CAA’s Jenna Park Adler: 2023 Women of Live Cover Honoree 1
Photo of Jenna Park Adler by Myles Hendrik / @myleshendrik

While many teenagers who are trying to find their place in the world want to fit in, for Jenna Park Adler, Co-Head of CAA’s Global Hip-Hop/R&B Touring Group, being a music fan was a way to embrace being different while growing up in a Korean American family in Los Angeles. “I think that the Asian stereotype of tiger moms and study, study, study, those barriers have been broken a little.

“But when I was growing up, I was held by the standards that sometimes I didn’t want to live by. … Music was my coping mechanism,” Adler says, recalling catching The Go-Go’s as her first concert and being “so enamored” by the sight of five women in a rock band.

“[With] music and the arts, it was accepted to be different and look different. And it was embraced. And so I was going to be a fashion designer or I was going to go into music. It was one of the two. That was sort of the start of it all.”

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Adler says she’s grateful her mom made her play piano although she thought it was a bore at the time.

Adler notes, “I remember she would always say, ‘You’re gonna thank me one day.’ All these things she was right about. Moms always do know.”

Adler has carried that strong sense of self, along with a love for family, throughout her more than three-decades-long career. Of course, she’s still crazy about music and fashion, standing out at Pollstar Live! for both the knowledge she drops during her panel appearances along with her quirky, pattern-mixing outfits. And while she was promoted in October to Co-Head Of Global Hip-Hop/R&B Touring Group, her roster reflects her wide-ranging, cross-genre tastes including Green Day, Jennifer Lopez, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Doja Cat, Charli XCX and Chloe x Halle, among others.

“I love R&B and hip-hop, but I also love rock and I also love my indie rock because it all depends on what mood you’re in,” Adler says. “When I’m working out, I don’t want to listen to Sade. I don’t want to listen to the Deftones (the first band she signed) at a dinner party. When I was an indie rock kid growing up in the ’90s, I secretly was like, ‘God, is it okay if I love pop music too?’ We all grow up with some insecurities or try to fit into this box and create this persona. But then you’re like ‘Fuck it. I like this. This is who I am.’ And if you’re in, you’re in. And if you’re not, that’s okay, too.”

While attending USC, Adler interned at music labels and notes that in her “naive mind” she thought once she graduated she’d have an easy road jumping into a label job. She adds, “But what I didn’t get really taught me so much.” Adler ultimately ended up at a temp agency, which led her to CAA. Adler started at CAA in the 1990s, just a few years after the agency launched its music department.

It’s A Family Thing: The CAA team, including Jenna Park Adler (center), celebrates its win at the Pollstar Awards for Booking Agency of The Year Feb. 22, 2023, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

Adler’s first job at the company was as an assistant to Kevin Gasser and she ended up falling in love with this side of the business. Two years later, Rob Light’s desk became available and she was urged to go for that desk to move forward in the world of agenting. She notes they were such different bosses and mentors.

“The agent’s role has always been through the manager. [Gasser] really created relationships with the artist as well – and I really, really took that to heart. I really try to create relationships and trust with not only the managers, but also the artists,” Adler says.

“Rob taught me that there’s always a solution … to be calm, cool and collected. And there’s so many answers from just leaning in and listening. Less is more, and just saying the right thing is more impactful than saying a lot of nothing. He always said: ‘The long game, the long game. You just plant some seeds, keep watering and just play the long game.’ I never understood it because, when I was younger, it was like, ‘I want everything now.’ Now I really understand it.”

That Adler is still thriving at the agency 33 years later, in a business where so many bounce from agency to agency, it’s easy to see why Adler said, “CAA is really family” backstage at the Pollstar Awards in February after CAA won Booking Agency Of The Year.
Later, when interviewed for this story, Adler clarifies, “We don’t all get along perfectly. Look, I’m not going to paint this incredible sort of Norman Rockwell image of perfection. But through some of the adversity, through some of the challenging conversations, we’ve grown. We have a mantra here where ‘You take care of each other and great things happen.’ We support each other and we lean on each other.”

Adler made it clear that she wanted to shout out Mark Cheatham, who shares the role of Co-Head of CAA’s Global Hip-Hop/R&B Touring Group, who she calls “a wonderful human being.” She adds, “I adore him and I couldn’t do it without him … We are really a great pair.”
Asked about how the agency’s gender balance has changed over the past decades, Adler points out that when she joined CAA there were no women music agents. Carole Kinzel, who Adler calls “our queen and OG,” was brought over from another agency and became the first woman in the department. Adler, who eventually became the first female Asian agent at CAA, says, “Today it looks so much more balanced. There’s definitely more work to do but I think we have 20 [women] just in the L.A. office.”

