International Women's Day 2017
Stories of persistence in the music industry
Before I even thought to look up this year's International Women’s Day theme, I decided I wanted to ask the women in my life for their stories of working in music. I wanted to hear how they got started, and wanted to know advice they’d share with young women. Though this industry is still considered male-dominated, it made me really happy that I had so many friends and people I follow online I could reach out to for this piece. What was even better, was that some participants then reached out to their circles for stories, making this collection even more special.
The IWD theme this year is #BeBoldForChange. Their website says each one of us “can be a leader within our spheres of influence”, and “through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance”. How fitting then that this blog is a collaboration to help women advance, from leaders in our spheres! To be bold, according to Merriam Webster*, means being fearless, or having a daring spirit. I think you’ll agree with me that each of these stories fit the bill of being “bold”. These are inspiring, hardworking, and incredible people who have a similar thread of advice among them: persist.
Earlier this year, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced during a debate. The defense of that silencing has become a battle cry to some: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” To persist means “to go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition, importunity, or warning.” Persistence seems to be a handy skill to have when working in music, and for life in general. Keep fighting for what you love, and keep celebrating the people who are in the trenches with you.
Editor's note: On 6 March 2017, a report into five years of PRS Foundation for Music's Women Make Music fund, endorsed by the UK government, reported a big positive impact on the careers and confidence of female composers and musicians. Just some good news to share, and a start upon which we can build to break barriers to women wanting to make and produce music. Full story on The Culture Diary.
* Bold definition from Merriam Webster: fearless before danger; intrepid, showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit a bold plan
Safe Gigs For Women – An Update and an International Women's Day show on Wednesday 8 March 2017
Tracey Wise – Founder, Safe Gigs For Women
Safe Gigs for Women was started out of anger (a natural response to sexual assault and harassment), but has moved into a positive, proactive force. I’ve spent nearly 22 years of my life going to gigs, and after being assaulted seeing my favourite band in 2016, I was compelled to speak up about this. Music is my “thing”. I can’t go a day without it. For me, the sexual assault was horrifying, but add to that that this happened at an event that I had been holding as something so important and special just added further insult to injury. As this wasn’t the first time this had happened to me at a gig or a festival, it felt as if my enjoyment of music, what it means to me, mattered less than that of the men around me. And that’s wrong. Music makes me feel alive, it makes me hurt, right down to my insides. This is something I take so seriously, travelling across the country and within Europe to see the bands I love. Sexual harassment and assault are not new problems, but when I think about what music, live music, festivals mean to me – community, and a shared sense or feeling – it’s just not right that something that should be so positive can be brought down by something so base.
Over the last year, Safe Gigs For Women has been across England and Wales talking to people at events like BoomTown Fair, Always the Sun and Association of Independent Festivals Congress. We’ve gained the support of Xtra Mile Recordings and a number of their artists, including Barry Dolan (Oxygen Thief / Non Canon), Ben Marwood, Ducking Punches and Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, all giving us the chance to talk to gig goers at their events. This has allowed us to discuss what gig and festival goers can do in order to make sure that everyone around them is safe and having a good time. And we have more work to come over the next few weeks and months with Xtra Mile artists, which we’ll always look forward too and be thankful for.
First though, on International Women’s Day we have a fundraiser, highlighting and celebrating the best of new and upcoming women in music. We’d love if you could join us at Tooting Tram and Social Club from 7pm on 8th March! Tickets can be bought here (or click on the poster). Let us know if you're coming on Facebook.
Roe Gallo - Director, Label Management, ADA (Independent Distribution)
I've always been musically inclined, but never really considered myself a music person until we got cable and MTV. I was hooked. I'd stay up late at night watching music videos and just wishing to be a person that worked with the artists, making their dreams of being on MTV a reality. When I went to college, there was no such thing as a music industry degree. I majored in communications with a minor in marketing. I later went back for a Masters degree in media studies.
