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: NARIP President, Tess Taylor
We’ve all heard the saying “it’s all about who you know.” But the truth is, now more than ever, simply knowing someone can be the difference between getting the gig or landing the job. This is especially true in the highly competitive music industry, where breaking in and establishing connections can be daunting for anyone.
Enter Tess Taylor. Described as “a walking job fair” by Hollywood Today, Taylor has been an integral part of the music industry since 1987. She founded Los Angeles Music Network (LAMN) in 1988 and the National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP) in 1998, and oversees the initiatives of both groups to promote career advancement and more in the music and record industries.
Taylor has connected countless people to jobs and opportunities through her work in the US and abroad, while cultivating collaborations for over two decades and helping to launch hundreds of projects and several companies. Today, she is one of the nation’s leading authorities on careers in the music and record industries.
Below, Taylor sheds some light on NARIP, her outlook on the industry and much more. She is also gracious enough to share downloads of her Recommended Reading List as well as one of her recent articles, “The Record Business in the 21st Century: Money, Success & Careers.“
WiMN: What attracted you to the music industry?
TT: I’ve played the piano all my life (I’m classically trained) and after attending my first rock concert (David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983), I was hooked and decide to work in the music business. Also, I’m drawn to the creative industries and to the freedom they offer.
WiMN: What inspired you to launch NARIP in 1998?
TT: I launched NARIP on the heels of another organization I had formed in 1988 (the Los Angeles Music Network). When I started out in the music business, I saw a distinct need for an association that helped people to connect with other professionals, learn more about our business and develop their careers. Once I started LAMN, it was clear from the response that there was a need for a forum like this, and so I began organizing events, published a newsletter and grew the association. And when I realized that the career track of professionals (those behind the stage) is very different from the career track of artists, I formed NARIP in 1998.
WiMN: What is the mission of the association? Why should music industry professionals consider NARIP, and how can they join?
TT: NARIP promotes education, good will and career advancement among record and music industry professionals. With an emphasis on becoming better informed and more effective, NARIP offers professional development opportunities, educational programs and seminars, the opportunity to meet and interact with peers, a mentor program, a job bank, a member resume database for employers and a newsletter. We also offer Career Strategy Sessions and other services, all of which are designed to enable access to top execs and insider information.
One benefit of joining NARIP is an opportunity to pick up corporate and competitor intelligence. Information relationships are key. The cutting edge for opportunities center around understanding and up-to-the-minute information as well as professional relationships. Other benefits are learning about precedents, how relationships form between companies and executives, their strategies, what criteria are used in making major decisions and getting the green light on projects, etc. Hearing others’ approaches, experiences and strategies is a great way to improve your own.
Please visit www.NARIP.com for more information.
WiMN: What have been some of your most memorable or gratifying moments working through NARIP?
TT: When members of NARIP form relationships, take the information we have been able to provide, apply it and succeed, that gives me the greatest satisfaction. Most recently we’ve helped our members place over 70 tracks in blockbuster films, television shows and other media, and I’m gratified by this considering how difficult it is to secure even one placement in such a competitive marketplace.
Also, I have a huge collection of handwritten Thank You notes and emails (literally thousands) which people have sent me over the years, and that’s extremely gratifying. I call this my Good News File, a practice adopted from a former very excellent boss of mine, Tony Tolbert. Lastly, I love the synergy of the diversity and quality of ideas and people I encounter every day.
WiMN: What is some advice you’d offer to a young person pursuing a career in the music industry?
TT: Learn, baby learn, and interact with an informed peer group. The key to career advancement is a commitment to lifetime education and expanding your knowledge, vision and point of view. Every executive is more valuable to his employer when he not only understands how things work, but why. Continuing education is an absolute necessity in maintaining your unique value.
Give to get. Nothing beats generosity, it’s so simple and can be completely disarming in a good way. This simple concept will set you apart and make people more responsive to you, happy to return your phone call or take a meeting with you. Take a sincere interest in what motivates people and in what they want. Consider what you can offer them instead of asking what they can do for you. What value can you bring to the table? How can you help the person whom you wish to approach achieve his goals? The abundance of the universe is profound when you start to tap into it. So be as generous as you can and it will come back to you tenfold. When you are young, you usually have more time than money, so give that. Volunteer for a cause or company that you believe in. The great thing about this is that YOU CHOOSE and YOU are in control of with whom you wish to work. If you are proactive and nimble, volunteer and internship positions frequently turn into jobs and/or yield other opportunities that you would never receive if you were sitting on the sidelines. This is powerful and is the basis for many winning jobs and extraordinary careers. This is because you are not waiting to be offered a job, you are stepping out into the world and being proactive.
