Kat Cole is the coolest president of a $1 billion company
Too often, EDM fans in the United States are unfairly stereotyped by the mainstream media as being an out-of-control, young crowd. However, as we all know, this music brings together people from all walks of life. This was no more apparent than when I struck up a conversation with the President of Cinnabon last week. Through that conversation, a new weekly article was born: “Someone You Might Not Expect To Listen To EDM.”
It is only fitting that Kat Cole, the President of Cinnabon, is the first subject of our new weekly series. Despite her whirlwind schedule as the head of a billion dollar company, she took some time to talk with EDM.com.
In order for you to get an idea of Cole's current responsibilities, I asked her to briefly describe what her job entails: "President of Cinnabon, Inc. Yes…that Cinnabon. 1200 franchise locations in 54 Countries, Licensor and Developer of Cinnabon Branded Products in 60,000 Points of Distsribution. $1 Billion in total global consumer product revenues. Co-Founder of Changers of Commerce. Author/Blogger/Social Media junkie. Investor and Advisor for StartUps and Franchises." Cole's leadership has produced amazing results, and it led to Fortune placing her on their popular "40 Under 40" list last year. Also, she appeared on the CBS show Undercover Boss in 2012.
During her previous job at Hooters, she was tasked with helping open up new restaurants around the world. Before traveling to Sydney, Australia to open up restaurants, she had a much different taste in music. “Up until then, I was pretty much into rock and reggae growing up as a teenager in Jacksonville, FL. I was a competitive cheerleader and dancer, so even back in high school I fell in love with the pure “pop/rappish/dance” tunes – you know, those old school jams that get played in stadiums like (pause for effect….don’t laugh) 'Pump up the Jam', and remember… Jock Jams… 'y'all ready for this?'"
However, Hooters' decision to send Cole to Sydney proved to be something that would influence her for the rest of her life. She says, “I went to Sydney when I was 19 and 20 for work to help open restaurants, and it all changed. When I had a few nights of free time there over the several weeks we were there, I had a chance to check out some local clubs. I heard Olive, SASH!, Oakenfold and iiO for the first time. I fell in love with the clubs, the culture, the music and all the positive vibes that came with it. I was so young, but was like that music tapped into the inner expression that had been brewing for so long, but that hadn’t been given a language. It’s hard to explain, but I’m guessing the EDM audience understands. I went straight to Tower Records in Sydney and bought every CD I could in that category. Oakenfold, Digweed, and Olive were the biggies–some hardcore dance, others a little more trancy and a few mixes, some more of a groove/pop/dance fusion that seemed to combine where by music taste was coming from with where it was going. That may be a little deep for some…I digress.”
That fateful trip to Sydney would set the stage for Cole's continued love for dance music. Her job meant that she was constantly traveling around the world, which allowed her to experience the music scenes in numerous international cities. She says, “I remember going to Buenos Aires and Toronto for work, and when I would hang out with the locals, they would take me to their local clubs, and I realized just how broad the Electronica segment was. By the early 2000s, I realized that this music and wherever it was, was where I wanted to be. As I traveled and enjoyed dance clubs, I heard Telepopmusik, Daft Punk, Dirty Vegas, Lasgo, BT, Encore.”
Eventually, the dance music that Cole loved so much made its way to the United States. One particular night stands out in her memory: “I remember going to Dallas and meeting some new friends and going with them to a local dinner event and night club – there, I heard Ferry Corsten’s "Fire" and "Stardust"–I think I lost my mind. It was no longer just my music when I traveled internationally, it had become my music everywhere. Whether it was downtempo trancy stuff, or uptempo house, I pretty much loved it all – and I loved the energy that came with the people who also loved it. "
She also told me one more moment that turned her into a full-fledged EDM lover: “And then…while hanging out with friends one night in Atlanta, I heard Tiesto, Van Dyk, and Armin van Buuren. I thought I loved it before, but it was sort of all over at that point. Once the Dutch DJs came into play, I didn’t just leave it to the great music I happened to hear, I went looking for it. As time went on, I found Morgan Page, Kaskade, Chris Lake, Guetta, Deadmau5, Ercola, Gareth, Markus Schulz, Nadia Ali, and so many more. Then, add in the creation of satellite radio with BPM & Electric Area, and it was no longer difficult to explore. And as applications like Pandora and Spotify came online, the evolution of exploration of EDM continued.”
