This interview was conducted in 2019. Jon is now Executive Vice Presidents of Business Affairs & Chief Entertainment Counsel at iHeartMedia.

Our Eyes are Tired but our Ears are Hungry

I joined PCI Media’s board approximately six months ago, so I’m one of the newest members. I’m very excited and honored to be a part of it. I’m a media executive at Amazon, where I focus on Spoken Word Entertainment. We’re at the birth of a new wave of audio, and finding content that can live on those surfaces is one of our tasks. It’s a petri dish for innovation and experimentation. We have a music initiative where we’re engaging rockstars to get on stage and tell the stories of their lives through song. We have traditional podcasts from true crime to sports to other journalistic methods to tell amazing and engaging stories.

Part of what I do on a day-to-day basis is think of ways to engage creators to tell stories that inspire, entertain, and that really educate. That storytelling mission is so aligned with what PCI Media does.

I’m very excited about the rising trend in audio. Our eyes are tired, but our ears are hungry because we’re inundated with content on our mobile screens. The work PCI Media is doing with radio across the world is absolutely inspiring and impactful. Hundreds of thousands of households are being reached.

Stories For Social Change

One of the most creative and beautiful projects that PCI Media spearheaded was in Bangladesh, where there was a campaign against child marriage. This nationwide campaign — “Drumbeats for Change” — was deeply related to sound. Sound is beautiful because it can circumvent the brain and go straight through your ears into your heart. PCI Media created a sound that was played at the end of the campaign’s videos, triggering a notion within the viewer that childhood marriage is a problem and should not be allowed.

The fact that PCI Media is telling global impactful stories for social change, is something near and dear to my heart. A lot of the media that’s produced on a mass scale races to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t have uplifting messages that are socially conscious. Entertainment-Education is inspiring because it’s a form of media that carries stories that move societies forward on issues that matter. PCI Media has been at the forefront of that effort for 34 years.

Using Media to Lead Global Conversations

I’m the son of South African immigrants and anti-apartheid activists that came to America after their work there. They instilled a global viewpoint in me from the beginning. Growing up with foreign parents, I relied on media as a mechanism for education so that I could learn more about the wider culture in America. I was really lucky to first work in the music industry, where I was able to interact with leading artists in the world. I worked on some of the first Spotify deals that incorporated algorithms and wearable technology, and some of the first Apple Music deals. I got to see first-hand how all forms of media are coming together. I expanded to film and TV and got to work with Oscar award-winning directors, actors, and producers. After being involved with a range of shows for Amazon, I got a call to join the team of creators on their side. I’m a lawyer by trade. Studying Law gives you a chance to think about inherent political problems and how society should be structured.

However, you can really get into the weeds on things when practicing in the real world. Serving on PCI Media’s board has been really rewarding for me because it’s been a chance to give back, and to use my skills as an entertainment and media lawyer to make an impact. PCI Media’s educational modality across countries is so powerful. For the future, I hope to see PCI double down on the leadership position they hold in the audio space. Whether that means producing more podcasts with other creators or having an in-house podcast. PCI Media has the potential to lead global conversations about educational models, learning methods, and the intersection of media and learning.

PCI Media’s location in New York, right next to the UN, really speaks to the global reach that this organization has. This past weekend was the March for Climate Change, with Greta Thunberg in town, and it showed the world that young people are at the forefront of these big, seemingly insoluble issues. PCI Media is a leader in working with young people across the globe to show them that their voices matter and that role will only deepen in the years to come.

Watch the video of Jon Kurland’s interview, below:

This article was originally published in our Fall newsletter. Download the PDF here.