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: SIR Nashville General Manager, Laura Ford
By Leslie Buttonow
For those not familiar, SIR (Studio Instrument Rentals) is the nation’s premier provider of musical instruments/gear rentals and rehearsal facilities for musicians preparing for music tours or TV appearances, as well as for major festivals. They are located in most major cities across the country, and Nashville is no exception. Laura Ford has worked at this location for the past 29 years, first as their office manager, and then after a few years, as their first and only female general manager – a position she holds to this day.
Although SIR Nashville is located in the heart of “Music City,” they serve a territory that spans far and wide, including cities such as Dallas, Charleston, New Orleans and Detroit, delivering gear rentals directly to a wide array of performance venues. With that kind of responsibility and geographical coverage — and the ever-changing nature of tour productions — they need someone who can stay organized and exemplify the expression “grace under pressure.” Luckily, Laura Ford is just that person.
To find out more, visit www.sir-usa.com.
The WiMN: You’ve been driving the bus at SIR Nashville for quite some time. What are some of the day-to-day business areas you’re responsible for, and how many people are on the team at your location?
LF: There are 15 of us altogether. I do a lot of paperwork and accounting, but I also research and make a lot of the purchasing decisions, and do research on touring and recording trends to keep up with the equipment demand.
The WiMN: What are some things you feel have kept you successful in your career over the years? Any particular habits, skills or personality traits you find especially helpful?
LF: For one, you have to be a complete crazy person with multi-tasking. You have to stay calm with everything that's thrown at you. Nothing stays as planned, and so every moment, you need to think about how to solve problems. Shows and tours hardly go off as planned, but if you can get everything to work at the end with minimal stress for everyone involved, then you've done your job well.
The WiMN: SIR celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – that’s a LOT of artist support! Are there any favorite artists you’ve worked with during your time there, or stories you’d like to share?
LF: In my 29 years, I have a ton of stories. Once I came around the corner of the hallway at our facility and ran into Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings comparing open heart surgery scars. They turned to me with their shirts open and asked me whose scar looked better. Yeah, I told them to button it up; I wasn't going there! Ha ha!
Another time we had a big snow here in Nashville. I let all my employees leave to get home and I was waiting for the last order to cancel. Eddie Money walks in the door complaining about the Nashville drivers in the snow. He had called to have someone pick him up because he didn't want to drive with all the crazies, and he proceeded to tell me that I needed to shovel so people could get in our parking lot. I told him it was fine and that it would be gone tomorrow. Just then, the phone rings and it's my last customer cancelling their order. When I got off the phone, I was looking for Eddie to find out when his ride was coming. He wasn't in the lobby or in the back. I looked outside to check if he was there, only to see that Eddie Money had grabbed our shovel and was shoveling our parking lot!
That's just two of many...
The WiMN: Working with all of those artists, tight deadlines and last minute requests must be stressful at times. How do you and your team keep your cool during those times and work through it together?
LF: I think for the most part, I keep my staff calm because I stay calm. I always remind them that getting upset only hurts them and doesn't get the job done. Plus at this point, I think we are all used to it.
The WiMN: What has your experience been like as a woman in the industry––any challenges you’ve had to overcome?
LF: When I first started, I really was the only woman in a higher position in this end of the business – the male-dominated end of the business. So there are always challenges; unfortunately, even now. You have to do it right and do more without complaining. Then you earn the respect of the male counterparts. But it’s great to see that there are a lot more women in my end of the business now.
The WiMN: Any advice for young ladies looking to break into the performance side or business side of the music industry?
LF: Definitely go to school and remember as a woman you have to do it right and do more. Once you earn the respect of the males, then the playing field is even – sad but true.
The WiMN: Are there any big tours or festivals you’re preparing for currently that we can expect to see in the spring or summer?
LF: Our two huge events we do in June are Bonnaroo and Firefly Festival. They’re a very big undertaking, but very satisfying when all goes well.