EDM has been instrumental in shaping the person Cole is today. “It gave me an outlet for super-positive, uber-happy dance and expression that embodied who I am,” says Cole. “Without realizing it, it connected me to a group of global friends—because EDM was big in Europe and other continents before it was big in the US, so when I finally was exposed to it and sought it out, it connected me with a cool group of people from around the globe."
To get an idea of what type of dance music Cole is into, I asked about her favorite songs. She broke them up into older songs and newer songs for me, “Ooooooohhhhhh—that is so seriously difficult. Old: anything from TrancePort [a 1998 album from Paul Oakenfold] or iiO, and Nalin and Kane, 'Beachball.' It's so old-school, but I still love it."
Below is a list of Cole's favorite songs that have been released since 2006:
Morgan Page - "Carry Me"
Nadia Ali/Spencer & Hill - "Believe It"
Sultan & Ned Shepard w/ Nadia Ali - "Call My Name"
Tiesto - "Escape Me," "C’mon," and "Zero 76"
Kaskade - "4am"
Kaskade & Deadmau5 - "I Remember" and "Move For Me"
Deadmau5 - "Raise Your Weapon" and "Faxing Berlin
Ercola - "Deep at Night"
Chris Lake "Carry Me Away"
Calvin Harris - "You Used to Hold Me"
BT, Morgan Page, Sultan & Ned Shepard, w/ Angela McCluskey – "In the Air"
Bailey - "Higher State"
Avicii – "Levels"
Cole said she can go on and on when it came to naming favorite songs, and that is indicative of someone who truly loves dance music. Her love for dance music started while overseas, and with how big EDM has gotten stateside, I was curious to find out what she thought of the current state of EDM in the United States. "Well, it’s certainly become more mainstream," says Cole. "I hate when I see the headlines for EDM connected to drugs. Every concert in the country has some group of amateurs who can’t control their alcohol or who are 'experimenting' with other things and go too far. That is just as true for rock, country and reggae as it is for EDM, but EDM can get a bad rap. It is possible to love any type of music and not do drugs, but some of the media outlets paint EDM events as drugfests more than other genres. Got news for everyone: go to any rap, country, reggae or other concert, and you’ll see substance abuse—sad but true. I hope people—especially young people—are safe as they grow, explore and express themselves with any type of music. I know the musicians and artists don’t want to be a part of anything destructive. They are creative, often loving, and just want to bring joy, so my feelings are to tell people to enjoy artistry in any form. But don’t take it too far, and don’t hurt yourself or others in the process. Be cool."
Cole's future show list reads like the wish list of any other EDM fanatic: "I would love to go back to TomorrowWorld in Georgia or Electric Daisy in Vegas, but I need special box/luxury/back stage seats for old people though. I don’t have the patience to deal with the crowds. I still want to dance and chill and totally get into the music and vibe, but not around 21 year olds who are at their first DJ event. I’m cool, but not that cool."
If you are in the professional world, Cole would be an awesome connection to have. In fact, she is interested in meeting more people with similar interests. Cole says, "I would love to meet more people like me who are in the professional world in their 30s/40s—I’m 35—who love the music. You don’t have to be totally into the raging, raving club scene to love this music, so if people are up to starting a little community of like minded EDM lovers who take more of a chill approach, I’m all for it."
EDM.com would like to thank Kat Cole for her time. It is truly amazing to take a step back and look at the impact dance music has had on people's lives.
Cover photo credit: Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution