A Visionary Career in the Music Industry Recognized Along with Its Stars

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Sujata Murthy (right)  with her parents Leela and Nat Krishnamurthy and their grandkids Deven, Derek and Dylan (in back); her daughter Natasha next to her, mother-in-law Beverly Speiss (left) and sister Gita Murthy Cugley at the She Rocks Awards in January.  Photo: Anjani Lynn White

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  She comes from a creative and musically inclined family in the Bayou City and credits her parents with taking her along to concerts of some performers like Cheap Trick, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Elton John who have become icons of the Rock ‘N’ Roll era. And now, years after taking her first baby steps in the music industry, Sujata Murthy is tickled that she gets to work with these performers. Next month, for example, she’ll be on hand to watch Cheap Trick be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, along with the groups NWA, Chicago, Deep Purple and Steve Miller.

Just this past month, Murthy was honored at the 4th Annual She Rocks Awards held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on January 22, as part of the program of events for the annual convention of the National Association of Music Merchants, better known as NAMM. This year the convention drew almost 100,000 people in the music industry, including performers eager to give themselves a plug, from across the globe. Murthy is currently the Senior Vice-President of Public Relations at Universal Music Enterprises in Los Angeles. She is one of very few minority women to hold a top executive position.

The She Rocks Awards is run by the Women International Music Network and this year, along with Murthy, they honored international music icon Chaka Khan; acclaimed guitarist Jennifer Batten; Amy Heidemann of the chart-topping duo Karmin; Mindy Seegal Abovitzv, drummer and founder of Tom Tom Magazine; Cathy Carter Duncan, co-founder and CEO of Seymour Duncan; Becky Gebhardt and Mona Tavakoli, co-founders of the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls L.A. and members of Raining Jane; Leslie Ann Jones, Director of Recording and Scoring at Skywalker Sound; Mary Luehrsen, Executive Director of the NAMM Foundation; Leigh Maples and Pamela Cole, founders of Fanny’s House of Music; Crystal Morris, co-founder and President of Gator Cases and Chalise Zolezzi, Director of Brand Communications at Taylor Guitars.

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Sujata Murthy accepting her award at the event.
Photo: Kevin Graft

When Murthy got out of college with a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of Texas in Austin, she had little inkling that her career would head in the direction that it did. She worked in short-term jobs in various entertainment companies and then got her break with a job at Capital Records which was then run by Bhaskar Menon, a legendary figure in the music business and perhaps the only Indian in the management side of a large music multinational corporation.

He was a great influence and inspiration in her career as she rose through the ranks in the industry. She remembered a remarkable twist of fate in her business dealings with an executive at EMI records who was transferred to Dubai some years ago. When UMG acquired EMI, they finally met in person in Dubai, and then she learned that he had also been brought into the business by Bhaskar Menon!

Murthy made a change in 1999 by joining Universal Music Enterprises as a Senior Director, rising to Vice President and now Sr. VP of Public Relations and remains deeply involved in promoting the musical groups that UME has under its wing. In the past decade, with the advent of digital technology, she spends less time travelling to check out group performances and concentrates on media strategy and maximizing awareness for albums, tours and big launches, often visiting New York, Nashville, Miami and Austin (for the South by Southwest Festival). It also gives her time to see her parents, Nat and Leela Krishnamurthy who still live in Sugar Land, and who go often to meet her in LA and catch some performances. This explains Leela’s frequent FB posts with many legends like Englebert Humperdinck, Lionel Richie, Tom Jones, and Paul McCartney!

Over the years, Murthy has seen more Indian and Indo-Americans in the music business in the U.S. both as performers and in management. “There are more Indian artists collaborating with their counterparts in the U.S.,” she said in a telephone interview, “and some are including various cities in India as part of their tour stops. Most recently, Megadeth, who I’ve been working with for many years at Capitol and now at UME, had multiple shows in India including Shillong, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Kokata.  Another artist, the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden launched their one of their tours in Mumbai and documented that experience in their DVD Flight 666.”