Conclusions for the Music Entrepreneur

So, who breaks out to become a star?

It is clear that there has never been such a necessity for musicians to become entrepreneurs, a result of the sudden changes within the music industry landscape. Extreme competition, an increased accessibility to tools and platforms, financing, and the difficulty of accessing opportunity costs, are some of the biggest problems artists face currently. Now, musicians have to learn how to navigate these challenges by being proficient in a host of business roles that are tangential to music; they must learn how to balance art and entrepreneurship, an extremely tricky feat. Yet, it is evident that the more one views their venture into the music industry as a business venture, the better off one will be, using the start-up model as an outline for their activities.

Through the qualitative interviews I conducted within my thesis research, I was able to gather in-depth information about emerging musicians. Interestingly, every artist I spoke with revealed that, despite their demographic differences, they identify themselves as entrepreneurs, showed entrepreneurial attitudes, and undertook entrepreneurial activities. One specific artist, played a crucial role in outlining the difference in perspectives regarding music as hobby versus as a professional pursuit. In observing his transition from the former to the latter, it became clear that business and the recognition of entrepreneurial attitudes and activities is crucial in realizing music as a career. This is the first crucial step: recognizing that being an entrepreneur, to some extent, is necessary.

The understanding in the importance of entrepreneurship transcends race, gender, education, and socioeconomic status, standing as a unified idea. The subjects understood the value of identifying as someone that is business-minded in the industry and who would comfortably take on such a label, despite the fact that business and art have an inherent tension. All of these artists tapped into the different facets of business that they engage with the most that cause them to identify as entrepreneurs, such as promotion, opportunity evaluation, sales, marketing, networking, and financing.

Kendall Jenner Returns to Instagram With 1,000,000 Likes and Counting (1)The music entrepreneurs interviewed have gone about navigating the industry in both similar and different manners. Throughout the study, it is revealed that musician-entrepreneurs’ attitudes are what will guide their venture and provide it with meaning. For example, passion or a compulsion to pursue music is not merely important, it is necessary because it is what progresses the musician despite the obvious hardship they will face. Additionally, honing in on one’s authenticity, what is going to distinguish them as an artist, is critical. Creating an unreproducible message that is alluring to fans and industry executives alike is important because it is a rare quality in such a concentrated industry. In terms of feasibility, proof of concept is significant in terms of validating a musician’s passion and authenticity, granting the artist an objective opinion on their decision to pursue music. Experiencing a moment of validation will serve as a strong reference point in the future, when their convictions may falter. Overall, it is musicians’ education that seems to guide their decision-making process extensively, forming the basis for how the artist goes about the process of pursuing music. Consequently, a background or education in business might be the most beneficial in terms of opportunity evaluation, value creation, resource management, and self-awareness of core competencies, all common business practices.

odesza _) 10_2_18 _ smichalowskiOnly when artists fully understand themselves and what is demanded of them can they learn to evaluate their entrepreneurial activities. Relating to the undertakings of the entrepreneur, the musicians within the study recognize four key elements to running their music venture: sales, marketing, operations, and finance. When looking at sales, it is important for the music entrepreneur to increase their visibility by providing one’s music on as many platforms as available. These platforms also provide data that can aid in helping the artist make informed decisions in terms of music releases, music quality and content, and marketing. The key here is to ensure that creative integrity and business decision making are well balanced. Similarly, marketing has never been more important to the artist. Marketing on every social media site is important; however, creating a brand should be seen as the overarching aim, highlighting the authenticity and value proposition of the musician. Relating to operations, persistence in finding a network is crucial because industry insiders have the most useful information to help musicians make informed decisions. Additionally, having a support system that is informed enough to guide a musician through their music journey, such as a business professional or savvy family member, has proved to be useful to the subjects. Lastly, because financing a music venture can be capital intensive at the outset, it has shown to be ideal to diversify one’s income with other music related activities, if necessary. This will enable the musician to utilize their music talents, while also increasing their resources within this field.

Understanding the value of a record company, if it applies to how one sees their venture scaling, could also be crucial, seeing that record companies can be both financial and opportunity resources as large conglomerates. Overall, an artist needs to understand the individual landscapes of every facet of their business in order to learn how they can best navigate. As we have seen, when musicians are able to understand where their core competencies lie, how they can be leveraged within certain activities, and apply these skills, they are able to further the reach and quality of their venture.