My first industry job was working for an artist management company. During my interview, my future boss (male) made sure to remind me that my job wasn't to 'date' the artists, but to work for them – I guarantee he didn't have this conversation with my male counterparts who were up for the position. Working alongside the artist on their vision and helping to make it a reality has always been my motivation for getting into the business. I worked in management for a good portion of my career, then eventually transitioned to the label side, and now distribution. To this day, that is my fuel and my reason for weathering the ever-changing industry – that my contribution makes a difference to the artists and labels.
My advice to younger women just getting into the industry is to keep pushing yourself beyond what you think your boundaries are. While a job description may seem a bit more advanced than your skill set, apply for it anyway. You learn by doing in this business, and the way to break down doors and ceilings and barriers is by pushing yourself. Don't rely on anyone else. And don't be discouraged if you don't get that job, apply for more. Make sure you're networking at shows and events, because you'll go far when everyone knows who you are.
Jamie Coletta SideOneDummy Records
Becoming the Director of Marketing for SideOneDummy Records – a label that I can credit for influencing a large portion of my taste in music – was a literal dream, but that doesn't mean I didn't fight for it. I've always had a hard time accepting defeat, so the idea of doing anything other than music was pretty much absent from my mind. I did not give myself another option. While studying in a music business program at The Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford, CT), I interned at a non-profit arts academy, alongside an independent publicist, and in the fast-paced publicity department at a major record label. In fact, I spent my entire final semester of college – you know, the time you're supposed to be bonding and making lifelong memories with friends before you have to face the real world – commuting between Hartford, CT and NYC for that major label internship. The barista and bartender gigs I did over the weekends helped offset the cost, and I spent my Mondays and Tuesdays in class from 9am to 10pm so that I could spend the rest of the week working in the city. The night after I graduated, I flew on a red eye from CT to Los Angeles for a job interview, and moved here permanently just a few months later. I applied for jobs but nothing was happening, so I enrolled in UCLA's Extension program and started taking PR classes solely so that I could get back into interning. Within about a year of balancing part-time jobs and continued internships, I got my first job at Sony/RCA Records. The story from there is simple: I busted my ass and left a lasting impression on everyone I could, and four years later, I made my way back to the music I grew up listening to.
If working with your favorite bands is something that sounds cool to you, that makes sense because I bet every single person in the world would want to do that! The key is understanding that not everyone may be meant to do this kind of work, and that's totally okay. If you suck at organization, multi-tasking, or being assertive, this could be a really difficult career path for you. But if those are some of your stronger qualities, I'd recommend looking into internships as soon as possible. A lot of the bigger companies will require you to receive college credit for the internship, but some smaller labels and businesses may have ways for you to get involved without that ie. street teams, unpaid internships, etc. Start a dream board, whether it's something you physically craft for inspiration or just a mental note of companies and people whose careers you admire. Get their emails or Twitter handles and reach out! No one is ever going to be bummed talking about themselves and their achievements (hence why this thing Xtra Mile asked me to write is going on for so long)! It gives you a chance to gain more insight into potential careers you'd like to have and companies you'd like to work for, but also allow you to start building a report within the industry. At the end of the day, it certainly helps to have strong relationships in all the right places but that can only get you in the building. In order to not only stay but to progress in your career, you'll have to bust your ass, too!
If anyone wants to talk more about this kind of stuff, I clearly love talking about it. Email me at email@example.com.
Jovka de Boer – Artist tour merchandising for Frank Turner, Jovka de Boer Tour Merch Services
I’ve always loved music and wanted to work in this industry since I was young. My dad was a cartoonist and my mom was a tour manager and also worked in several museums. I think it was pretty natural for me to not become a lawyer or a doctor! When I graduated high school I wanted to study something that I was interested in and could potentially lead me to a job in the music industry. I decided to go to college to study arts and economics in Holland and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in music business. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do for a living, but my study allowed me to do multiple internships per year and figure out which direction I wanted to go.
One of my internships led me to a touring job and that’s basically how I started working in this field. Combining college and touring at the time was quite interesting, but it taught me discipline and working with tight deadlines which is such a big part of my job. After several years of touring I felt it was time for a change. In 2008, Epitaph Europe was looking for a merchandise manager to start up their European merchandise division called Kings Road Merch. I applied for the job and started four days later. It was not unil then that I started digging deeper into the merch world and my passion for it really started developing.
