Front and Center: Karen Dunn, Owner of KMD Produtions
By Leslie Buttonow
Have you ever attended a formal event that was so enjoyable and so well-planned from the moment you arrived that it left a memorable impression for months or even years? That experience is the driving force behind the success of KMD Productions. Its owner, Karen Dunn, plans and executes a variety of events in which the bar is set at a “tippy toe” height, so that guests and clients alike walk away with an extremely satisfying experience. Her company plans a variety of events for the audio industry, including awards ceremonies, golf tournaments, product launches, cocktail parties, fundraisers, and more.
Dunn’s clientele encompasses all aspects of the pro audio world, from manufacturers to nonprofit organizations. Some notable examples include: NAMM (TEC Awards); Waves Audio (educational events around the country); Sennheiser (annual kick-off meetings) and ADAM Audio (who created an “insider” event at The Village to introduce the ADAM Audio S Series line of professional studio monitors).
She shared some insights learned along the way, as well as some “words to live by” that have served her well and can apply equally well for anyone working with others in our industry.
Learn more at kmdpro.com.
WiMN: What are some of your favorite aspects of working in the event planning business?
KD: I love the freedom and variety provided by having my own business. Even though most of my clients are in the music and professional audio space, each event is different – different clients, different personalities, unique wants and needs and goals. I love the challenge of taking their concepts and making the reality of the event even better than they expected. I am always looking for perfection and it’s a high bar. It’s the details and the stress and the adrenaline on the way to an awesome event that I love. Bottom line, I like making people happy.
Plus, I have been given the opportunity to travel extensively. How great is that? I meet a really diverse group of people and explore new areas through my travels. I have the chance to learn every day!
WiMN: You’ve carved out an interesting niche for yourself, working primarily with companies and foundations in the music and audio industry. On one hand, you must have access to some amazing audio gear, musical guests, and seasoned presenters. But on the other hand, it must have been somewhat intimidating at first putting on events for the audio industry. Any funny or favorite stories or lessons learned from your beginnings as an event planner?
KD: I have been extremely lucky to have met and worked with many superstars in the industry, talented professionals who make our industry so interesting – from Les Paul and George Martin to Stevie Wonder and Tom Dowd. However, to paraphrase an old saying, I believe in treating rock stars like regular people, and treating all my clients like rock stars.
WiMN: How did you first get involved in the audio industry?
KD: I was a freelance writer when I received a call from Mix Magazine looking for a proof reader for the very first TEC Awards program book. That got me involved in this industry, and here I am now, all these many years later. I don’t sing. I don’t play an instrument. I don’t have any musical talent, but I have a true love for the warm and creative people in this industry.
WiMN: At some point, you made a decision to break out and form your own company, which is something a lot of people hesitate to do. Any words of wisdom to our readers who may be building up their courage to do something similar?
KD: Since I started KMD Productions my motto has been “Change or Die.” The world is moving so fast that if you’re not open and willing to change, you’ll be left behind. Having my own business has been the most challenging thing I have ever done. I spend 98% of my time outside of my comfort zone and I work 24-7, but I love it and wouldn’t change it at all. Words of wisdom? Do what you love. And don’t wait for the right time, because that’s not how it works. Just do it.
WiMN: As a female working for an industry with an uneven proportion of males vs. females, did you ever feel discrimination of any sort? If so, how did you handle it?
KD: I feel very fortunate to say that I have not.
WiMN: Have you noticed more women in diverse or higher-level positions in our industry since you first were involved with it?
KD: Certainly. I have been in the business for many years with some pretty powerful women who have become friends – Rose Mann Cherney (former longtime president of Record Plant Recording Studios) and Maureen Droney )managing director of the Recording Academy’s P&E Wing), just to name two. Women have definitely been making strides forward and I see more women coming into the industry at all levels, but the industry still seems to be male dominated in higher-level decision-making roles.
WiMN: If any of our readers are considering a career such as yours, what are some qualities or traits you feel are indispensable for your line of work?
KD: Read everything. Talk to everyone. Get off of your laptop or phone and meet people in person. Be ready for hard work. Pay attention to details. Be open to change. Do not let ‘no’ be your first answer. Network. Know what your values are and stick to them. Did I mention – details, details, details! Listen. Stay positive. Stay focused on your end goals. Get out of your comfort zone because nothing new and exciting happens there. Don’t give up. Have fun!
WiMN: What advice would you give to young women, overall, who are considering a career specifically in the business side of the music industry?
KD: Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t think you can’t do something just because that’s what people are telling you. Figure out what your goal is and go for it. Talk to everyone, male and female. I have learned an enormous amount about being successful in business from talking to top level executives in all kinds of businesses. Network. Do your homework and don’t give up. It’s a tough business, but you need to persist; tenacity is a very important quality.