High_Fidelity___A_Hulu_Original_Soundtrack_LP_Vinyl_Record-removebg-previewFinally, it is important to acknowledge the underlying tension between artistry and business, given that entrepreneurship and musicians seem to be such a counterintuitive duo to begin with. The objectives of these two professions are always at odds: marketability and staying true to oneself, profitability in mass versus niche markets, artistry and mainstream, outsourcing and personal authenticity. There are a lot of trade-offs in maximizing business growth and profitability, while retaining artist integrity. Being a true entrepreneur requires the ability to holistically evaluate opportunities, understand one’s proficiencies, compensate for deficiencies, remain steadfast regarding the original vision, and iterate these steps in order to continue growth.

So, who breaks out to become a star? No one can be sure, but those who are crazy enough to engage in the journey of entrepreneurship are headed on the right trajectory.

CEO Sit Down: Anna Bilha on Activly

Activly, a company mobilizing millennials to get active and fit on their own terms.

Anna Bilha was born and raised in Brazil and moved to The United States for high school and to attend Babson College. Throughout her education, Anna hadn’t focussed a lot on studying entrepreneurship, which is what Babson is most well-known for, being the #1 college in the nation for entrepreneurship. It wasn’t until Anna went to study in San Francisco for a semester that she was exposed to a realm of entrepreneurship that she found herself extremely passionate about, involving design, fitness, community, and technology. From an initial idea in San Francisco to a full blown start-up, Anna’s new company Activly has just launched its first beta version of what will soon be a fitness community app geared towards millennials. 

Anna at Ned's Point-23 2Activly was inspired by Anna’s personal fitness journey. Being someone who struggled with weight and body image issues, fitness has always been a priority in Anna’s life. Yet, in college, Anna found it difficult to establish a routine and be as active as she would like. However, when Anna did make it to the gym, people would reach out to her for recommendations for how she was able to be more active and fierce in the gym.  

At first, Anna considered starting a blog that she could point people to for her tips, but quickly realized that making videos and living that “influencer lifestyle” was not so much her speed. Anna cites GymShark as being one of her biggest influences, which has a loyal community of passionate individuals that she truly believes in. Anna also mentions that Karina Elle is another fitness expert she looks up to, who, in many ways, has broken the status quo when it comes to representation within the fitness space.  Anna knew that she wanted to reach more people to offer them tips from her own personal fitness journey. “Fitness is about being happy and comfortable with your body and being healthy, not necessarily about losing weight or building muscle,” Anna mentions. “There is an aspect of going to the gym that is about challenging yourself and being mentally healthy as well.” 

Screen_Shot_2020-11-19_at_3.03.01_PM-removebg-previewAnna did a lot of research into why people are not exercising and what the pain points are within the fitness industry in order to understand better why people were asking her for fitness advice. She soon discovered that ⅔ of Americans are inactive! This led her to developing the idea for Activly, an attempt at making the fitness experience more simple and community based. Activly is designed to be a centralized platform for fitness instruction and inspiration. Anna wanted to ensure that this app serves as a place for everyone, no matter where they are in their fitness journey- a community for everyone. 

What differentiates Activly from other workout programs and apps is that it serves to aggregate content from multiple platforms in order to provide the best for each user. “In this app, you are not limited to finding information from one source, which would leave you at a disadvantage if you enjoy all different types of workouts” Anna mentions. Activly also does not create its own content for sale and distribution, which makes it more unbiased in recommending content for its users. 


Creating this app has not come without its challenges, however, both personal and professional. At the outset, Anna reveals that she suffered from imposter syndrome, where she was unsure if she had the ability to get the app off the ground running. Within the company itself, Anna also cites that building a platform such as this one involves complicated technology that she has had to learn a lot about throughout the process, something completely out of her comfort zone. “You have to be confident in your developer, they need to understand what you see and align with your vision” says Anna. 


