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: Hot Jam Media Founder, Suzanne Perry
Living out her true life’s passions, Suzanne Perry has forged a career that is one part music industry guru and another domestic violence awareness advocate.
Apart from being the founder of Hot Jam Media and an ambassador for a number of today’s most popular brands, Perry represents a voice for those who are affected by domestic violence.
After removing herself from an abusive relationship that she suffered under for more than two decades, Perry broke free to launch a career in music and media. She founded her own radio show and e-magazine, which has granted her opportunities to interview some of the industry’s hottest artists.
Most recently, Perry launched her own nonprofit, concert event and domestic violence awareness movement. Find out all about Suzanne Perry’s tireless work in the interview below, and learn more at hotjammedia.com.
WiMN: Can you share the story that led up to the creation of Hot Jam Media? What is the mission of the company and magazine?
SP: When I was growing up, I wanted to be a radio jock. That dream was cut short by entering into a relationship that took me off the radar for the next 22 years. After finally getting out of that violent and abusive marriage, I hit my reset button at age 39. I got back in touch with the things I was stifled from doing.
In 2010, I started a own radio show using my cell phone and an online platform (Blogtalkradio). That was a major learning curve; learning to make conversation talking to myself! I started to enter the music scene, checking out bands in clubs. I am supercharged by live music; and well, I have this built-in “awesome-meter.” When I see a band that makes my awesome-meter freak out, I get this energy rush and feel I have to take action and alert people, so they too can experience the awesomeness.
I wanted to create a platform to give local bands a means to reach hungry ears. I was going to be a talent management company on a local level, but the market in Buffalo doesn’t prove very profitable, and I didn’t want to worry about fighting over being short-paid when a place isn’t packed.
As my radio show progressed, I got picked up to do other shows, and for a while I was hosting 4 shows both online as live-to-air podcasts and on the FM dial from Buffalo State College. I’d invite these bands that I really dug to come on the air and talk about their music and plug future shows.
For every type of person, every experience, every feeling – there’s art and music that compliment and resonate with it. It’s a beautiful thing. I was missing a platform to feature all of this wonder, and opened it up beyond just local. A little bit of research and elbow grease, and it wasn’t too hard to pull together the components to create a comprehensive hangout (e-magazine), and that is Hot Jam Media Mag.
Hot Jam Media Mag is a monthly online publication for the creative-minded, beat-driven bold and artsy. It’s for rockers, rollers and rebels. It’s for anybody who’s faced adversity, and it shares people’s stories of inspiration to keep on going no matter what the outside pressures are.
WiMN: Who are some of your favorite artists you’ve had the opportunity to interview?
SP: At the Regal Tip booth last year at NAMM I got a lot of great interviews from their drummers, thanks to Jay Medynski. People I really enjoyed talking to include Randy Cook, Brian Tichy, Mike Heller, Marco Mendoza, Orianthi, Alex Skolnick and Flintface.
Being at the first WiMN She Rocks Awards last year, though, really recharged me as far as my own music and my involvement in the scene. For some adversity I was facing, being there with these power-women gave me some insight that I needed right at that time. Before making that journey to Southern California, I did some research on the people that I would meet. I became enthralled when I saw the background of people like Laura Whitmore, the founder of WiMN. I felt humbled and honored to actually be accepted to witness this amazing event.
The opportunities have been amazing. This year’s NAMM took the cake and I forsee it only getting better. Bonzo Bash, Jake E Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel and the Randy Rhoads Remembered shows plunked me right smack in the middle of my game. Meeting so many seriously incredible musicians, having casual conversation and pictures together was off the hook.
I have a bucketlist of people that I really want to interview: Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric and Eddie Vedder. And I gotta get an interview with Laura and thank her, because it was she –– and her career walk of life –– that gave me a kick in the pitooty and the motivation to be unstoppable.
WiMN: You’re also a brand ambassador for a number of companies. How did you break into this field and can you tell us about some of the work you do?
SP: Being a brand ambassador totally rocks. I got into that type of work because I signed up for every type of event email notification list out there. I started getting several emails daily with opportunities, and I would apply to all of them. I’m registered with nearly 40 agencies that provide staffing for events and promotional gigs. I’ve learned how to build a beautiful presentation, how to table, to manage crews, how to set up and break down efficiently and maintain logistics for extended events. Gosh I have learned a ton.
My work has been featured in advertising, I’ve won lots of nice goodies and perks, and also am in some of these companies’ training manuals with my displays! A great thing that this has taught me early on though, is being fresh and open to talk to anybody and everybody. The people I’d least expect to taste and buy tequila for example, buy several bottles.
Whether it’s for Gallo products, L’Oreal, Gildan, or even Chicken Soup for the Soul soups, I get to meet and chat with people from all walks of life. I’ve learned a lot about people. Some of the people can have the most scouring face when they walk into a store, but when I greet them, they smile and everything changes. I feel good making people smile, and I don’t really care much about the sale. I am proud to stand behind great products.
WiMN: Do you play an instrument?