In 2012 I got the offer to start working full time for Frank Turner. I decided to take the opportunity and continue my Kings Road Merch job on in a freelance base. In all those years I can honestly say that I’ve gotten very lucky to work with people that have always respected me, trusted my decisions and have helped me grow.
Lately, I’ve heard a lot of stories about women who are mistreated on tour or don’t get the touring jobs because of their sex. It really angers me that in 2017 this has to be an issue. It’s a very male-dominated industry, but I’ve never felt intimidated by it and no other woman should either. Trust me, I’ve come across a fair share of idiots, but it’s all how you deal with it. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t do a job because of your sex. You can!
My advice to all the ladies who want to do this job (or any touring job for that matter) is to follow your passion, work your butt off, network and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It took me years to figure out which touring jobs I enjoyed the most, which I hated, which I was good at and which I was terrible at. Stick to what you are passionate about and excel in that field. Touring is already a tough lifestyle to commit to so it helps doing a job on the road that you enjoy.
Tracy Presta Label Manager, Entertainment One
When I was a little girl I was constantly surrounded by music. My parents always listened to records at home, and in the car we didn’t go anywhere without the radio on. It was only a matter of time before I knew the words to just about every pop song on the charts. Growing up in the 80s during the dawn and popularity of MTV, we didn’t have cable at home, but my grandparents did. So every weekend visit to their house was spent staring wide-eyed at videos like Duran Duran’s 'Hungry Like the Wolf' and Cyndi Lauper’s 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun'. When I got to college, it was pretty much a given that I would be working at the campus station, eventually going on to become music director and later program director. So it only made sense that I would continue on with a music industry career.
Persistence plays a major role in how I got my start in the music business. I was applying for jobs back before the digital age. There was no LinkedIn or Facebook back then. I researched every radio station and record label in the tri-state area and literally sat and faxed my resume to every single one. And it paid off. My advice to women starting out in the music business? Don’t be afraid to speak up! So what if you’re the only woman in a boardroom full of men? Speak confidently about the releases you’re working on. Tell your boss that idea that’s been in your head for weeks. Suggest that campaign to your team and convince them all to get on board. Set up that meeting with a client that you’ve been too afraid to suggest. If you keep quiet, you may not have to deal with being told no, but you’ll also never know what could’ve been…
Jessica Henig Business Development, Ecommerce, Time Out North America
I was one of those strange people that always knew what I wanted to do. I knew I would be working in music in some way for a long time. I’ve now been in the music industry going on eight years now. I started in presale/VIP ticketing as the CEO’s sssistant and quickly moved into business development, managing presales and VIP packages for all levels of touring artists. It was a great experience! That company was later acquired by a major label so I gained new experience working with as many of the label teams as possible as a 360 product manager.
Now, while still managing a band on the side, I’ve made a transition into the publishing industry working for Time Out North America running business development for ecommerce. It’s a role that speaks to the publishing industry and Time Out, specifically, embracing change in order to grow the business. Time Out shows me often that they are ready and willing to embrace change. At the end of 2016 we gained our first female CEO, Christine Petersen. She has already been such a pleasure to work with!
Someone once told me "it’s not about who you know, it’s who knows you". My advice to any young women looking to get into ANY industry is to make yourself known! Being shy isn’t an excuse…get out there, network, follow up, and build relationships with everyone you can so that they know you and keep you top of their mind when opportunities arise.
Alisa Halis (@alisahalis) – Content Protection Representative, Universal Music Group
I always knew I would work in music because as an obsessive teenager my life revolved around watching TRL (Total Request Live, an MTV music show) religiously, reading online music message boards and thinking I was too cool because I listened to Good Charlotte. I lived and breathed music and my happy place was live shows. It was an escape from the real world and a place where I was able to meet like-minded people. The live music community not only gave me unforgettable memories but also my best friends, industry connections and even led me to a job at my dream company.