Nevertheless, these dark moments have allowed for bright moments to shine even brighter. Some of the most rewarding aspects of starting this company for Anna has been growing her team. Although the company is not profitable yet, everyone within her team is extremely engaged and excited for what is to come, something Anna had never dreamt at the beginning. 

Overall, Anna is excited for her new business to help people that need guidance that are already active, but, more importantly, help those who are not active at all in order to work towards creating a more physically and mentally healthy world. 

Shaina Shikoff on Being a Female Engineer

On her journey to becoming an engineer and working in a male-dominated industry.

Originally from outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Shaina Shikoff is currently a solutions consultant at Appian Corporation, living in Arlington, Virginia. Just a couple of years ago, Shaina graduated from the University of Virginia majoring in Systems and Information Engineering, however, she never expected that she would ultimately become an engineer. In high school, Shaina was always interested in a lot of different subjects, but avoided pigeonholing herself into one so early on. Nevertheless, in college she found that there were a lot of opportunities for women in the engineering field. Civil engineering she found rather technical, which led her to major in Systems and Information Engineering, a newer field that brings business, science, and engineering all together. Systems and Information Engineering is a field of engineering that focuses on the intersection of systems, which can range between business systems to mechanical systems and everything in between. In Systems and Information Engineering, you also learn how to design and manage systems most efficiently and how humans interact with systems, as well as some related coding and data analytics. 

Screen Shot 2020-11-23 at 2.04.57 PMIn college, Shaina found one introductory engineering class to be most compelling, where she learned about major engineering failures, such as the Challenger disaster, the collapse of Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and The Great Molasses Flood of 1919. Shaina saw this class as being a particularly interesting way to introduce the field of engineering and how engineering has used past experiences to improve upon itself. Outside of engineering, it was a class on Dracula that Shaina enjoyed the most.


During her time at the University of Virginia, Shaina joined the Society of Women Engineers in order to develop a supportive network of women within the field of engineering. She also enjoyed building friendships with other engineers that could relate to her in a way that some of her friends within other majors couldn’t. One of the most valuable parts of being in the group, Shaina mentioned, was that she was able to seek the advice of women engineers that were older than her. 

In college, Shaina felt that she didn’t stand out as a female minority, because her major had a fair 60/40 ratio of men to women. However, when she entered the workforce, she began to see that across the field of engineering at her company, there were significantly more men. Nowadays, Shaina doesn’t find it shocking to be the only woman in the room, which comes along with a self-imposed pressure to prove her credibility and competence. Coupled with her young age and being the first hire within her division’s college program, Shaina has found client meetings and projects to be daunting at times, but rewarding nevertheless. 

Looking towards the future, Shaina sees more opportunities for women in technology and engineering than ever. Shaina admits that there are not a lot of women in engineering compared to men, by any means, but that women are definitely starting to be more valued and encouraged to join the field, especially as engineering grows and develops. “Women have a different way of thinking and diversity of thought is important, as a unique perspective is always valued,” Shaina mentions. 

Some advice Shaina has for a woman pursuing engineering?

Gear_love_heart_stock_illustration__Illustration_of_valentine_-_9341889-removebg-previewShaina advises that you should be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone and work hard- maybe even harder than your male counterparts to prove yourself. “When you are out of college it is important to remember that everything isn’t going to be handed to you,” she emphasizes. Shaina also mentions that you should not feel held back by the stereotypes that surround you, “if you are passionate about it, then go for it.” Some other pieces of advice Shaina takes to heart are to try to get as many new experiences as possible in order to learn about what you like and don’t like early on in your career. Also she recommends developing a support system of women that you trust within your company, in order to bounce ideas off of or seek advice from. 

As the future of work changes tremendously in our COVID-19 world, I am hopeful that many would be inspired by Shaina’s story to enter the field and diversify engineering one woman at a time. 

Who is the 21st Century Music Entrepreneur?

When the going gets tough, the musicians get tougher.

“The marriage of art and commerce has always fascinated me – they can’t exist without each other – yet the concept of creative freedom, and the need to control costs in order to have a business, are eternally locked in a Vulcan death match.”