Be proactive. Opportunity is everywhere. See above.
Don’t follow someone else’s path, carve your own.
Do the craziest thing FIRST. Make a list of all the things you want to do with your life, paying special attention to those thing that others might say are “crazy” or “impractical.” Write these down. And then do the craziest one first. As you grow older, and once you get a job, you’ll have less opportunity to do the truly “crazy” stuff but it must be done! And it will lead to so many cool things, new people and opportunities.
Travel, expand your comfort zone. The best thing about travel is that it expands your comfort zone. This is also a key to success. Super successful people don’t stop when they arrive at the doorstep of something new they don’t understand, or a task they aren’t sure how to perform. They give it their best shot and press on. Most of us step back when things get uncomfortable, which is really a signal that you’ve reached the edge of your comfort zone. That should also be a signal that you have an opportunity to expand it now, so what will you do? A few small examples of what you can do to expand your comfort zone include going up to talk to someone new. Introduce yourself, say a few words! This happens so much during my travels and starting conversations with strangers is second nature to me. You will be amazed at how many opportunities are generated by traveling.
Surround yourself with winners, dump the losers.. One of the most important things you can do for yourself in life is to surround yourself with winners… and to fire your loser, flaky, tire-kicking, whiner friends, the addicts, depressives, drama queens, downers and duds. Life is challenging enough without inviting (or allowing) dead weight on your train. Push them off! And once you’ve cleared the decks, look around, identify and bring into your orbit and (if possible) inner circle the winners. These are people with a positive upbeat attitude who will encourage and motivate you, who can relate to you and your dreams, and who will provide positive reinforcement and (when needed) constructive criticism. It is highly useful to gravitate toward people who are BETTER than you in every way so you can learn from them and assimilate upward. This has been an important strategy for me in my personal and professional life. I look for successful people and study them. Being around good, positive, successful, happy people is a brilliant move in the right direction. Modeling success is an excellent strategy.
Avoid regret. Studies show that when people near the end of their lives, far more people regret what they didn’t do, rather than what they did do. This guides my thinking.
Acquire news skills, including emotional intelligence.
WiMN: What is your opinion on free music streaming services or file sharing? How can the industry sway young people who may have grown up with the idea that “music is free” towards paying for it?
TT: Music embodies the authors’ property rights, and it’s up to them to say yes or no to streaming, file sharing or other uses. If that consent has not been obtained, then those authors’ property rights have been violated. We live in a society where theft is supposed to be considered unethical, immoral and prosecuted as unlawful. The taking of music and other entertainment properties, without permission, is neither an exception nor justified merely because technology has enabled it.
Tolerating theft undermines the incentive to create, financial investment, and bring the best artistic products to market for the benefit of the public. And of course the losses associated with unauthorized uses of intellectual property have been staggering, take jobs from people who need them and continue to damage our entire economy .
What’s happened, in my view, is the triumph of the marketing of technology over music. My views are expressed in detail in this short video:
WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been any challenges?
TT: To my knowledge, I haven’t had one challenge I can identify specifically as a result of being female. However, there are plenty of other challenges to go around!
This question alludes to sexism. Is there sexism in the music business and in the world? Yes. We’ll also find racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and a rainbow assortment of other nasty little things. Also, the world is full of predators who prey on the weakness of others. In that regard, we haven’t moved too far out of the jungle as a so-called civilization. A predator can smell weakness.
So how do you deal with this? What can you do?
I recommend that you build your awareness and strengths, work to correct or eliminate weaknesses in yourself. This is all part of personal and professional development. Don’t be a victim, set clear boundaries when dealing with predators and unpleasant people. Grow up, GET strong and BE strong, and don’t ask others to do battle for you when you’re not prepared to defend yourself. Re-read the part above about kicking losers out of your life and surrounding yourself with winners. A good set of friends and associates is like a wonderful fortress, but you must be prepared to man the embankments and fight the enemy.
