MW of the Month // March 10, 2014

We all know what it feels like to pull all-nighters; to put in countless hours on a project and only receive a pat on the back. Yes, you may be working towards an end goal or a dream job, but sometimes the climb to the top can feel a little thankless. Those we read about in the news or see on TV who have reached the pinnacle of their careers inspire us to keep going. But rarely do those of us still on our way up get any recognition, before we get the corner office. *Cue Drake’s Started from the Bottom.* That’s why we love to highlight Made Women on the rise -- those who have just earned a promotion or secured a new job. They may not be calling all the shots just yet, but we can learn a thing or two from their journey thus far. Our Made Woman of the Month for March is LA’s own Amber Wilson! Amber recently made a career move that turned out to be her best move; landing her dream job at Live Nation Entertainment– the world’s largest live entertainment and e-commerce company. After working for years in the non-profit sector, Amber’s new gig put her closer to her goal of working for a global company, doing corporate communications. Congrats, Amber!

It was a special treat to interview this Made Woman because she is a dear friend of mine. A fellow USC Trojan, Amber and I met freshman year of college. I always loved that Amber knew who she was, what she wanted, and how to get it. Unlike some other Gen Y-ers, she didn’t suffer from feeling overwhelmed by her options or unsure of her next steps. A communication major, she enjoyed writing, music, travel and connecting with others; and hoped to take the things she loved and turn them into a successful career. Her self-assurance made her one to watch on campus. A true leader, she made time between internships and classes for volunteer groups like Blacks In Action -- where she spearheaded the creation of an annual scholarship for incoming freshmen who had given back to their communities.

During school she interned at Atlantic and Hidden Beach Records and wrote for publications like Saturday Night Magazine. She also took time to travel and studied abroad her senior year -- living in Bilbao, Spain for four months and then in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Amber was able to soak up some sunshine and some culture during her time abroad but it wasn’t all about fun. She credits this experience for sparking her desire to work for a company with a global reach. “There are defining moments in our lives that shape who we become, and studying abroad in Spain and Argentina was that moment for me. I learned so much about myself and became exposed to many other different types of lifestyles and culture. To this day I still have friends around the world from when we studied together. It made me a global citizen and showed me how connected we all can be, if we want to be.”

While Amber did know what she wanted, getting from point A (being recent college grad with no experience) to point B (having the career of your dreams) is not always a linear journey. After graduation she worked for the Century City Chamber of Commerce as a membership coordinator where she used her skill set to boost membership and manage communications. She worked there for four and a half years moving up to membership director along the way. Working for a non-profit meant budgets were tight. Amber was forced to get creative when thinking of ways to build membership and host networking events that members would appreciate. She crafted unique experiences for attendees, inviting out masseuses for one event and partnering with the Microsoft store for another – creating a live, interactive gaming experience. At a time when Twitter was just emerging, Amber also oversaw the launch of the Chamber’s social media platforms, and added value to local businesses by sharing news on their events and promotions. Her ideas added a fresh spin to the Chamber’s media and promotions without breaking the bank and the experience taught her how to be resourceful and think on her feet. Though she valued her time with the Chamber -- along with the connections and knowledge she gained along the way -- Amber found herself wanting more. Her world perspective made her daydream about working for a company that made a global impact.

Instead of just dreaming about it, Amber decided to do something to gain more experience and connections around Los Angeles. She started her blog, Wilson’s "Where to" Guide, a source for reviews and write-ups on local businesses and events for young urbanites who love travel and good food. Amber honed her writing skills and built a powerful network while blogging about the city she loved. “LA is just so rich and diverse. It’s a place where you can do so much. Just when you feel like you have a handle on LA, you learn something new...you can never get bored. And if you do -- ‘Hey, check out my blog,’” she says laughingly. People began to connect with her posts and started inviting her to attend their events. She interviewed people like Calvin Richardson, Brian McKnight, DJ Lady Sha -- the first female DJ to spin on live radio in South Africa -- and other trailblazers who were making an impact in their communities. All the while she was perfecting her skills as a writer and editor. “For three years I wrote a blog post every single week, regardless of what was going on with my full-time job, or my social life,” Amber says. Traveling and writing for her blog gave her an outlet for her creative energy.

Amber realized she had learned all she could working in the non-profit sector and wanted to move on -- but the tough job market stunted her progress. “There was a point when I wanted to make a change; I was applying for job after job, I was interviewing and getting to the final stages but nothing was happening.”  Amber didn’t give up on her dream and become complacent. Instead, she got creative and focused on how she could stand out as an applicant. Finally, the stars aligned and preparation met opportunity. Amber was offered the position with Live Nation Entertainment as a corporate communications coordinator working alongside the Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications. The company manages tours for heavy hitters like Beyonce, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Linkin Park. They also are the parent company for venues across America like the House of Blues and the ticketing site Ticketmaster.

Amber says that she is always excited to go to work now and see what is happening firsthand in the music industry. Amber drafts press releases for upcoming tours, corporate or charitable partnerships, handles media inquiries, writes and distributes a daily newsletter to 45 countries. She manages social media and stays on top of industry news. She said she was nervous about distributing content to media partners at that level when she started but has since gotten the hang of things: “If you are really a writer you can write about anything.” Her position in the C-Suite alongside all the executives allows her to learn from other leaders and see what it takes to run a Fortune 500 company. Her success with her blog breeds more success at her current position. She knows the value of her connections and understands PR better now that she has a media perspective.  “You always have a vision of how you think something is going to play out professionally… it doesn’t always happen that way. But the key is to be prepared when opportunities do come, so that if it’s the right opportunity you can jump on it,” she says.  