(Passman, 4)

The labels “musician” and “entrepreneur” have become so closely intertwined, following the “digital revolution,” that one might say they are inseparable. Along with streaming, the Internet has brought a whole host of functionalities that musicians can use to their benefit, in order to develop themselves as artists independent of labels; “Ultimately, as the encrusted shell of the old music business disintegrates, digital technology has made the music business an entrepreneurial one once again” (Baskerville, 16). The Internet has created a democratization within the industry, granting the tools of the music trade straight to the artists, causing the barrier to enter this industry to be lowered. Investments and profits are not only being made by the big stars, now, they are also coming from smaller and medium-sized artists in the industry. 99% of the growth of the United States streaming market in 2019 was generated from the mass “second-tier” artists outside of the top 10 staple musicians (Ingham).

Yet, because entry into the industry has become significantly easier and the attractiveness of this profession has melting-vinyl-record-_-3d-render-of-vinyl-record-melting-canvas-print-e280a2-pixersc2ae-we-live-to-changeremained high, a misconception has been created that anyone can become a professional musician and fulfill their dreams, for “the same way that it’s easy for you to set all this up, it’s easy for everybody to set this up” (Passman, 76). The industry has never been more crowded with novices, professionals, and everyone in between. This has only intensified the competition. There are over ten million artists on SoundCloud and Facebook alone, creating an industry where talent and passion are not enough to cause an artist to stand out amongst the crowd (Passman,76). Additionally, the Internet reduces barriers of entry to musicians but does not necessarily increase musical diversification or social democratization. For instance, just because the music is available does not mean it will be consumed. Major music labels still hold a certain degree of influence in the current music sphere and can more easily leverage popular music downloading services to have their music and advertisements featured on their websites (Mazierska, 259). Digitization, despite its democratic promise, has still led to a concentration and solidification within a fragmented industry.

Now, more than ever, musicians have had to learn how to produce, promote, and distribute their music – and do it on a high level. “In the post-Napster era, pop stars could no longer rely on album sales to generate income. They had to transform themselves into what communications scholar Leslie M. Meier calls ‘artist-brands.’ In the twenty-first century, pop artists have to sell themselves – the more an artist’s brand refracts and engages different identities, the more the artist can command attention and profits”; so, what does this mean for the competing individual artist (Sloan, 110-111)? Who is this person? What do they look like? The current musician benefits from embracing an entrepreneurial mindset and takes ownership of being both a musician and an entrepreneur. The need for entrepreneurship has become an industry function.

Hand Of People In Club (1)

According to Babson College, “entrepreneurship is about the ability to organize resources, and provide the leadership, to act on opportunities to create social and economic value…,” and, therefore, an entrepreneur is someone who takes charge of accessing and organizing resources to create said value (Lopez). Now more than ever, a musician is demanded to suss out from the plethora of resources which will benefit them the most, while taking finances into consideration. The musician must also have enough self-awareness to understand which activities are better outsourced to others, yet still align with their vision. In being a musician, the artist is creating their own sound, brand, and identity that fills a void for listeners; maybe this artist speaks to them and for them in a way that others cannot. Then, when all of the activities are arranged, can the musician be confident in their odds of being heard by audiences and their value communicated. This increasingly close tie between product and producer is often challenging to balance, but, when the artist, music, brand, and business all align, it becomes an electric, unstoppable force.

Start-Ups and Entrepreneurs vs. New Music and Emerging Musicians

For many reasons, musicians operating in the music industry are, in fact, very similar to entrepreneurs operating within a startup ecosystem. Start-ups rely on sales, marketing, operations, and finance acumen in order to turn their idea into a reality and the Internet has disrupted what it looks like to be a business owner; now, anyone with an idea can start their own business. An entrepreneur can independently contact vendors, sell their product online, and market and promote their business through online ads, social media, and influencer networks. This business can be funded through venture capital firms, banks, and angel investors, as well as friends and family. Similar to how a passion for music compels the artist to embark on their professional music journey, passion drives the mission of the business as well. This passion in addition to the uniqueness of the product offerings are critical to the business, differentiating the venture from its competitors. The nature of the competing entrepreneur, we see, is not so different than that of the starving musician. As a result, the more one views their venture into the music industry as a business venture, the better off one will be, using the start-up model as a blueprint for their activities.

aesthetic - green is growinHowever, it might seem distasteful or disingenuous for a musician to reveal stardom as their end-goal, to discuss brand development, or use the terminology that entrepreneurs use when they are in the business of selling a good or service. Brand, profit, sales, and business are common terms that are more likely to be used by entrepreneurs when talking about their start-up, then they would be with a musician, whose main purpose is to create art. What one learns in business naturally has a tension with what one’s art might say.

