about changing jobs), ‘why do you keep jumping around?’” laughed Ron in his podcast interview.

His mother, Grace, is a retired social worker. His father, Rolando, worked for the New York Transit Authority, as an engineer for the NYC bus system. He has two older siblings. His brother Roland works in law enforcement, and his sister Rachel is a systems analyst at Crayola. The Ubaldos remain very close. “We text each other every day.”

In July he joined Condé Nast, possibly one of the few Filipino American executives in the 109-year-old media organization known for magazine brands Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Pitchfork, Glamour, Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit and more.

He explained his role at Condé Nast: “It’s building a music strategy. It means knowing the most influential players in the industry – artists, artist managers, record label executives, publicists, and talent agents — knowing who they are and figuring out ways we can work with them on projects. We would love to be their most ambitious media partner while developing the Condé Nast brand.”

I asked if the A-Listers he met were aware he is FilAm. Ron shared how someone from Beyonce’s team had asked if he was Filipino. He laughed and replied “It’s my name and my looks.”

While he has made acquaintances and close friendships with many music celebrities, he has yet to meet fellow FilAm Bruno Mars who is being raked over the coals and accused of cultural misappropriation.

Music, declared Ron, is like a language. “No one owns it. You don’t have to be Latino to speak Spanish. It’s a vocal minority of people who are trying to take him (Bruno Mars) down because he is successful.”

Which brings him to his own experience in the music industry.

“When you first start as a Filipino in an industry that is predominantly white, a lot of people kind of pegged me to stay in the tech side of things or in finance, crunching numbers. I said no, I want to work with artists. I want to be on the creative side of things. It took me almost six years to break the mold. I’ve been in the music business going on nine years.”

Looking back, he would like to say his parents, “This is what I did with my life after you bought me that guitar.”

© The FilAm 2017

The Ubaldo family at Ron and Sophia’s wedding.

The Ubaldo family at Ron and Sophia’s wedding.

Ron and Sophia on the way to the altar.

Ron and Sophia on the way to the altar.

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