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: Madison To Sunset Vice President of Global Brand & Partnership Marketing, Mary Mueller
Mary Mueller is one of the most forward-thinking women working in the industry today. As a pioneer in alliance marketing, Mueller has created mutually beneficial initiatives for a number of brands, labels and corporations while becoming a true entertainment industry brand ambassador in her own right.
Mueller assisted in launching The Beatrix Girls, a new franchise of pop-star dolls targeted to young girls. The four dolls are in a band and come with original music, which fans can collect individually or as a band. With The Beatrix Girls, Mueller hopes to empower a new generation of young girls and inspire them to pursue interests in music.
We’re very pleased to present this interview with Mary Mueller. You can learn more about The Beatrix Girls here.
WiMN: How did you get your start in the music business and what attracted you to this field?
MM: As a theatre and business major, I grew up attending concerts and shows since age nine, drawn to live performance. I knew I wanted to combine business and the arts. At USC’s Marshall School of Business, I started an on-campus Entertainment Industry Club which hosted local music executives to speak at lunch events, allowing for members to network within the industry. In fact, one of our guests–who was at a label at the time–is now president of NARAS/The GRAMMYs.
The networking helped. Making connections from day one at USC’s MBA program helped me land my first job in the music business with Rico International, where I launched their music education product line for children.
WiMN: Tell us about your time working for labels like Warner Brothers and Polygram. What did you learn?
MM: I was recruited from Rico to Rhino Records to launch a new children’s record label called Kid Rhino. Our first acquisition was “Rabbit Ears.” We did well with the line but quickly found it hard to really make money with live children artists, unless they had a TV series or were a known children’s property. Performing at libraries, museums and parks just did not pay off. So finding the children’s music business a challenge to make money, the owners and I brainstormed other ways to capitalize on the growing children’s music market (like Barney, etc.).
We decided to get into the licensing side of the business. We came up with a plan to pursue the McDonaldland characters, which was very innovative at the time, and it eventually became the largest deal in history that year for both Rhino Records and Warner Brothers. We were now positioned in the industry as the children’s licensing label, a great extension for Rhino Records.
This deal was the beginning of my interest in partnership/alliance marketing. I was recruited to help launch John Tesh’s music career and eventually run his label after creating a partnership with PBS and co-producing John Tesh Live at Red Rocks. Tesh was put on the map as a musician merging his small boutique label with Polygram as a result of the partnership and increased sales.
At Polygram, I was a pioneer at launching partnership deals to help grow and expand distribution, revenues, and brand awareness. We worked with companies such as General Motors, Avon, QVC, Samsung, the Olympics, Target stores, and many others. Tesh was open to working with corporate sponsors at a time when most musicians weren’t, therefore opening the door for me to pursue these creative alliances while helping to build his brand and the new label.
WiMN: Tell us about The Beatrix Girls. How did the project come about?
MM: I was recruited, almost a two years ago now, to help launch the Beatrix Girls, a new toy franchise of pop-star dolls and content. As consultants, Sherry and I created the team to launch this new innovate doll line which focuses on empowering young girls by differentiating the line with music – a vision of Zack Zalon’s.
As a start up, we worked in all areas of the company, working closely as a team on the product, packaging, website, social media, sales reps, PR, licensing and distribution. We are making presentations and closing deals with top national retailers for this fall.
WiMN: What do you hope to accomplish with The Beatrix Girls?
MM: I would like to think that The Beatrix Girls will inspire young girls to explore music as a career, while building self confidence to pursue their dreams and talents. With a successful launch this year, The Beatrix Girls will be well positioned to sell out at retail stores, and next year expand internationally to inspire young girls around the world to pursue their music interests.
WiMN: What is an interesting little known fact about you?
MM: I would like to compete in skiing again as well as heliski.
WiMN: Can you share your experience as a woman in the industry? Have there been challenges?
MM: Knowing what you want and going for it helps women and men attain their goals. It takes courage and confidence, something my mom gave me a lot of, to seek out opportunities, stay focused and not get derailed with life. I grew up with a single, working mom who had a career and valued her independence and freedom, which is what a career can give you.
For example, when I was starting out, my mom told me not to take a secretary role. She believed I would be seen in that role and that it would be very hard (not impossible as I know exceptions) to move up, especially if I wanted to stay in that company (which is not an issue anymore as very few people seem to stay in the same company for long). Instead, she suggested sales, which is what I ended up doing. Being attached to generating revenue, I find, is also very important in any industry.
Keeping up with the digital landscape and changing music industry, new revenue models and shrinking senior management roles has been a challenge for so many of us. Thus, I’m thankful for my experience in alliance marketing and dealings with corporate America and fortune 500 companies. That’s where I think the future of music is headed; working with corporate brands to help build music brands.
WiMN: Any words of encouragement for women aspiring to enter the music industry?
MM: Lean In and go for it (currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead) and don’t worry if your skills do not match 100 percent of the job description. Men do not worry about it. Have the confidence to take on new challenges and seek out new opportunities. Persistence and how you handle rejection and/or failure shows your true courage and strength. Go for your dreams and do not give up.