Welcome one and all to the first edition of our newest series on MindEqualsBlown entitled Boss Ladies, hosted by yours truly, Maria Gironas. In the past here at MEB, you’ve seen us go back stage at festivals like Vans Warped Tour, SXSW, and CMJ. You’ve seen us bring coverage from some of your favorite bands like Jack’s Mannequin, New Politics, Circa Survive, and even Taylor Swift. For this new series though, we are reviving our former ‘Inside The Industry’ series into more of a passion project of mine: highlighting the hardworking women that are pivotal leaders in the music industry, aka ‘Boss Ladies’.
This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leah Taylor, who serves as the Director of Communications for your favorite concert discovery app, Bandsintown. Around the time I was organizing this series, I happened to connect with Leah through the WomenInMusic.org group and we hopped on a call later that same week for an interview. Leah has been at Bandsintown from the beginning and it was interesting not only to hear about her perspective on women in music, but also women in tech. A report from Creative & Cultural Skills revealed that the gender divide across all music industry related jobs is 67.8% male to 32.2% female, but the tech industry is a whopping 26% female, according to the National Center For Women and Information Technology. It reminded me that women in all fields have ways to go, but it starts with people like Leah who have hustled and are changing the face of the tech/music. Take a read of Leah’s interview below and be sure to comment with your thoughts!
Maria Gironas: Would you mind introducing yourself? Just saying what you do at Bandsintown exactly.
Leah Taylor: My name is Leah Taylor and I’m the Director of Communications for Bandsintown Group, based here in NY. I’ve been in this position now for about three years, reporting directly to the CEO Fabrice Sergent and our President Julien Mitelberg.
MG: That’s awesome! How did you stumble upon this position?
LT: I have worked for the bulk of my career in public relations for start-ups and tech companies, since I’m from Silicon Valley. A lot of my experience is in tech but I have always had a very strong love of music and live music specifically. Bandsintown has been great for me since it’s a combination of my two loves, tech and music.
About three years ago, I applied for a social media management position here. As I began learning more about the company, I learned they had just acquired an app called Bandsintown. I immediately downloaded it to check it out and over the course of the interview process, I was alerted to a concert that was coming up within a few weeks – Governor’s Ball. This was before it became the huge festival that it is today. I bought a ticket immediately and went to the festival and when I came back for my second interview, I told the hiring team, “I just used Bandsintown and it works! I went to a show and it was great. How did I not know about this app before?” They were excited I had a good experience and explained they were hoping to focus their promotional efforts on social media, specifically on this new product. That’s how I got started, Bandsintown and I joined pretty much at the same time.
MG: Wow, that’s amazing. So you were there for the initial beginning and everything.
LT: Bandsintown started off as an application that was developed by two founders, Phil Sergi and Todd Cronin in 2007. The company was acquired by our current founders but Todd is still with us today as our VP of Product. Over the last several years, Julien and Fabrice have grown the business and introduced many new products that cater to both bands and fans. We introduced Bandsintown Manager, a touring application to help artist promote their tour dates across the web, mobile and social media. Today Bandsintown Manager powers the tour dates for over 275,000 artists including Kings of Leon, The Strokes and Steve Aoki. We’ve also expanded into different business areas with Bandsintown for Promoters and Bandsintown Amplified, which has allowed us to grow our sales and brand partnership teams.
MG: What in your opinion sets Bandsintown apart from other apps in the music business?
LT: I feel Bandsintown has the most accurate data as far the concert alerts that I receive. Being a big fan of live music, I always want to know about my favorite touring artists and I tend to get that information from the app first.
Bandsintown has always been pro artist – it’s what sets the app apart. And with Bandsintown Manager, the artist has the choice and the control to upload their tour dates directly to our database. Thanks to this channel, we are getting information from the artists and the labels themselves including just announced dates, ticketing links and venue details. We also pull in concert data from the booking agents, promoters and ticketing companies. We then combine all of these different channels of information and push it out to the fan trackers, or concert-goers who have opted-in to receive gig alerts from the artists they like. We work very hard to live up to our motto: Never Miss Another Live Show. We may operate in the digital space but our purpose is for you to get out and meet others in real life, through music.
MG: I totally agree, it’s probably my favorite thing about the app. (Laughs) Did you always know that you wanted to enter tech, music, PR? What was your initial draw to this industry?
LT: In college at SJSU, I was always very drawn to literature and writing and quickly discovered I had a knack for digesting a lot of information and making it concise and easy to understand for a large audience. I considered going into broadcast journalism but fortunately, I choose public relations. I’m probably one of the few people that got a degree in PR and that is how I make a living today. Growing up in the Bay Area, I had the unique opportunity to work directly with entrepreneurs and start-ups; little tech companies that were just starting to get their footing and figuring out how to market themselves in a very competitive marketplace. I was lucky to find those opportunities right out of college before moving onto PR agencies and in-house positions where I grew and gained more experience.
PR is something I truly enjoy because your job is always changing. I come in the mornings and I never really know what I’m going to be getting into that day. There might be a partnership or new feature announcement, an interview or tour diary with a band on our blog, or some competitive news in the marketplace we want to have a reaction to. Social media is obviously huge for Bandsintown – like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram – because these are places where fans go to find out about the artists they want to see. It’s been fun for me to stay up to date on these new ways of being able to share our news and concert data.
