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: Lynette Sage, Art Director at Reverb.com
By Leslie Buttonow
In the past five years, Reverb.com has become one of the world’s largest music gear websites, serving as a marketplace for musicians to buy and sell used, vintage, and new music gear online.
One of the driving forces behind their success is art director Lynette Sage. She works with teams across all areas of the company to develop, oversee, and implement a wide range of projects — from brand identity, to marketing campaigns, to web design and visual assets. By diving in deep on the corporate side as well as being a user of the company’s product, Sage has developed a firm understanding of both her company’s story and what makes a great user experience, and it’s this pairing of the two that underlies her success.
Sage shared some wonderful insights with us about developing your own brand, juggling multiple plates, and supporting not only yourself, but other women as well. She also gave us the latest scoop on what’s new at Reverb.
To learn more, visit reverb.com.
The WiMN: Reverb.com represents such a diversity of brands and product categories. Tell us about your previous work background and how it prepared you to be able to visually represent and tell the story of so many musical instruments and music brands.
LS: At Reverb, we are all musicians and music lovers, so we are constantly using our own website. The importance of diving into your own product is something that I learned early on in my previous positions. My first design job was for a non-profit conservation company in Colorado. While on the job, I was part designer and part forklift driver. While in the middle of working on a design, I’d be asked to jump on the forklift to unload a pallet of reclaimed barn wood or a set of doors from a home deconstruction. This gave me the opportunity to dig into the business, understand the ins and outs of the company, and better represent the brand. I better understood the full value of the company I was presenting visually because I had spent time unloading trailers of insulation and recycling hundreds of toilets!
I’m a better designer and employee at Reverb for similar reasons: I buy and sell gear and records on the site, I read our articles, watch our videos, and I’m constantly browsing the site. By diving deep into the platform, I feel the joy — and sometimes even the pain — that our users feel. Because of that, I’m empowered to not only make suggestions for improving the site’s technology, but I’m better qualified to showcase, through design, what makes Reverb the best place online to buy and sell music gear.
The WiMN: Have you always had an interest in music and/or any musical background?
LS: I was taught to love music at a very young age. My house was filled with music and creativity — from my parents, who loved to crank up the oldies, to my sister, who is an incredibly talented saxophone and oboe player. Our family didn’t have a ton of money, so my parents sacrificed a lot in order for me to learn and explore music. I was encouraged to explore new instruments, new crafts, and new hobbies based on whatever whim I was feeling.
I learned piano on a massive antique piano that my parents found at an estate sale, took drum lessons long enough to realize that I have no rhythm, explored beginner guitar lessons, played flute in my high school band, and dabbled on bass in a (laughable) “hardcore” band in high school. So much of who I am today is shaped by all those experiences and my parents are heroes for making that possible.
The WiMN: From designing infographics, wearables, trade show graphics, web headers and even a large mural for the Reverb headquarters, your job is extremely diverse. For the benefit of those readers who might struggle with juggling so many plates, what do you think are some keys to success in a multi-faceted role such as yours?
LS: To succeed at juggling so many projects, the first key is to be passionate about the projects you’re tackling. I make an effort to find something in each new project that I’m excited about and lean into it. When you find opportunities to create work you’re excited about, it will feel less like work and your work will be more successful, as a result. Start by asking yourself why or how what you’re doing will positively impact your customers or your audience. When you understand that “higher purpose,” you won’t wear out as quickly.
It’s also hard to maintain momentum when juggling multiple projects if you don’t have a solid support system. Surround yourself with passionate people and with people who know more than you do. In addition, create a work environment where everyone is encouraged to speak up, come to the table with good and bad ideas, and — most importantly — fail every once in a while. This culture breeds creativity, support, and ultimately, better work.
Finally, find a mentor who will push you. When I started my career, I was afraid to ask questions and tried to figure out everything by myself. That is not a sustainable way to work. Understand that you don’t know everything and that there are likely tons of resources within your team. Ask questions and, if you’ve got a smart team; they’ll be excited to share their knowledge.
The WiMN: You really have a flair for representing the Reverb brand in a fun, appropriate, and pin-pointed way, all rolled into one. What are some tips you can share for our readers who are looking to develop their own brand, whether they’re musicians, or are someone looking for a job in the audio industry.
LS: This is a great question. Branding is incredibly important in today’s digital world, where so many companies and people are competing for the audience’s attention. What many don’t realize is that branding isn’t about the bottom line or the size of your audience. Branding is an opportunity to tell your unique story. It’s a set of guidelines, a narrative, and the values you hold yourself to with every blog post, email, tweet, and interaction with your audience.
Consider: What is unique to your music or your company? How does this set you apart? Figure that out and then lean into it. There’s so much noise from companies begging for attention. When you know your story, tell it authentically, and don’t stray from it — your audience will listen.
The WiMN: What do you enjoy most about your role at Reverb? What are some of your favorite things to work on there?
LS: Reverb is made up of nearly 170 musicians and music lovers who are passionate about coming to work each day and making the world a more musical place. I love that every day is a new challenge. I might be tracking down the best log cabin for a photo shoot, laying out a web page that will help millions of people learn something new, or creating a marketing campaign that will be the face of our company for the next year.
I have a unique role that allows me to collaborate with almost every area of the company, from marketing to product development to seller outreach. We brainstorm, we take risks, and in the end, we come up with solutions together rather than in silos. My favorite projects are the ones that allow me to dive into other parts of the company.
The WiMN: Ever face any challenges as a female working in a gear-focused industry? If so, how did you handle them?
LS: My approach has always been to work hard, create better work than what was asked of me, and support the other women in the room. If I’m in a meeting where another woman’s ideas are not being recognized, it’s my responsibility to have her back. If you don’t have a support system, find an ally, whether it’s in your company or outside, and ask them to lunch. They’ve likely gone through similar situations.
Above all else, remember that you are powerful and showcase that in the way that works best for you. If you’re creative, showcase it through your work. If you’re extroverted, be assertive for yourself and for those around you. There’s no one-size-fits-all model, but find your area of expertise and, even in small ways, elevate the women around you.
The WiMN: Anything new happening at Reverb that you’d like to share?
LS: We just launched Reverb LP, a new marketplace built for buying, selling, and learning about records. Records continue to grow in popularity, but there’s not a modern, easy-to-use online space that’s tailored for record buying and selling. Don’t get me wrong, there are options out there, but they each come with their own headaches, from poor navigation to a cumbersome selling experience. We’ve created an online marketplace that’s backed by the same technology and team as Reverb.com. We’ve learned a lot about musicians, music lovers, and eCommerce while building Reverb, so we know we can do the same through Reverb LP.