My advice to young women who want to dive into the music industry would be to say 'yes' to every invite and network as much as possible. If your friend invites you to a mixer, or a co-worker wants to drag you to a small show, say 'yes'! There may be times when you’re not in the mood or not interested, but you never know who you will meet there. The music industry is all about who you know and a quick connection you made that night may help guide you in the future.
Laura Brown PR at 2000Trees / Head of Features at Alt Corner / Festivals Editor at Kettle Mag
In a way, I think I kind of accidentally fell into the music industry. Alongside my journalism and media degree, I was volunteering here and there for various events and online publications, but it was really during the summer of 2013 that I got my 'break', as it were. In my search for summer work, and interest in music and events, I got in touch with 2000Trees Festival and offered myself up as volunteer for the festival weekend. In that first year at the festival I helped run the guest list on the main entrance and then in the years following was given more and more opportunities to get more hands on and progress with my role. In the last couple of years I've assisted in the management and running of the PR operation at the festival – everything from initial press lists to arranging interviews for press with many of the bands playing and managing a team of volunteers over the weekend. That initial interest in music and events propelled me to finding something I really love doing. That rush of a live event and that festival atmosphere is something very special. Alongside this I've taken on two more senior music writing roles which allow me to constantly discover new bands and albums, check out other festivals and gigs and immerse myself in music as much as possible. Though I'm currently doing all of this alongside a normal office 9-5 job, there's something about doing it this way that makes it more enjoyable. It almost provides an escape from reality and one that I couldn't possibly love more.
For those who think the industry is for them, the main thing I would say is prepare for hard work. It's late nights, long hours and doing things for free. But if you love it and want it more than anything then it more than pays off. I'm still doing things for free and I do it because I'm passionate about it and I get so much enjoyment from it all. Comparing yourself to others is one thing you do need to shake off though. Having myself spent many hours feeling like I'm not doing enough or not where I want to be, it really pays to take a step back and look at exactly where you are. Usually, you're doing pretty okay. It may be in the smallest way but there are real positives and achievements in everything. Don't beat yourself up too much. Work hard but play hard too and everything will be just fine.
Elizabeth Fee Street Team Manager, Xtra Mile Recordings
Over the last decade, I have been predominantly involved in the fashion industry. While the male-to-female ratio is more evenly scaled than it is in the music industry, it still tends to lean toward the male-dominant world once you get to the top management positions. The women who do break through the glass ceiling in those elevated positions typically have to work longer hours or show that their families don’t take priority.
I’ve only just started to take my first steps into the music industry over the past year. When first trying to network within the industry, I realized that once alcohol was introduced to the scenario, there were several men that turned the conversation from work ethic and experience to my relationship status and my physical appearance. That’s not to say everyone I encountered acted this way but it was sad to feel that this kind of behavior was considered a social norm and acceptable once there is alcohol involved. That being said, I still met some amazingly strong and talented women who were quick to bring me into their network. The good people at A2IM (an organisation of independent labels) were happy to share their wealth of knowledge and contacts with me. Another network was the Women in Music group. Interacting with women (and some men) with the sole intention of helping other women within the music industry was a great way for me to feel validated.
Working with Xtra Mile, who employs some strong and inspiring women, has made me feel like the ceiling isn’t so hard to break when it comes to the independent sector. It’s a DIY mentality where everyone rolls up their sleeves to get the job done. The best advice I can give is to grow relationships with people that show you respect regardless of title, age or gender. Be kind, but don’t be afraid to say 'no' or walk away from a situation where you feel uncomfortable. Don’t let negativity alter your plans or keep you from reaching your goals. Together we can build a stronger, better industry by encouraging like-minded behavior.