Now that Amber is a bit closer to her dreams she says that it was her perseverance that made the difference. Even though her course wasn’t quick and easy, she has now established herself in the professional world and created a network that she can count on throughout her career. Even though the going gets tough she knows that it is through hard work that dreams are realized, “We are not owed the right to follow and pursue our dreams; it is a blessing and an honor.”

Published in MW University
Monday, 10 September 2012 14:45

Made Woman of the Month | Nicole Plantin - BMI

September 10, 2012

Any woman who has worked in the music industry knows—and those who haven't can surmise, I'm sure—that it isn't the easiest world to excel in. Sure, many other realms of business are still male-dominated too; but the informality of music in particular, with its late-night studio sessions, youth-oriented lifestyle and infamous parties, can make it a tougher environment in which to be taken seriously as a woman. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to have hindered Nicole Plantin's career one bit. San Francisco-born but a New Yorker at heart (she moved to Queens at a young age, spent time in Long Island and Harlem, and attended college at NYU), Nicole entered the industry and hit the ground running. Ten-plus years in the game, she's built herself a career that’s coveted by many. From her interning at Elektra under Silvia Rhone to working with Pharrell and the Neptunes, to her current work at BMI as the Director of Writer/Publisher Relations, her experience is vast and her rolodex, long. And she’s using both to make her own rules and navigate the industry like a pro.

When I spoke to the music industry maven, she was right in the middle of BMI’s busiest time of year, prepping for their annual awards show. As huge an event as it is, her business unit is responsible for much more. “Our main responsibility is maintaining and developing relationships with our roster… It’s all relationship-building. It’s writer-pub relations, so it’s such a huge umbrella. Everyone needs something different. But it’s good, because you have the freedom to do a lot of different things.”

In addition to events, Nicole’s internal duties include handling writers and their accounts, keeping other departments in the loop about client activity and making sure everything is accurate. Externally, she says she has “a ton of communication with artists and songwriters directly. We’re dealing with their managers, their attorneys, and also people who might want to do something with us or connect with people on our roster.” She also meets with various people--songwriters, artists and their staff--who want her to hear their music, and this part of her role takes up a large amount of her time. “It’s funny because we always say ‘I have so many meetings!’ but that’s when you end up coming across really great stuff that you get really excited about. The cool thing is that you meet a lot of people early on in their careers.”

Which leads me back to Pharrell and the Neptunes (some of my all-time faves), who Nicole worked with early on in her own career, when she was an assistant to their manager. She saw them go from just “bubbling” new talent (“they maybe had two major singles out at the time”) and worked alongside them on their Star Trak label, then their joint venture with Arista, all the way to their deal with Interscope. Although, she admits she didn’t necessarily realize what she was a part of at the time: “It was kind of just happening but looking back now, you’re like, ‘Wow, that really was cool.’ But when you’re in it you’re just trying not to mess up!”

Varied in her background—she’s interned in A&R Administration, worked as a product manager, done artist development, is now involved in publishing—there has been one common thread throughout Nicole’s career. “There is no, ‘I can’t do that.’ And everything is, ‘now’; it has to happen at that moment. So you just learn how to make everything happen.” This skill has suited her well over the years, as many of her professional opportunities have stemmed from past bosses (many times, women), reaching back out to her. That’s what led her to her position on the west coast with BMI. Her current boss let her know about an opportunity across the country in LA, and Nicole jumped on it. And, the rest, as they say, is history.

But that’s not to say it’s been an easy road. While she feels her musical background and exposure to the industry early on has made working in music second-nature for her, she admits that the environment can pose a challenge for young women. How did she deal? “Sometimes you have to be more aggressive and outspoken, very direct. You can’t leave any room for confusion [when dealing with men]. I don’t think guys have to think about that, whereas we do.” But she’s not one to dwell. “You take it on; you just know that’s what it’s going to be. Don’t even look at is as being a woman in the industry. Don’t let it weigh too much on how you make decisions. When people see that you’re going to be a relationship that’s valuable, a lot of times they prefer to maintain that relationship and people will treat you accordingly.”

This approach and cultivating industry relationships has led her to signing the likes of TMinus, Mac Miller, Odd Future and Wiz Khalifa, among others. Her niche has become signing people early on in their careers, which means keeping her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry. Attending festivals, listening to music nonstop, talking to people who are “on the ground,” and cultivating relationships have all helped her to shine and expand her current role at BMI. “I love music. I like new artists—that’s what excites me still.” In addition to the music itself, she looks at the work ethic, online activity and the buzz new projects are creating to evaluate whether they’re a fit for BMI.

These days, she’s excited about the shift in the music industry, and the fact that things aren’t as predicted by formulas and formats. “It’s a good reflection of where we are as a people, and in leveling the playing field. People like what they want to like and it’s less genre-specific.” And who does she like? Female artists and songwriters like Jhene Aiko, Stacy Barthe and Bebe Ohare have caught her eye, in addition to rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, BJ the Chicago Kid and Chance the Rapper.

In the next few years, she sees herself working in, “a more creative, hands-on capacity with artists and their projects and playing a larger role in guiding the direction of their music and overall careers.” She’d also like to delve into more lifestyle initiatives specifically for cutting-edge women. World travel and starting a family are also on her radar. She’s most inspired by her mother, who “has always been an individual and marched to her own drum.” She’s also the woman who gave her the best piece of advice she’s received: “Sometimes, you have to go left to go right.” Left or right, Nicole Plantain seems to be a Made Woman on the path to her dreams.

Published in Business