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Women’s Music Summit: It’s a small world, take advantage of it

Posted by Chad O'Connor  September 11, 2012 11:00 AM

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Heading into Labor Day weekend I did a long drive out to Big Indian, NY to speak at and attend the Women’s Music Summit organized by Laura B. Whitmore of Mad Sun Marketing. I didn’t know too much about what to expect but I did know that I would be asked to talk about publicity for musicians from the perspective of one of my clients, Indaba Media, the music technology and marketing platform that allows over 750,000 musicians to share their work and support one another within brand and major artist opportunities. Deep in the woods, with no cell service, I came upon the Full Moon Resort and immediately saw small groups of women clustered together, singing, practicing, writing and collaborating.

The panel was great; I was joined by two other women who have worked extensively in music PR and distribution, Carise Yatter of Hired Gun Media and Jessica Sternick of Red Entertainment. Interestingly, the questions from the audience were rapid fire as we sat in a small barn setting. Each of these women I realized, whether in a band or a solo artist, is essentially running her own small business. Each is, at once, CEO, CMO, CIO, talent, PR, and more. That’s a tall order and the impact of technology on their opportunities and their creativity is clear. Music creation or songwriting or composition are not their only remits these days, they now have to navigate the business side of the music business much more tangible for themselves and, at the same time, not appear as a sell-out to their creative peers for having online and marketing savvy that they may or may not have known they even possessed!

Over amazing BBQ we each sat with groups of attendees and talked tips and advice. These were women hungry to know what they could do better, what they could ask for help with, who from and how. It was inspiring to see their determination but surprising too that there weren’t more resources for them already available to come together, help one another, and get advice or even a direction of where to start in running their burgeoning business operations.

I was struck by two recent examples of the need for this information. First was Chrissy Tignor, an Indaba Music member who recently returned to the Boston-area from the UK where she worked as a highly skilled audio engineer. Chrissy won Indaba’s recent Good Old War remix contest and so I met up with her in the Boston Common a few weeks before the Summit to talk about her experience and story. Crazily enough, Chrissy isn’t able to teach in the US given that she doesn’t have a PhD, so while I often hear people talk about how they wish there were more young women in music production and audio engineering they’re at the same time stymying the ones that are out there working and looking for new opportunities.

This poses a situation for Chrissy that has little resolution – return to the UK where her experience is welcomed and she’s given opportunities such as teaching Creative Music Production at the well-respected Uppingham School? Keep cold calling the many amazing schools in the Boston-area from Berklee to Emerson to BU, BC, Harvard, MIT, etc. in hopes of even getting a meeting? Teach audio engineering at other great local studios like Sanctum Sound? All this while working to build her own, new brand online, Data Child? I’m tired just listing how hard she’s working – it’s ten jobs in one and that in and of itself is not to be overlooked as employers seek out people who are self-motivated. These musicians turned business owner/operators redefine self-motivated.

Another great Boston-area example is an incredible woman I met at the Summit, Jenna Paone. Jenna’s not only the leader of her band, City of Squares but also has a solo career – she has an amazing songwriting ability that could be parlayed into any number of creative avenues. Yet, as I heard from woman after woman at the Summit, it’s hard to rise above the din of online noise. Everyone hears about the massive successes like Justin Beiber but for the millions of other artists out there hustling online it can take years of commitment to make even a small amount of progress. As if being a full-time, self-made musician isn’t enough, Jenna’s also one of the Executive Directors of Boston GLOW (Girls Leadership Organized Women), an area non-profit aimed at ensuring that programming exists locally for girls and women to become empowered community leaders. Lucky for Boston, she’s applying lessons from her music career into her non-profit work and vice versa – that creative approach and ability to hustle is something that is sure to pay off for both her listeners and her growing community of Boston area women leaders.

Jenna and I, it turned out, knew a friend in common. This immediately created a sense of trust and common ground between us. It was also a great reminder that it’s a small world! We hung out for much of the night’s activities; I watched her give an amazing performance with the small collaborative group she’d been working with over the week of the event. When we left Big Indian the next day we were Facebook friends, planning an in-person get together and talking about how we could help one another out for work and for non-profit activities. We were already better at asking one another for advice because there was an intrinsic greenlight given during the Summit. How can other women and men let each other know that they’re open to having their brain picked? Sure you can say you’re open to “expertise requests” on LinkedIn but what does that really mean? How does someone know you mean that even if it’s not necessarily a conversation that will be immediately beneficial to you? Good old-fashioned networking, in-person conversations and finding common ground still seems to be the best way; that was proven once again on a cold night in the Catskills.

Kate Pokorny is Director at Version 2.0 Communications and a BWP Connector.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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