The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Bentley-Hall Music Publishing President, Antoinette Follett
Antoinette Follett is an accomplished businesswoman who has built a career that utilizes her many talents.
Working for Bentley-Hall, Inc. for more than 20 years, Follett has developed marketing and communications projects for some of the music industry’s most reputable brands. In addition to her work at BH—where she now serves as president—Follett is editor-in-chief of Making Music, a lifestyle magazine for amateur musicians, and managing editor of the AFM’s International Musician magazine.
Through her work with these publications, Follett has had the opportunity to interview musicians like Tommy Lee and Lisa Loeb (even Jeff Daniels!) and is an expert when it comes to knowing the many great benefits of making music.
WiMN: Tell us about your position at Bentley-Hall:
AF: I started my career at Bentley-Hall over 20 years ago. I was fortunate to find my first full-time position after college in a company where I could use my marketing, communication, and design skills. I didn’t realize the connection to the music industry at the time, but it’s the aspect that keeps me going. I love being able to work with so many talented musicians and business people. Bentley-Hall was founded by music industry veteran Bob Popyk. Through his strong connections within the industry, we built a reputation as a sales/marketing/publication company. I’ve worked on projects for Yamaha, Roland, Lowrey, and Percussion Marketing Council (PMC). In 2000, I assumed responsibility for the production of International Musician (the official publication of the American Federation of Musicians). I created a complete redesign of the 100-plus-year-old union newsletter, changing the focus to highlight the members—professional musicians—on the cover in a more contemporary magazine fashion.
In 2004, through the vision of Karl Bruhn, we began to explore the creation a new publishing project: Making Music magazine—a lifestyle magazine for adult musicians. It’s similar to International Musician in that we feature musicians from all genres and instruments, but different in that we tell the stories of the recreational musician.
Bentley-Hall also produces a number of other projects—we do video and print work in the medical, automotive, and service industries. As President of Bentley-Hall, my strengths in client communication and production help me oversee many different projects simultaneously. I’m fortunate to have a super staff of talented employees and freelancers (many of whom are musicians) to output so much quality work on schedule. As with most small companies, we all wear a number of hats and often have to shift modes as we work on different projects for different industries.
WiMN: Tell us about Making Music. How is it different than other music publications?
AF: Instead of focusing on one instrument or genre, as most music magazines do, Making Music covers all types of music makers, from beginners to long-time players and teachers, from brass bands to rock and roll, from group keyboard lessons to drum and ukulele circles. Making Music magazine encourages recreational musicians to become more engaged in playing their instruments and to participate in the larger music making community. Music is different from most hobbies or vocations in that music is a life-long passion. Making Music tells the stories of musicians: how their lives revolve around music and how they use music in their lives.
WiMN: What have been some of the most memorable moments working with the magazine over the years?
AF: I love the energy of producing the stories and when I’m able to put together a cover feature and coordinate the scheduling, location, finding a photographer, etc. I’ve met and interviewed so many interesting musicians. Some of the more notable interviews include Jeff Daniels, Tommy Lee, Lisa Loeb, Liberty DeVitto, and Bernie Williams. While I’ve interviewed all sorts of famous musicians, I still feel a special connection to NBC news anchor Lester Holt—he was so welcoming and genuinely a great person. He brought his upright bass across the city for our photo shoot in the middle of December and I think he really enjoyed being part of the story, instead of reporting on a story. Now when I see him on TV, I always say, there’s my pal Lester!
WiMN: Have you faced challenges as a woman in the music industry?
AF: While the music product industry is certainly a male dominated industry, I don’t believe in doing my job any differently because I’m a woman. Everyone faces challenges in their career. I believe success comes from playing up your strengths and overcoming weaknesses.
I enjoy the many connections I’ve made with women in the music industry that I’ve met and worked with. The NAMM Show is the major industry connection. There’s more to networking than connecting on social media. Building a network is about getting to know your customers and vendors; it’s great to be able to sit down over a cup of coffee or dinner and find out more about their families and them as a person. Balancing family priorities is important to me. We’re fortunate to live in a time where technology allows us to work remotely from home if necessary, and stay connected when traveling. I also see that businesses are recognizing the importance of family connections (for both men and women).
WiMN: Who are some of your female role models in the industry—artists or otherwise?
AF: I enjoy the many connections I’ve made with the women in the industry that I’ve met and worked with. Tish Ciravalo and Laura Whitmore are two women business owners that I greatly admire. They have created music industry companies while balancing family life. They have also been strong supporters of other women by sharing their success and creating more opportunities for women in the music industry.
WiMN: Do you play an instrument?
AF: Growing up, I took years of piano lessons, from kindergarten through 12th grade (I also played clarinet for five years in school). But when I went off to college, I was happy to leave my piano behind! I still enjoy sitting at the keyboard and being able to play a song once in a while. It’s so therapeutic and helps me shut out all the other distractions of the day. I love music and singing and really appreciate my parents’ devotion for keeping me involved in music, but I realize that I’m not going to be on stage as a performer anytime soon!
WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young woman pursuing a career in the industry?
AF: I recently spoke on the Sandy Feldstein Music Business Roundtable at Crane School of Music at Potsdam University about the opportunities in the music industry. I think it’s important for students (both male and female) to realize that there are many jobs that can keep you connected with music without having to depend solely on a career performing. Working in the music industry allows you to work on projects with other musicians. The more passion you have about your job/project, the happier you’ll be. Sure, there are sales or writing jobs in the construction industry for example, but if you have a passion for music and can work in the music industry, you will have much more passion for what you do.
WiMN: What’s in store for you for the remainder of 2014?
AF: Other than preparing for the holidays, I’ve already moved on to 2015: planning for the Winter NAMM Show, of course, producing the January issues of International Musician and Making Music—January 2015 marks the 10th Anniversary of Making Music magazine. The publishing industry is changing. We can’t hold back change, so I’m on board to ride the wave of change—continuing the multimedia growth of both International Musician and Making Music magazines.