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: Focusrite Novation Inc. Director of Marketing, Hannah Bliss
By Leslie Buttonow
Hannah Bliss is enjoying a career carved from the best of her talents and interests. As marketing director for Focusrite Novation Inc., she has combined her love of computers and media with her technical savviness, all in a musical setting, which has been a familiar component of her life from a very early age. At trade shows she can be seen interacting with a diverse array of visitors at her booth, equally at ease demonstrating the merits of the company’s acclaimed RedNet audio interfaces one minute, then discussing new marketing campaigns the next.
Here, she shares some of her story, her thoughts on women in the audio industry, and some advice for those aspiring to join the ranks of audio professionals. To find out more, visit Focusrite.com.
WiMN: How long have you been at Focusrite and what are some of your primary responsibilities?
HB: In total, I’ve been with Focusrite for eight years. This includes just under two years in the UK headquarters, where I started as their marketing coordinator, and over six years in the US office as the marketing manager, and now the director of marketing. I manage a fantastic team of marketing professionals, brand managers, artist relations, and technology evangelists. I ensure that everything we do at Focusrite Novation Inc. is in line with our global and marketing visions, and that we are constantly “Making Music Easy To Make,” just as our company mantra states.
WiMN: Please share some background about what attracted you to pro audio and how you first came to the industry?
HB: My father is a touring musician and songwriter, so growing up with a recording studio in our “almost” soundproofed basement, I was no stranger to the creative process of music making. I would regularly interrupt his work flow by asking him for help working out the guitar chords to the newest Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, Oasis, or Aerosmith song…I know, varied taste, but I was a ‘90s teenage girl!
I studied interactive media production at University; nothing to do with music production. I love computers, I love graphics and art, I love the creative process. Leaving school, I knew I wanted to be in a creative industry, but I wasn’t sure which one. As luck would have it, a few months after finishing my degree, Phil Dudderidge (who most will know as the chairman of Focusrite Plc) offered me an interview to join his very small marketing department, as a coordinator position had opened up. I am very humbled to say I’ve known Phil my entire life, and am honored that he thought my personality, rather than my specific University degree, would suit a career in marketing. I guess he was right––10 years later, here I still am…
WiMN: Is your technical knowledge a result of hands-on experience, or formal training (if both, how do you feel they complement each other?)
HB: A little bit of both! I will happily admit that I’m far more creative artistically than musically, preferring a paint brush and canvas to an interface and recording software. But I am very technically savvy, so I learn fast. As a technology fanatic, my father always bought the newest computer on the market, enabling me to learn from a young age, starting with an Acorn BBC Micro in the late ‘80s. Having been exposed to technology so early in life, it’s no surprise I chose a media production degree program and that I now work for an industry-leading audio engineering company. At Focusrite Novation Inc., I’m surrounded by incredibly smart, creative, and musical people. We regularly have in-office trainings on our products and I’m constantly learning something new.
WiMN: Have you noticed more women in similar roles in M.I. and Pro Audio since you started? What do you attribute that to?
HB: Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of women in M.I. or pro audio in general, but when I do, I always remember them! It’s a very male-dominated industry. I mainly interact with the sales and marketing teams of our dealers, media partners, and events, and I’m pleased to say I see more women in marketing, specifically, than in previous years, but still not enough. That said, even though the female M.I. community is small, we are strong and supportive. Women in pro audio are very encouraging of each other; we like to see each other succeed.
Our customer base at Focusrite Novation is predominantly male, so it’s not surprising that the majority of people interested in going into M.I. careers would be male. It’s just the law of averages. In 2010, when we opened Focusrite Novation Inc., the US subsidiary of Focusrite Audio Engineering UK, we were a team of five—president, director of sales, product specialist, myself as marketing manager, and one other female, Miriam Wiener, as artist relations. I’m pleased to say after six years, Miriam and I still remain. However, there is only one other woman in our US office of nearly 30 people. Luckily this isn’t a result of bias towards men in interviews; we just don’t get enough women applying for positions here!
WiMN: What advice would you give to young women looking to break into our industry or a technical career in general?
HB: I believe the opportunities are greater than ever before for woman in music. More and more girls are choosing audio production courses in higher education at stellar institutions like SAE, Full Sail University, Musicians Institute, and Berklee College of Music, to name a few. For both men and women exploring a technical career, having experience with as much gear as you can get your hands on is key! Knowledge is power. Study the manuals, watch the YouTube videos, go to the conferences, and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. The music industry seems huge from the outside looking in but it’s not as big as you may think, so the more people you meet, the better your chance of getting internships, recommendations, and interviews.
WiMN: Anything new happening at Focusrite that you’d like to share?
HB: There’s always something new happening at Focusrite! We are always striving to provide our customers with the product they want and the one they need—the better, faster, easier product than the one before. Our next big showcase is at the AES Show in Los Angeles, and then back to NAMM in Anaheim. We are always excited to show off our newest interface!