We chatted with Carrie Hall, the manager of Royalties and Events at Spirit Music Group who serves as a vice chair for the WIM events committee. She thinks all of you are amazing.
Success is such a personal concept – we all see and define it differently. How did you personally define your success?
I love that you said it that way… “personally.” I define my success by how many promises I’ve kept to my younger self, for many reasons, not by salary or title. The only things I’ve ever known for sure I wanted to do – personally – was be with my partner, Jason, move to NYC, and have some cats. Check, done. Professionally, all I’ve ever been good at is writing, editing, and knowing a lot about music, and I’ve been very lucky to parlay that into a career that allows me to utilize all three passions and aptitudes.
What advice would you give women who want to enter your side of the industry? What are your top three tips?
1) Be a malleable, proactive team player who is happy to focus and multi-task. Be a Jane of All Trades – that makes you indispensable. Be one of the helpers. Befriend all departments. Learn the business of your business.
2) Read The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing, and
3) If truly starting out, intern across various departments at a publisher to figure out where your interests and strengths would be of service.
How have the personal and professional experiences in your life contributed to your success today?
My experiences have made me equal parts extremely focused, uncompromising, scrappy, and tender. I was born and raised in Florida, and trying to figure out how to get from there to here is, shall we say, challenging, because there weren’t many opportunities there for my chosen path. My partner and I ran a mobile software company for a decade, so I didn’t even have contacts in music. One day, I woke up with a mortgage in Tampa and realized that I had gotten so far off track and away from “me” that I/we decided a move to NYC was necessary. So, we sold the house and drove on up the eastern seaboard a year later.
It wasn’t until I started blogging and writing about music online, building a portfolio while working from home in Florida and later, Manhattan, that I got an internship at an indie music magazine based in Williamsburg in 2007, a boom time for the music scene in New York (recently covered in Lizzy Goodman’s awesome book, Meet Me in the Bathroom). After paying my dues, I was given the opportunity to interview members of The Strokes and Interpol, photograph music festivals, and learn the ins-and-outs of editing a music magazine. This period of time allowed me to make contacts at record labels and publicity houses, and inspired me to pursue a different career path where I could be part of a songwriter or artist’s support system, rather than just another person in the crowd with an opinion, a pen, and a camera.
So, long story short, I started out in music journalism, interned, and temped around to get my foot in the door in various music business emphases, moved to publicity, stage production licensing, and now publishing – and truly, I talked a big rationale game to land those positions because I honestly/naively thought I was qualified! And really, the only thing I had going for me was that I just really, really didn’t want to let 14-year-old me down, not necessarily because my resume was the best one. The part of me that got obsessed with the movie Pump Up the Volume and how crucially it changed and informed my perspective at such a young age…that’s the part of me that went into hyper beast mode pursuing this industry. I did my homework. I taught myself the applications, the constructs, the lingo. I’m a quick, albeit obsessive, study. Passion, belief in my abilities and potential, respecting the struggle, and knowing where I come from is what drives my success.
Can you share with us some of the challenges you’ve faced?
I’ve taken some lumps over the years at certain companies, especially verbal abuse, denied meal breaks, extremely low pay, harassment, and not being considered for upper opportunities for various reasons, with my gender being one of the reasons I’ve literally been given, or that I was too “old” to be a beginner. I had one boss tell me that I needed to get a thicker backbone because I winced when she called me a really nasty derogatory term insulting my intelligence and mental acuity that I won’t repeat here. I shouldn’t need a thicker backbone and become hardened and callous and non-empathetic just because you can’t be professional, or frankly, a decent human being. In fact, the challenging atmospheres I’ve found myself in have only further convinced me of the importance of leading with kindness and being of service. It might seem thankless a lot of the time, and you might feel taken for granted, but it's always better to add more than you subtract in whatever circumstance you find yourself in, personally or professionally.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
In a nutshell: Grow up, show up, step up. Be interested. Be loyal. Be kind.
What do you think is the most pressing issue women in the music industry face in your region?
NYC is blessed to be filled to the brim with extraordinarily talented and brilliant women who bring it day in and day out. So there’s a huge competition factor. But, the most pressing issues I’ve seen in various places and heard about is two-fold: certainly, the pay gap, and also, just not being considered for upward motion career tracts at companies in this industry, or even being given well-earned superlatives and/or promotions, while male counterparts move right on up the title ladder and are praised left and right. Not all companies in this industry are like this, of course. I had one situation where a male executive (who refused to promote women and thought we should be grateful to even be employed) asked me in a job interview if I was planning on getting pregnant any time soon, or if I was currently pregnant. Good times.
Who inspires you, and why?
I’m inspired by people who stand in their truths, who never stop searching, learning, and growing. So, with that in mind, these are the folks I always pay keen attention to: Leonard Cohen, Bono, Alison Mosshart, Bridget Everett, Justin Vivian Bond, Issa Rae, Murray Hill, Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, and Kanye West.
What do you look forward to accomplishing at Spirit Music Group in the next year?
Recently, I started working with the admin team to learn more about their duties and stepping in and helping where I can. I look forward to doing more of that in the next year.
Tell us more about how you got involved Spirit Music Group. What is your ultimate goal and what do you need to take it to the next level?
Funnily enough, I saw a job posting for Spirit on the WIM mailing list. Naturally, I immediately took my shot in a very Eminem-“8 Mile” sort of way. “Mom’s Spaghetti,” right? This was another situation where I had convinced myself I was the best person for the job because I love tedium, understand the nuances of client contracts and am well versed on their catalog…and not because I had the heavy music publishing background going for me. I had passion and was ready and willing to dig in and put in the hours. Spirit is an extraordinary place filled with incredible human beings who are the best at what they do, and we have a wonderful time doing it. I’ve never laughed with a group of people harder, or felt more welcome to grow and be myself, in my life than I do with my Spirit family.
My ultimate goal, however, is to finish writing this novel I’ve been working on for over 10 years, and learn how to develop it into a screenplay. I’ve been a writer my entire life and so long as I keep my promises to myself, it’ll get done.