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: WiMN Founder, Laura B. Whitmore
Whether you know her through her Guitar World column “Guitar Girl’d,” her successful marketing and PR agency Mad Sun, or via her organization The Women’s International Music Network, Laura B. Whitmore is omnipresent in the music industry.
Through “Guitar Girl’d,” she gives a voice to female musicians both known and unknown; through her marketing and PR agency Mad Sun Marketing, Whitmore creates successful campaigns for a wide array of prominent audio and musical instrument manufacturers; through The Women’s International Music Network, she connects women in the industry in ways they could not connect before.
Whitmore is an unyielding visionary and believer; a trailblazer helping make the music industry a better place for women. Learn more about her at www.LauraBWhitmore.com.
WiMN: How did you get started in the music industry?
LW: I always knew I wanted to be a musician, but my parents were pretty adamant about studying some business and building skills that would help me get a job. So I ended up with the best of both worlds and got a music business degree from Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y. My instrument was voice. I studied with a great teacher, Kathy Blixt.
My first job out of college was at CBS Records in their direct marketing division. I worked for the Senior Vice President that ran Columbia House, Neal Keating; it was a great start. After about two-and-a-half years later I got a job working for Korg USA as their artist relations rep and marketing assistant. I was there for 20 years! I couldn’t imagine working in an industry that didn’t have anything to do with music; it’s my passion.
WiMN: Which job has been your most memorable one?
LW: Working at Korg USA was incredibly great. We did so many creative and innovative things with the brands they distributed (Korg, Marshall, and VOX). I got to know a lot of professional musicians and their support people. Although I have to say, I was never really star-struck except for once. I met Carly Simon the first year I worked there and I could barely speak! But I did leave Korg USA about 5 1/2 years ago and started my own company, Mad Sun Marketing. It has been so rewarding in many, many ways. But also terrifying, stressful, and such a roller coaster ride! I love working with my client’s brands and I have met SO many people. I have really loved interacting with a wide variety of people and helping their products succeed. It’s helped me understand myself better and really know what fulfills me.
WiMN: Tell us about landing your gig as Guitar World’s first-ever female writer.
LW: Ha! I’m sure I am not their first-ever female writer. But I am the first writer to specialize in writing about female musicians for Guitar World. That came about because I was doing some marketing consulting for them for their online store and for the launch of their Guitar World Lick of the Day app a few years ago. They were planning a re-design of the Guitar World website and asked me to help them get some blogs going. So I came up with some ideas and some possible bloggers. Then I said, “How about a blog about female guitarists?” And the web editor, who didn’t really know me at the time, said, “Great, who can we get to write it?!” You can guess what happened next! Over two years and a hundred articles later, I’d say “Guitar Girl’d” has found its legs; I love writing it.
WiMN: You recently hosted the second annual Women’s Music Summit in Hollywood’s Musicians Institute. How did that go?
LW: It was so fabulous! We had women from all over join us…Australia, Brazil, Canada, and of course the U.S. Our speakers were all phenomenal in their own way. Jennifer Batten and Val Sepulveda presented workshops and also jammed with the attendees, along with the fabulous bass player, Divinity Roxx. We shared music, we collaborated, we learned so much! Workshops from Starr Parodi on film and TV scoring, Leanne Summers on vocal tips, Holly Knight on songwriting and producing. Wowza!
Musicians Institute was an awesome partner in making it happen this year and I am so thankful for that. We had great business-related panels and our sponsors also were so great in helping to make it happen. So I can’t thank them enough: Casio, Martin Guitars, NewBay Media, Fender, Roland, TRX Cymbals, Dean Markley, AudioFly, Guitar Center, Electro-Harmonix. THANK YOU!!!
WiMN: Where did the idea of founding the WiMN come from?
LW: It had been kicking around in the back of my brain for a while. Ever since the Guitar World column started to take off, I would get notes from people thanking me for giving female musicians this voice. So when I was producing the She Rocks Awards (which premiered at NAMM in January 2013) I thought, “I need a home for all these events and things to support female musicians.” And so thewimn.com just came to be because it was necessary. It was a natural birth :-).
WiMN: You are a columnist for Guitar World, a singer-songwriter, guitarist, owner of Mad Sun Marketing, are a painter, a mother, a wife, plus you execute two large events for the WiMN… how do you get so much done?
