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: NewBay Media Advertising Sales Representative, Anna Blumenthal
NewBay Media Advertising Sales Representative Anna Blumenthal got her foot in the music industry door at only 17. Fast forward nearly two decades later, Blumenthal went from being a wishful intern, to overseeing the advertising sales responsibilities for some of the music industry’s most important publications: Guitar World, Guitar Aficionado, Guitar Player, Revolver, Bass Player, Keyboard and Electronic magazines, all under NewBay media publishing.
A born and bred New Yorker, Blumenthal belongs to two bands, Party Lights, where she plays guitar, sings and writes, and The Recordettes, which she plays bass in and started with her husband. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Blumenthal also DJ’s around Brooklyn. In other words, she lives and breathes music.
With her impressive track record in the music industry media sales realm, Blumenthal has plenty of advice and wisdom to share with aspiring future M.I. professionals.
WiMN: What is it about advertising that attracted you?
AB: I was the advertising coordinator for a few years, basically doing everything in the sales department except selling ads: handling contracts, collecting ad materials, handling our comp lists, billing, etc. I got to know a lot of our advertisers really well and loved my job. I was looking for more of a challenge though, as I had been in that role for about a few years, so when a sales rep position opened up, it was a no–brainer to apply.
I had the advantage of being in the department for a few years and got to see the sales reps working every day, so while there was still a learning curve, I transitioned into the role fairly easily. As for what initially drew me to the advertising department, I’d always looked up to our publisher at the time, Greg DiBenedetto, and wanted to work with him. He left the company a few years ago but I worked with him for a long time and he was always fantastic to work with. He’s one of the most driven, dedicated people I know, and I working with him was a real inspiration.
WiMN: Before becoming an ad coordinator for Future US, you were a newsstand coordinator for that same company. Can you please describe the difference and walk us through what you did?
AB: As newsstand coordinator, I handled the print orders and worked closely with our distributors. I liked the job and it was interesting to learn about the circulation side of the business, but it was a position I sort of fell into when I came back to GW after my time as an intern. After spending a few years in circulation I realized the ad sales department presented the challenges I was looking for and also was more closely connected to the industry. Even now, my favorite part of the job is talking gear with guitar, amp and pedal manufacturers all day, which is something I wasn’t able to do in circulation.
WiMN: How cutthroat is the ad sales business?
AB: In this industry I’d have to say it’s thankfully not very cutthroat. Almost everyone at our company is very friendly, very laid back, and wanting to see all our magazines succeed, no matter who the conduit is. However, there’s always going to be that one person who is money and power-hungry and tries to take all the fun out of it for everyone else. I just try to stay focused and work with the people who make my job as easy and enjoyable as possible, and I try to do the same for them.
WiMN: Would you say your field is male dominant (especially in the music industry)? If so, how tough is it to be a woman in this field?
AB: It is very male dominant! We do have a lot of women in production, circulation, marketing and accounting and a few in ad sales, but the advertisers/manufacturers are mostly men. There are exceptions of course (there are some awesome husband-and-wife run companies, and a lot of women running guitar retailers), but generally I am working with men almost all the time. I don’t find it particularly tough – of course there is some old-fashioned thinking in this industry – but almost anything can be a setback or an advantage depending on how you use it.
If I didn’t play guitar I think it would be really tough, but I think everyone’s doubts about me are dispelled when they find out I play guitar and bass and can talk the talk and walk the walk. There are always some disparaging comments – an advertiser recently was trying to explain to me how great his pickups are and he said, “They’re like a pair of Prada shoes!” I laughed and said, “You can explain it to me in terms of other pickups, I get it.” I have no problem setting people straight! I just say it in a friendly way but make sure to get my point across.
WiMN: You’re the ad sales rep for seven different magazines, and also sell event sponsorships and online ads. That is impressive! How do you manage such a heavy workload?