MG: That’s awesome! I want to touch on being a woman in the music industry, as that is what this series is about. What does being a woman in music mean for you personally? Or in this case a women in tech?
LT: Tech is predominantly male, that’s a fact. But public relations as a specialty is predominately female, by a two-thirds margin. It’s my opinion that’s because women are just better communicators. We strategize, we research, we study, and we’re very good at going out with timely messages. It’s funny that I am in a profession of women, but I work with men. I need to have a strong voice and be very assertive when I’m sitting a table full of brilliant engineers and seasoned CEOs. While they may be experts, they do not have the marketing and PR background that I have from having worked for Adobe, iRobot, and Jawbone, so I have to advocate for my smarts and point-of-view. It’s the same in the music business but I feel that my voice is valued.
MG: If you can think back to when you first started your career 12 years ago, how do you think you have grown as a person since then? Not just business wise of course.
LT: What comes to mind immediately is being able to adapt to new technologies – and not just social media. I mean staying up on media databases and distribution systems, because that’s your life blood as a PR professional. Keeping in touch with the right contacts, how do they want to be reached, where do they live? Journalism has changed so much in the past 10 years; reporters who were in one position one year are doing something completely different the next. You need to stay in touch with them and make sure they know what your company and brand are doing. A big part of my job is being social and outgoing, which has helped in all facets of my life.
As a media brand, we work to share our own company news in the same way an artist or news blog would push content. This has taught me the in’s and out’s of new media platforms like Squarespace, Tumblr, and even Medium, which we rely on for the development of our blogs and websites. These are services I need to know and use daily. I was able to build our corporate website on Squarespace in about one month and it’s responsive on mobile, tablets, desktops, you name it. Bandsintown is starting to look more closely at the web services our artists use like Squarespace, Bandzoogle and WIX, so we’re able to share concert dates on those destinations and make it a lot easier for artists to do what they do. We handle all the digital, the marketing, and the sharing of their tour data so they can get on the road, make more music and keep their fans entertained.
MG: I didn’t realize your position brought in those elements on thinking about how to make the artists job easier, essentially. (Laughs)
LT: There are so many things that go into being an artist nowadays, and maintaining a website and promoting their presence online is part of that. It’s something I see as a daily struggle because artists are not always as computer savvy as those of us who work desk jobs – they live their life on the road. If your job is to come up with a new song, or write lyrics or record in studio, how would you know the best way to optimize a social media post? We take this off an artist’s plate and give them the free tools they need to leverage all of these different platforms to push their concert dates, wherever fans will discover them.
MG: Can you tell me a little bit about Bandsintown as a company, like what is it like going to work every day and what is the company culture like? Is there anything pretty unique about the company atmosphere itself?
LT: Absolutely! We are a very small team and some might not realize that because we have so much user growth. We have over 16 million registered users on Bandsintown Concerts and like I said 275,000 artists using Bandsintown Manager. Supporting this live music community, we have about 65 team members split between four offices: two in NY, one in Montreal, and another in San Diego. Our organization is very flat; there is no hierarchy in terms of titles and roles. One minute I could be pushing a tweet in support of a brand partnership and the next, I could be strategizing with the executive team on our communication roadmap for the year.
Many of us are artists and musicians ourselves so we go to a lot of shows together, create new music and support each other’s gigs. What’s been really great is a new program we created called Bandsintown RSViP, where we select 10 fans at random who RSVP to an event in Bandsintown and award them with an exclusive VIP experience. We rolled this program out at Irving Plaza with Gorgon City and recently, we offered an exclusive private performance with Shakey Graves where 20 fans were treated to a private acoustic session. It’s been really fulfilling, being there when a super fan meets an artist for the first time or getting to staff a private experience. It’s the best part of my job.
MG: What’s the worst part of your job?
LT: It’s tough to create a plan and stick to it – especially in music and tech. Dates are changing all the time, tours get cancelled, product launches slip or servers go down. It’s inevitable that you’re going to need to think on your feet, which we absolutely do here at Bandsintown. If anyone is ever looking to connect with us, I encourage them to write us at http://ow.ly/LEJmu.
MG: Best part of your job?
LT: See above re: RSViP
MG: What is the first album you ever remember buying?
LT: It was a tape actually. George Michael, Faith.
MG: What’s the best concert you have ever been to?
LT: That’s easy, it was the very first live show I ever went to. When I was 16 years old, I saw The Grateful Dead live with Jerry Garcia at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Calif. I was accompanied by my friend’s hippy parents and got to experience the whole thing from the vending in the parking lot to the drum circles to the amazing feeling of community among the Dead Heads. I was hooked, I’ve been going to live shows ever since.
MG: What advice do you have for people wanting to enter the field of music, tech or even public relations?
LT: Read – a lot! Stay current on the latest tools and platforms that disseminate news and information; never be afraid to try something new. Most of all, keep in touch with colleagues, partners, friends and associates. I am always amazed by how small the world really is, where a friend knows someone at UMG or I went to school with someone who ran the Vans Warped Tour. Your network and personal brand are what propel you in this business, so stay connected and do favors when you can. It all comes back around.
Thanks so much for joining us this week! Stay tuned for Friday next week to read about our next Boss Lady, Jenna LoMonaco – Sr. Digital Strategist @ Island Records.
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