LW: First, I have a great support team. Tom Gilbert, who works for me at Mad Sun Marketing, has been incredibly helpful. I don’t think he knew he was signing on to be an advocate for women! And Marisa, who helps with thewimn.com, is just great as well. Otherwise I think if there is something that is important, something that you are passionate about, well, you just find a way. I do try to stop working for a few hours in the afternoon so I can be with me kids and give them my attention, but I usually go back and work at night too. I put in a lot of hours, but it energizes me. I do wish I spent more time writing music, but that will come. It kind of happens in creative spurts, so I give myself permission to focus on what is important at the time.
WiMN: Let’s play a game. I will say a word, you’ll say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?
LW: The Future
WiMN: Music Industry
LW: In the eye of the beholder (and the ear!)
LW: Expression of passion
WiMN: What would you say is your most unique selling point?
LW: I just love what I do; I think that alone is infectious. And I don’t think I know or can do everything. I want to help folks succeed and be part of my success. I have years of experience, and dare I say it, with age has come some wisdom 🙂 I also love people. I love to meet new people, find connections, and find ways to make magic happen. I think I am very straightforward and genuine about it. I try not to have a hidden agenda.
WiMN: Have you ever had an uncomfortable moment in business that took place because you were a woman? How did you handle it?
LW: Sure, probably every woman has. There have been many times, especially when I was doing artist relations, that guys would make passes at me. I try to laugh it off and not make the situation uncomfortable. But there have also been occasions where I really felt compromised.
One in particular comes to mind where I was at a trade show, and a leader of a big company had had a few drinks. He actually reached over and squeezed my boob! I was in shock. It really hurt me because it was at the beginning of my career and I wanted to be viewed as a valuable asset, not a nice piece of ass! I kind of withdrew for a while and tried to avoid him, but I was really hurt that no one else in the company took the issue seriously or even wanted to listen to what I had to say. It kinda sucked. But I didn’t let it stop me, that’s for sure! I mostly find that with what I do, being a women is an benefit. A breath of fresh air. Most men react accordingly!
WiMN: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
LW: I love seeing a connection I make between two people bear fruit. Or sometimes when I write about a little known musician and it makes a difference for them, that really makes me smile. I truly believe in karma and I try to put something positive out into the world every day. If I can be an inspiration for even one musician, then I’m good.
I also appreciate when a client gives me the opportunity to be really creative. One that comes to mind is Dean Markley. Over the past couple of years I have created a new look and message for them with ads, packaging, and more. I have so enjoyed creating the look, the art, the copy, everything. When I see it helping them reach their goals, that is rewarding.
WiMN: What are some changes you’d like to see in the music industry?
LW: How much time do you have? Perhaps the one thing that is on the top of my mind is finding a way to encourage more girls and women to pursue instrumental music. I think there are many more female student musicians on popular instruments like guitar and drums than there were in the past. But how do we encourage them to keep going? How do we make them feel like they are not “bucking the system” if they want to play. That is something I am pursuing with partners like GAMA and other organizations.
WiMN: Do you have any regrets? If so, what would you do differently?
LW: I had to think about this for a while. I think my biggest regret is that I didn’t take my own music more seriously when I was younger. That I didn’t have enough confidence in my ability or the support to pursue my dream. But I am writing and performing and making more music now than I have in many years, so I feel okay about it.
WiMN: What are some exciting plans you have for the future?
LW: I am working on a new big project that I am super excited about. Wish I could tell you about it now, but alas, I cannot!!!! It’s one of those bucket list type of projects, so I am thrilled. Also working on the next She Rocks Awards for January 2014. Very excited about that and I have some new ideas for that event as well. I’ll be hosting a showcase at the CBGBs Festival on Oct. 10 in N.Y.C., and also moderating a panel there about Women in Music. I’m also hoping to do more performing and recording of my own music. You can hear a bunch of it at www.reverbnation.com/laurabwhitmore, and if you want you can like my musician fan page on Facebook, too!
WiMN: Anything else you’d like to add?
LW: My best advice to anyone out there, musician or not, is just to show up. It’s amazing what can happen if you show up. The people you will meet, the things you will learn…there’s no way to know what adventures may transpire. There have been times when I have been tired, or busy, or even thought, “Can I really even think that I belong there?” But I have NEVER regretted showing up. Ever.