SP: I took guitar lessons when I was a teen. I remember my guitar teacher playing Steely Dan’s “Peg” for me and being wowed. I wanted to be able to do THAT. I wanted to learn that language and speak it! But.. I stopped going to my 11:00am guitar lessons on Saturday in exchange for roller skating.
I recently started learning drums, and feel fabulous when I play. I’m still a beginner though. I have an Axl Mayhem Wavepoint bass that sounds sweet and plays easily for me but I haven’t picked it up in about a year. I have a rebuilt Gibson SG with humbucker pickups and Dean Markley strings and THAT really brings me joy. I love it. I love how it feels, plays and sounds. It plays with charisma.
WiMN: Tell us the idea behind OP Music House and Love Shouldn’t Hurt.
SP: I started a nonprofit on the first business day of the new decade, and I called it OP Music House. OP was for the town I live in, Orchard Park. The original idea was for it to be a recreational center where I would provide mentoring and referrals for men and women impacted by domestic violence, and, a music venue for young adults. Local musicians would donate their time to offer tips and tricks to young adults and show them basic recording techniques with a basic recording studio. I had lots of support but no money –– I didn’t know how to bring the money in.
What it actively was doing, however, was launching me into the public eye for domestic violence awareness. People came to me with their stories of abuse and we formed a network. I started speaking at colleges and businesses about my experience, how it relates to others’ lives, the impact it has on families, signs to watch for and how people can live successfully outside the confines of an abusive relationship.
It also brought about the EXPOSURE Concert. Actually, the proper title is “EXPOSURE Concert: Because love shouldn’t hurt.” It is a 3-day long concert where bands volunteer to play, and OP Music House receives the proceeds. I paid for everything, and I mean everything. I wasn’t able to build a profit, because I paid for everything out pocket. But I didn’t care. The feedback was overwhelming.
We livestreamed the concert and it was watched from 8 countries and 34 states! The following year, the concert moved to a more central, open location with a second stage. We still hold it there and this will be the 5th year.
You live and learn when you have a business. I have realized that my strengths lead my business, so I am now rebranding everything into something more obvious: Love Shouldn’t Hurt TV. I am growing that into a network – one that mirrors resilience, one that inspires, empowers, and embraces people for their differences instead of chastising them. We have purple and black wristbands that are only a dollar, that say “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” and “EXPOSE it.”
My theory is that if abusers were exposed –– if my curtain had been open before my ex was about to hit or assault me, and the neighbors were looking in, or the whole town, or if everybody in the world was looking in my window as he raised a fist –– would he do it? Of course not. So a good chunk of my branding surrounds the “exposure” theme.
I ask people to wear the bands to say that abusive behavior ends with them. They won’t let it pass. If they see something, they will speak out. And for people who have been victimized or know somebody who has, to wear it proudly because they survived. They are helping us unite against domestic violence.
We have people from around the US and Canada right now, and will be releasing a video in the fall. It’s really exciting. This year’s EXPOSURE Concert is June 27-29th. I’ve been fortunate to have big hitter sponsors like Regal Tip, Yorkville Sound, and UPS, and hope that list will grow.
WiMN: What message do you have for anyone that might feel trapped in an abusive relationship?
SP: If your partner does not make you feel good about yourself, don’t prolong it. If you are hoping you can “fix” your partner, that you will change them, stop. If your gut is alerting you of danger, trust it. A healthy relationship is one where each partner compliments the other in some way, and you are never afraid to say anything. If you don’t have that, it’s time to move on. It’s not your fault, and you will feel shame and guilt. It’s normal. They guilt you into feeling sorry for them.
My ex-husband punched me in the mouth and cut his hand on my tooth. He made me feel bad for that! He shoved me into the fridge and the handle broke, and somehow it was my fault. Don’t tolerate being scolded for all that you are not. You are you and you should be proud of who you are. If your partner starts taking away things that define you like your hobbies or your friends, please see these as red flags.
Staying in a bad relationship “for the kids” is doing more harm than good. The children will grow up with social problems, thinking it’s okay and acceptable to be hostile to people that you “love.” Love is not hostile. Love shouldn’t hurt. EVER. And finally, make sure you have a safety plan.
WiMN: What’s in store for you in 2014?
SP: Well in short order, UPGRADING MY GEAR! I want better cameras and high quality livestreaming and sound for EXPOSURE this year. I have teamed up with NOMORE.org too, a global effort for awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is exciting because there are actual celebrities there saying “NO MORE.” I feel I am essentially standing shoulder to shoulder with Katie Couric. It’s a big deal! In 2014 I will also be publishing my first book.
My hope list for 2014: I want to develop my guitar skills and hopefully get some of the 80-some songs I have written, recorded. I hope to be able to get the network solidified, broadcast studios, cameras and staff, in an organized fashion. I really need (a budget for) editors for video footage. I just can’t do it all.
Bigger picture: to host my Hot Jam with Suzanne show on TV, where I can bring all the stuff I do to a televised platform. And I would love to have more paid speaking gigs.
Find out more at hotjammedia.com.