Photo by Myles Hendrik / @myleshendrik

She adds, “I think it’s just the beginning of what this place is going to look like and how we’re going to move forward, whether it’s diversity, gender … how we’re going to grow and become better.”

Adler was promoted as a crossover agent, rather than as a traditional booking agent. She explains, “What was needed was to book the film and TV space to service our music clients who wanted to act – and there was nobody on the film side who was doing it.” Plus, it was a way to get ahead in the music department, with the promotion to crossover agent encouraged by Gasser and CAA managing partners Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd.

Chloe x Halle is the perfect example of the success some of Adlers’ clients have had across sectors of the entertainment industry. She’s been working with the R&B duo featuring sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey for 10 years, since they were 13 and 15.

“They’re both multi-hyphenate artists; not only are they thriving in their film careers, but they both have music careers,” Adler says, adding that she wanted to dispel rumors that the duo was no longer together.

Rather, they are doing separate projects now, with 2023 seeing Halle Bailey star in the live-action Disney film “The Little Mermaid” and the film adaption of “The Color Purple,” while Chlöe will release her debut studio album, In Pieces, followed by her first solo headline tour in April.

And then there’s Jennifer Lopez, who Adler points out “touches every part of this company” with her career encompassing music, film, fashion and on and on.

“It all circles back to how I think artists want to play more and more on these platforms,”
Adler says. “For any artist to really break through to her status, a global multi-hyphenate status, you have to be willing to work hard. She is the hardest working person I know. I’ve never seen someone work as hard and be more dedicated.”

Adler reflected on working to secure Lopez’s extension with Coach for her multimillion-dollar brand ambassador partnership and the conversation turned to the role of the agent and how agents often get a bad rap for being transactional.

“Like we’re a used car salesman,” Adler says. “I’m going to call bullshit on that because it’s so not the way I operate and it’s not the way I view things. I’m leaning into this new role because the word agent – I don’t want it to be a derogatory word. I’m proud of what I do and the representation business. And I love it. [The stereotype] of ‘Oh, you just want more money,’ No. I just want what’s fair for the artist. I am reading the small print to protect the artist.”

The West Coast women of CAA (with Jenna Park Adler, center) pose in Los Angeles March 1, 2023. Photo courtesy of Jenna Park Adler

Adler says her strength as an agent is driven by passion and her love of music. She adds, “I’ve been lucky enough to follow my gut and believe in my gut. The thing about CAA is [artists] don’t have to make money immediately, you have time.” Adler is also committed to balancing her work and personal life, recalling how she made it a priority to go home, rather than rushing to work dinners, so her then-young sons could see their mom before they went to sleep. And then she went out, covered shows and did what she needed to do.

She says, “I wanted to be there for my kids, to be there at school, to be the room mom.” Adler notes that it was possible because she had the support of her department: “I worked with all men but these were incredibly open and generous and great family men. Rob Light has five kids. Mitch Rose, his kids came first, he has such high regard for family.”

Green Day first started taking meetings with CAA when Adler was still Light’s assistant and, after she was promoted shortly thereafter, Light asked Adler to be on the band’s team.

With more than 25 years of working with Green Day, Adler and the band have enjoyed many milestone moments including the stage adaptation of the group’s seventh studio album, 2004’s American Idiot, debuting on Broadway in 2010 and the triumph of “The Hella Mega Tour.”

The trek featuring Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, which was pushed back from 2020 because of the pandemic, hit stadiums boldly in 2021 and ranked No. 3 on Pollstar’s Year End chart with a gross of $67.3 million.

“Working with Green Day has been nothing but spectacular,” Adler says. “There’s just so many incredible experiences with them – and they’re not slowing down. In 2023 we’re going to do select festivals and dates but we really are gearing up for this next studio album and I’m currently plotting the 2024 stadium run.”

Adler’s future goals include continuing to be an advocate for the DEI initiatives across the agency: “I just want to continue being a mentor to the next generation and paying it forward. … Career-wise, of course I’m striving for more – but there’s more to life, as well.”

After more than three decades in the business, Adler never wants to be stagnant and is always looking for the next thing, whether it’s technology or music. She says, “It’s always about keeping the curiosity, asking questions. I want to learn something every day.”

As for advice she’d give those who want to get into the industry? “Be passionate, and I think the most important thing is just to be authentic to yourself. It’s not all glory, you have to persevere.”