Also, I notice that how I carry myself makes a big difference. I walk with confidence, shoulders back, head up. I have a firm handshake, I make eye contact and remember people’s names. I dress professionally, speak clearly, and am warm and friendly. I engage people, and my antenna usually detect phonies, charlatans, sociopaths and predators very quickly.
Filtering is important too. Personally, my criteria for people whom I allow to get close to me is simple: they must be honest and kind. That’s it. If I detect a problem in either area, it’s a red flag. Especially important is how people treat others who are NOT in a position to do much for them (such as a waiter, janitor, bus boy, cab driver, secretary, receptionist, messenger, etc.). I pay careful attention to this, it says a lot about a person who is rude or unkind to a subordinate.
So start with yourself, improve your strengths and filtering mechanism. Don’t let the losers and predators get near you if you can help it, that cuts a lot of potential problems out immediately. The best way to win a fight is to avoid it, but know when to stand your ground and accept abuse from no one!
When I worked at a corporation where I ran a department, there were a few executives known to be screamers, ogres and unpleasant. One executive was famous for going through one assistant every week or two, terrorizing and then firing them. The lack of managerial oversight that would permit such a problem to go unchecked for so long (the executive apparently made the company a lot of money, so the powers that be turned a blind eye) was pathetic but I resolved that I would not permit myself to be trod upon by this person. And so at my first meeting with this executive, I stepped forward, introduced myself with a firm handshake and carried myself with confidence. Result: I never had a problem.
Interestingly, the two rock bottom worst bosses I’ve ever had were female. On the other hand, one of my favorite bosses was also female and I’ve had several very excellent male bosses, too.
I have had an opportunity to meet many so-called “important” people – executives, heads of state, famous artists and others. I treat them all the same way – with respect – unless or until there is reason not to. I have found that when approached in this way, with respect, rather than as a groveling fan or someone desperate for a job or a moment of reflected glory, they usually appreciate this. Many big wigs are surrounded by sycophants, toadies and suck-ups, so someone real and genuine can be a breath of fresh air. The key is to approach with kindness, and a sincere compliment doesn’t hurt!
Lastly, I am subservient to no one, and none of us should be. When you see yourself as equal to others and worthy of respect, you have to assert yourself in that way. If someone is disrespectful to you, confront him immediately! Don’t shrink away and then complain about it after the fact. Of course other people may have more skill, experience, wisdom, money, etc. but that doesn’t make them BETTER and it gives them no right to mistreat you or anyone. Bullies usually back down quickly when challenged. And you can fight back in polite, professional ways. I also find that it’s best to make your boundaries clear immediately if someone tries to push you. A firm, polite word will usually do, but this must be done right away. Sometimes you need to train people how to treat you. If I feel I am being condescended to or disrespected, I speak up, but this rarely happens. You have to value yourself enough to speak up.
If you don’t, who will?
I advise you to read, read, read and then read some more. A galaxy of ideas awaits! And if you read only one book this year, make sure it’s this one because it is life-changing and will transform and improve your personal and professional relationships dramatically:
How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
You can also download my Recommended Reading List by clicking here.
More about Tess Taylor:
Tess Taylor is President of the National Association of Record Industry Professionals (www.NARIP.com), the biggest music business network in the world. One of the nation’s leading authorities on careers in the music and record industries, Ms. Taylor has been called The Job Whisperer and has connected countless people to jobs and opportunities through her work in the US and abroad, cultivated collaborations for over two decades, helped launch hundreds of projects and several companies. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book “The Tipping Point” then you may recognize her as a “super-connector.” She is creator of NARIP’s Music Supervisor Sessions which have yielded over 70 music placements for participants and sold out in LA, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris and London. Ms. Taylor is also President of the LA Music Network and was instrumental in launching the Mowglis, a pop band now on a major US tour (2013). Selected to perform at the 2011 LAMN Jam Music Contest, the Mowglis won the grand prize and talent judge Antony Bland signed them to management. They got a talent agent, signed with Universal/Photo Finish Records, have been featured on primetime network TV and are now getting radio airplay on primary market stations in the US. Ms. Taylor lectures throughout the US and around the world (in 12 countries to date), including at the Harvard Business School, in Berlin, Bangalore and beyond. She is also a classically trained pianist, loves fine fountain pens, dogs and traveling the world.