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: Kristi Bronico, PR & Marketing Communications Manager, C.F. Martin & Co.
By Leslie Buttonow
Quick—name a musical instrument brand that’s been around for more than 50 years. OK, a few might come to mind, but what if you were asked to name one that’s been around for more than 100 years? A bit more challenging, perhaps!
That challenge has been met and exceeded by C.F. Martin & Co., more commonly known as Martin Guitar. They’ve been crafting some of the world’s finest guitars for more than 180 years, and have helped to shape the sound of modern music since its inception.
Kristi Bronico is the company’s PR and marketing communications manager, proudly representing the brand to musicians everywhere. In the interview below, Bronico shares her love of music, her involvement with the brand, and gives us some insights into the company’s philosophy and successes over the years.
For more information, visit martinguitar.com.
The WiMN: Have you always had an interest in music, and how did you land at Martin Guitar?
KB: My interest in music started as soon as I was old enough to understand it. My dad is a singer and has been involved in some form of musical project my entire life. He used to sing to me and my siblings all the time. Even the games we played in the car revolved around music in some way. When he sang to us he’d often change the lyrics to fit our names into the songs and give them personal meaning, so I’ve spent my entire life really listening to lyrics and being fascinated by songwriting. When I find an artist that can bring the right words and right music together I am transfixed. I’m a lifelong fan.
As a young adult, I always gravitated toward artistic people and even lived with a group of musicians in my mid-twenties. Our house was always filled with music and my very favorite thing to do was sit in our living room and listen to them write songs. I started playing guitar about 18 years ago so that I could write my own songs. It’s been a great outlet for me. Whenever something really meaningful happens in my life, good or bad, I write about it. It’s powerful. It’s cathartic.
Growing up close by to Martin, I followed the company early on in my life and have quite a few friends and acquaintances who work here as well. I’ve always been interested in joining the company, but it took some time for an opportunity to align with my career goals. When I heard that a product management position was opening up, I jumped at the chance to get my foot in the door. I’ve spent the past six years learning everything I can about the business and the industry.
The WiMN: Tell us a little about your experiences while at Martin Guitar—what roles you’ve played there, and your current role.
KB: I started out in the String Division as product manager. In that role, I was responsible for product marketing and product management for acoustic and electric guitar strings. I also played a key role in string sales and spent a great deal of time working with some of our largest retailers and did a fair amount of travel. I then moved out of the String Division and into the Marketing Department where I continued to market strings for another year.
Earlier last year, I took over Media Relations and Planning for the organization, which is my current role. This role is exciting for me because I’m now focused on all of our products and the brand as a whole. I work with all our external media partners and thought leaders throughout the industry. It’s really been a nice change. I am also the managing editor for The Martin Journal of Acoustic Guitars, a project I’m very proud to be part of.
The WiMN: What is your favorite part of your job?
KB: Aside from getting to work at this incredible company and being surrounded by the best of the best, my favorite part of the job is that every day is different. I’m never bored and always challenged in some way. I’m involved in many different projects and aspects of media relations and am able to interact with a lot of folks across the industry that I admire and enjoy working with and learning from. Laura Whitmore is a perfect example!
The WiMN: Martin Guitar is such an iconic brand, yet you need to also promote it to up-and-coming musicians so that they too, are familiar with it. This is similar to when musicians with an established following wish to reach out to new fans but not alienate their existing ones. What’s something you think a brand/musician can do to appeal to both new fans and current ones?
KB: I think the most important thing a brand/musician can do is to be authentic about who they are and really own it. If you love what you do, and you tell your story in the most real way possible, you’ll connect with people. And this is an exciting time to be in marketing because, in the digital world, there are so many avenues that offer new opportunities to reach new audiences. It’s just a matter of finding the right ones that fit for your brand and putting your authentic message out there.
The WiMN: As a female working at a guitar company, have you ever faced any discrimination? If so, how did you handle it?
KB: I have not and I’m happy to say that Martin is the last place I would expect to experience any type of gender discrimination. I’ve heard that there’s a perception that we are a “man’s guitar company” and I think that’s mainly because we’ve been around for nearly two centuries. But Kitty Wells, Joan Baez, and Dolly Parton are just as much a part of our rich history as Johnny Cash, Jimmie Rodgers, and Willie Nelson.
As an organization, we have a female president, a female vice president of Human Resources, several incredible women on our Board of Directors, many women in upper management positions and many women making our guitars and strings every day. Opportunities are there for anyone who works hard and wants to learn and grow.
The WiMN: It’s nice to see a healthy representation of female artists listed in the “players” section of your website. What are some things you and your company do to attract female musicians?
KB: Very similar to what I said about appealing to different audiences, I don’t think we do anything different to appeal to women than we do to men aside from where we deliver our messaging. We make the best-sounding acoustic guitars in the world and, if we can get our guitars and strings into their hands, we can appeal to any guitar player. They’re going to hear and feel and see how incredible our products are and the care and quality that goes into making each and every one. I think that transcends gender. Personally, I’m excited to see the growing number of female artists that we continue to work with. They are all incredibly talented.
The WiMN: Your company is active in promoting music education, supporting VH-1 Save the Music Foundation and other causes. Are there any particularly memorable projects you’ve worked on to help promote music learning?
KB: I applaud Martin’s continued support of various music education programs such as VH-1 Save the Music, Guitars in the Classroom, Guitars for Glory and our own local community outreach programs. Supporting music education is very important to the organization and we support many programs through The Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation, which was established in 1996 to serve the charitable interests of the company. The Foundation’s core principles are to support Martin Guitar’s engagement with nonprofit music, arts, education, and environmental action organizations. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed more than $2.5 million in grants.
The WiMN: What’s next for Martin Guitar that you’d like to share with us?
KB: I’m really excited about a program we started this year called The Martin Museum Sessions where we invite various artists here to Nazareth, PA to perform in our museum. We recently hosted Lidsey Ell and Roses & Cigarettes and both sessions were fantastic. It’s a program that will continue, so interested readers can subscribe to our YouTube channel to see it.