Valerie Gritsch (@valderie) – Social Media & Fan Engagement Wizard, Xtra Mile Recordings
I always loved music, it was a staple of my life from the very beginning. I’m named after a Monkees song so I seem pre-destined to be head-over-heels for it. I went to my first seated concert at age seven (Billy Joel), my first general admission show at age 12 (Sum 41), and my first local pop-punk / ska gig at 13. After sitting through career days and 'Bring Your Daughter To Work' days, the one resounding piece of advice I received from adults was to do what I loved. It was around then I decided I needed to work in music in some capacity, so I just did whatever I could find. This meant joining tons of street teams for bands and labels of various sizes, selling tickets to local gigs, putting on gigs at my high school, volunteering at music festivals like the Warped Tour and Bamboozle, and networking with professionals who worked where I wanted to work. In college, I landed my first internship with Columbia Records doing A&R and I was the youngest intern in my group at 18-years-old – but I was the only one of us to get a band signed. I then interned with RED Distribution for two semesters, an internship that I found on Twitter when my would-be supervisor tweeted her email address out and I figured 'what the hell' and dropped her a line. I also did internships and freelance work in music marketing and PR. I worked in a lot of different areas, in companies of varying sizes, to learn what I liked and didn’t like in the music industry, and more importantly, in doing so I learned what worked for me.
No matter what life threw at me, I always kept my head down and kept volunteering, interning, and working in any way I could. This is the advice I want to pass on to others. When an opportunity presents itself, there’s no telling if it’ll come your way again. Say 'yes', even if it’s scary. Try things out to see if it’s for you, and if it’s not then at least you’ve learned something new about yourself in the process. There will be naysayers all around you, people who will think you’re getting involved for the 'wrong reasons', that you just want to get close to the bands you like, but don’t listen to them. Don’t even acknowledge them. Screw them! Prove them wrong by working your butt off and working with, and being respected by, your favorite bands. Be supportive of those around you, cheer on your friends and co-workers and they’ll cheer you on in return when you need it the most. Persist, and keep fighting to find your place.
When Conan O’Brien left NBC in 2010, he gave an incredible monologue that has stuck with me ever since. I say it all the time, I tell it to others as encouragement, and now I’m going to write it here. You probably already know it, but it can’t hurt to repeat it:
“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. As proof, let’s make an amazing thing happen right now.”
I can’t wait to see what amazing things you will make happen.
Faye Lewis – Head of Marketing, Montreal Associates / New Music Editor at The Girls Are
From infancy, music has always been an all-consuming passion (obsession) of mine. It started with my parents who liked everything from Motown and 80s synth-pop, to rock, grunge, punk and indie. So I was fortunate to have that constant musical indulgence growing up. In my teen years, I was at gigs two or three times a week and when I came to taking my A-Levels I did English Literature, English Language, History, Photograpy and Drama, with a view to being either a photographer or studying English at uni. Around the same time, when I wasn’t working behind a bar or playing in awful bands, I took a part-time job at The Hartlepool Mail where I worked as a junior reporter and this continued while at university. I got a BA in English Literature and Linguistics from Newcastle and worked on the university newspaper writing about films and music as well as writing for The Hartlepool Mail and Sunderland Echo. After my undergraduate degree, I did an MA in Journalism (chosen because the course also included full NCTJ accreditation) which I would need to be a junior reporter. While completing my masters, I got as much experience as possible writing for publications as broad as Elle magazine, What Car (really), Popword and the Independent (among many more). I also did a month’s internship at Rock Sound magazine. In my first week I went to Dublin Castle to review AndsoIwatchyoufromafar and Maybeshewill back in 2008 – and in that moment I knew that was what I wanted to do more than anything.
I don’t know if there is one route to take into music journalism – a lot of people I have met have taken the BIMM route, or worked in PR first and forged their identity 'on the scene’. For me, looking back, it was much more innocent and naïve. I loved music, I got on with the people at Rock Sound and at the time I was living in a basement in Hackney for £50 a week that had no windows and was a fire trap. I think part of being given the job was because they felt sorry for me living in that hovel. It was also because I made an effort and really cared, like most jobs willingness goes a long way. For anyone thinking about getting into music journalism, you’re really not going to earn very much money so be clear about the extent of your interest. After you’ve done ten festivals back-to-back and you can hardly afford to eat, the novelty of getting guestlist wears off fast. You’ll be traipsing around, probably wearing a leather or denim jacket when it’s raining and freezing outside on a cold Tuesday in January, going to a toilet circuit venue to listen to up and coming bands that you may not like. That's the reality. But if you love that, then that’s the mindset you need to succeed.