AB: It’s not easy! My best solution at the moment is to come in to work earlier and stay later and that’s not even really enough. I try to send and answer emails from home at night just to make the next day’s workload a bit lighter but it’s definitely a lot to manage. One thing I try to do is package up deals for people when it makes sense – for a mid level guitar manufacturer, I’ll talk to him or her about Guitar World and Guitar Player in the same conversation to save time.
WiMN: Describe a typical and not-so-typical day in the office.
AB: A typical day involves me thinking about which magazines are shipping soon so I can prioritize my workload. I look at who’s advertising and hasn’t sent in their artwork yet, and also look at who should be advertising who hasn’t committed to the issue yet, and reach out to everyone. I check out our websites to get the latest industry news, and also check to see what companies our web editor is covering. If any of my clients are on there, I send them the link. If there are companies we’re covering that no one is working with, I reach out and see how they’re doing and try to pitch them an ad package that makes sense.
There’s daily damage control, too – an advertiser is trying to get out of paying for an ad, an advertiser committed to an ad but at the last minute their new product isn’t ready so they can’t advertise, leaving me with a last minute hole I have to fill, there was a printer error and someone’s ad printed incorrectly (luckily not that common but it happens)…that keeps it interesting! Then I look a little further ahead to the issues shipping in a week or a few weeks and try to get a head start on those. And I am also always scouring the web and other magazines to see what companies are out there who should be advertising with us and aren’t yet.
A less typical day involves time spent with clients, whether they’re visiting me, I’m visiting them or we’re at a trade show. Those are always great, getting to hang out and really get to know each other and find out how everything’s going, instead of just talking about an ad schedule. I love going on factory tours, visiting guitar stores, and learning about someone’s craft, background, and how I can help them really connect with our audience and increase their sales.
WiMN: What are your end goals career-wise?
AB: Play in my bands full-time! But since that doesn’t seem to be a possibility in the near future, I’d love to continue doing ad sales for the music magazines. I’d love to become Ad Director of the books but I’ve only been in my current role for three years, so I know I have to put in some more time first, but I’m in it for the long haul.
WiMN: Who are some of the most inspiring women in your life, whether mentors or celebrities?
AB: My mother is the most inspirational woman I know. No matter the subject – work or something personal – she always offers great perspective and great advice. She is not only very smart but a very savvy New Yorker, too, and anyone who’s met her can attest to how incredible she is.
Work-wise, the Ad Director of Guitar Aficionado, Anne Triece, has been a great help and guide with all the titles I work on. She’s always able to offer some perspective as well as great suggestions with regard to negotiating deals.
Then of course there are the female guitarists, bassists, and songwriters that I idolize…first and foremost being my bandmate, Joan Chew, who is an absolute genius on bass (and keyboards and violin, which she plays in other bands) and comes up with amazing vocal harmonies. As far as guitarists go, Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Ruyter Suys from Nashville Pussy and Alison Robertson from The Donnas have always inspired me, as they are some of the few incredible female guitarists who have managed to break through in this male–dominated world.
There are a ton of incredible songwriters who never cease to amaze me either, like Tristen (a singer-songwriter out of Nashville) and Holly Golightly. And all the ’60s soul singers whom I worship, like Tina Turner, Etta James, Irma Thomas, Barbara George, Diana Ross, Sugar Pie DeSanto…God, those women are amazing! What I wouldn’t give to be able to sing 1/10th of what they can sing.
WiMN: Please give any words of advice to women looking to pursue a career in advertising.
AB: Go for it! Don’t let anyone – men or women – make you feel like you can’t do it. I have been told by some people that I’m “too nice to be in advertising” so I might suggest leaving the sweet part of you at home when you go to work – but you have to do what suits you. If you want to be sweet and friendly with colleagues and advertisers, you should, and everyone will appreciate it – but at the end of the day it’s all business and you can’t be a pushover. A little toughness goes a long way and you’ll end up being respected more for it.