One thing which has developed from when I was working full-time as a journalist is the digital marketing aspect today. I genuinely had no idea how to work Twitter in 2008; I am now head of marketing for an enterprise tech recruitment agency, so have come a long way. But in 2008, I was on some archaic mobile phone, drunk in a field and trying to figure out what to do. Today brand awareness, digital strategy and growth / follower strategies will be as inherent a part of journalism as it is marketing, so make sure you understand basic things like html, backlinking, SEO and meta descriptions. These skills combined with passion will be advantageous. Understand web hits, traffic etc. because print is dead. If you can get, as many skills as possible that will stand you in great stead today. One thing speaking to ‘younger’ people today is that they’re worried about what they say online, or their ‘personal brand’. In that respect: really? Get over yourselves, nobody cares about you, you’re there to talk about music! And don’t fall into that trapping either if you’re in the industry for a long time! Believe in what you do, what you write and who you are and just be persistent.
Final bit of advice: if you're going to be on camera interviewing bands over a three day festival, make sure you take a change of clothes.
Read Faye's writing on The Girls Are, a website championing women in music.
Peu Cheung Label Manager, ADA
I studied music and media management at London Metropolitan. Although I got a first class honours, in truth I was getting fucked up every night for three years, which kinda prepared me for what was to come…
I was on reception as an intern at Cooking Vinyl / Essential in sunny Acton and after a few weeks I was offered a full-time accounts assistant position with the finance team. I was paid £5 per day for travel and commuted two hours each way from Romford, Essex to Acton, every day. Richard Boaste-Kelly (who I still call ‘Pops’ to this day) gave me a shot to really grind. I learned more about the music industry in the year I was in accounts than my entire degree under those tutors. I was given a part-time position alongside accounts to assist label management at Essential, learning under Stuart Meikle’s wing (a wonderful human). He taught me the ropes in the world of distro and label services. I worked my way up from assistant to a fully-fledged label manager in under a year, with labels of my own. I started with two to three labels but I was managing more than 20 up until I left.
After 4+ years at Essential, I joined ADA / Warner, with more than 30 labels under my belt, predominantly rock / metal ones – and as a massive fan of both genres, this also became my niche. I have the immense privilege to work with artists and labels like blink-182, Earache, Motörhead, Epitaph, Relapse, Rise, all of whom I have respected, and whose music I have grown up with since I was a kid.
The best advice I would give to women of the future in this industry is: be kind and compassionate to others and, most importantly, to yourself. Never compromise on being your authentic self. Remember, your job does not define all that you are. You are not basic, there has to be more than just what you do for a living. Being a British-born, tattooed, Chinese woman, brought up on a council estate in Barking, I never let my appearance, gender or background pigeon-hole who I wanted to be and what I can achieve. When negativity gets in the way, channel those energies to empowerment for yourself and smash everything that gets in your way.
Catherine Rotella Manager, Influencer Marketing @ STACHE Media
I'm pretty sure I've been obsessed with music since 1988! I was one-year-old when ‘Rhythm Nation’ came out and I was Janet Jackson's biggest fan. I remember making my own key earring to wear in one ear just like her. My dad also loved music, so I grew up listening to bands like Pink Floyd. I was somehow always surrounded by music. I found myself fully immersed in the music scene in high school. I would cut class to go stand in line for shows to make sure I was at the barricade for my favorite bands. My money was spent on concert tickets, traveling, and merch. To this day, none of that has changed. I continue to travel for shows and make friends due to our mutual love for music. The only difference is I get to do it as part of my job!
It never hit me that I could have a career in something I'm so passionate about until I was in college. I started working for the Syndicate which was my foot in the door. I interned at RED Distribution and then Fueled By Ramen, which was a dream. Artists like Paramore, Cobra Starship and The Academy Is were the bands I was spending my money on. To be able to intern there was surreal.
Internships are so, so important! That's where you're going to gain knowledge and experience in the industry. You'll figure out what you actually don't want to do and, most importantly, you will make connections that will help you out down the road. My internships helped me land a full-time job at RED straight out of college. I started out as an assistant and have been able to climb the ladder to becoming manager of a department.
I'm a female working in the music biz starting out with zero connections. I was the first in my family to go to college and got the job that I have now by working hard and building relationships.
If you're a high school student or a college student who dreams to one day work in music have patience, work hard, stay positive and don't give up. I promise you'll turn your dreams into a reality. I'm currently living mine.
Charlie Pierce – Artist Manager
Work hard. Play hard. Be kind. But know that it doesn’t mean making apologies.
I sat at a women’s event in Nashville last night organised by a brilliant movement called Change the Conversation and I listened to Lou Taylor, the CEO of Tri-Star Entertainment. Among many insightful thoughts she shared, there were a couple that struck a chord with me; one was that everybody has their "a-ha!" career moment, and the other was that you need the right people in the right jobs – "You can’t have the right engine in the wrong vehicle. If you’re driving around in a tractor with an outboard motor on it, you are going to look pretty stupid."
These two pieces of advice rang particularly true to me because my "a-ha!" career moment came two years ago when I finally came to the conclusion that I was an outboard motor in a tractor. More precisely, I was sat in an office in one of the world’s largest financial institutions (if there had been a window, I would have been staring out of it) wondering where things had gone wrong. On the surface they were far from wrong – good life, able to pay the bills, nice flat, girl about town etc. – but underneath I was unsupported in my role, unmotivated and desperately unhappy.
In a 'do or die' moment, I had to get out. I left the firm and I set about a complete career change. I decided that my passionate love of music and an 11-year career in business could be combined, and what I really wanted to do was manage artists; helping somebody to develop a business strategy and manage their talent to build a fulfilling and successful career. It doesn’t stop there though. On a daily basis I can be a tour manager, personal assistant, therapist, marriage counselor, legal secretary, contract negotiator, label head, studio assistant, book keeper….the list goes on. Roll up your sleeves and get on with it.
Making such a huge career change has not come easy. I have worked unpaid in order to get relevant experience and an overview of the distribution and label business. Another brilliant snippet of advice I heard from a fellow woman in the industry was "you can work for free, but never for no value". I have had a couple of false starts and learned a lot along the way. At the time it felt like the worst had happened, and now I can see how much I have learnt in such a short space of time.
As I have continued on this journey I have picked up women along the way that I count as friends, mentors and role models. I’ve maintained strong relationships with women I have worked with before and I have also left some a way back down the path who didn’t want in on the ride. It’s not always easy to find your tribe, but when you do and you are all clear on the vision of where you are going. There is nothing more powerful than a group of women on a mission. It can be upsetting when people fall by the wayside. In my experience, women often find that harder to deal with than their male counterparts, but ultimately you need to surround yourself with people who all want to work together towards success.
Right now I am working with Angaleena Presley, an artist based out of Nashville. She is the epitome of a bad-ass and I feel proud to be on her team, which is filled with other great women including Jackie, her publicist, Jennifer at Thirty Tigers and her bass player Ashleigh. Angaleena’s mantra is akin to mine: "When you rise up, you reach out your hand and bring someone with you. I work with these girls not because they're girls. I do it because they're the best.” The other artists I am starting to work with are all women. That has not been so much a deliberate undertaking but the way in which the world has brought us together and our energy has connected.
Now, back to the first line of this piece. I saw a print in a shop in the city (London), right around the time I was leaving my old life behind. It said simply: "Work Hard. Play Hard. Be Kind". That was what I was aiming for when I took that leap into music. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that being kind does not mean you have to take shit from anybody. Sometimes you have to stand your ground and you need to use your voice. That can be done without rudeness but you should never apologise for fighting for the right thing for your artist. It’s a tendency women lean towards and we need to stop apologising for taking care of business. Maybe when I have an office again I’ll make a new print: "Work Hard. Play Hard. Be Kind. Take No Shit." There, that’s better.
Thank you to Val (Gritsch, XMR's Social Media Maestro and Street Team Commander) for inviting me to write this piece. It’s hard to think of yourself as somebody who can offer advice or inspiration to others sometimes and this has lifted me out of a fog. You rock girl, and I’m proud we’re fighting the good fight together.