Nevertheless, the most surprising finding from my thesis study is the fact that all ten musicians interviewed, despite their demographic differences, identified themselves as entrepreneurs and undertook entrepreneurial activities. The subjects understood the value of identifying as someone that is business-minded in the industry and who would comfortably take on such a label. All of these artists tapped into the different facets of business that they engage with the most that cause them to identify as entrepreneurs. The musicians mentioned doing the same concrete tasks that entrepreneurs also engage in, such as promotion or marketing, diversified financing, establishing partnerships, having a product, and forecasting. Additionally, the artists mentioned facets of the entrepreneurial mindset, like creative problem solving and recognizing the need for outsourcing, goal setting, and acute self-awareness.

But, nothing about being a musician says that one is going to be good at any of these things. This is where a musician must rely on their experiences and education in order to formulate good decision making skills that will help in their venture. An individual’s experiences shape their understanding of the world and, consequently, an evaluation of their opportunities. In harnessing their core competencies and iterating through failure, a musician can become more adept to entrepreneurial thought and action. 

Stay tuned for next week’s article on “Conclusions for the Music Entrepreneur”


Baskerville, David, and Tim Baskerville. Music Business Handbook and Career Guide. 11th ed., SAGE, 2017.

Ingham, Tim. “US Streams Topped a Trillion Last Year. But Is a Superstar Recession Looming?” Music Business Worldwide, 9 Jan. 2020,

Lopez, David, “Intro to ET&A” , 06 September 2016.

Mazierska, Ewa, et al. Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age : Politics, Economy, Culture and Technology, Chapter 12, et al., Bloomsbury Academic & Professional, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central,   

Passman, Donald S. All You Need to Know about the Music Business: 10th Edition. Simon & Schuster, Incorporated, 2019.

Sloan, Nate, et al. Switched on Pop: How Popular Music Works & Why It Matters. Oxford University Press, 2020.

Pamela Mukiza on Boston Real Estate and Buying during COVID-19

To buy or not to buy, that is the question.

Although a native from Maine, Pamela Mukiza has been living in the Boston area for six years now, having gone to Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and is now working for a local commercial real estate development firm in the heart of Boston. When Pamela is not working on complex projects or looking into her next real estate investment, she is listening to music, obsessing over new skincare products, and planning on what to purchase next for the new condo she shares with her sister Monia. It must be in the blood because Monia also works in real estate, however she focuses on marketing, pricing, selling, and consulting on the buyer’s side of real estate- the two complement one another professionally. 

Pamela and her sister just bought their first condo, a dream of the two since they first started saving up after college. There are many factors that contributed to Pamela purchasing her first place, one being the current record low interest rates for borrowing, which means that you are paying a lower interest percentage on your mortgage. Pamela also had enough money saved up for her to feel comfortable with taking the leap into ownership. Additionally, Pamela saw that there were new properties hitting the market in developing neighborhoods that she viewed as appreciating in value over time. 

“If you think about renting,” Pamela starts, “you are throwing your money away by not building any equity. When you buy a place, you are still paying a monthly payment, but you are building your equity in paying off your home slowly over time”. Pamela views real estate as being one of the most stable investments, especially real estate in Boston, which is typically always appreciating in value because of limited supply.

Pamela and Monia’s new Chelsea apartment (below)

Trends in Boston Real Estate

Some current trends that Pamela indicated to me are increased concessions in buildings for starters. Boston is such an academic city, yet, because it is not receiving as many undergraduate, graduate, PHD, and MBA students, many buildings are struggling with a surplus of empty apartments. As a result, buildings have started to give concessions, such as the first three months rent free, on their apartments to incentivize renters to move in. Rents have also dropped significantly in order to attract renters in the area. “People who might have previously been on the fence in terms of buying or renting a place of their own are now jumping on board,” Pamela states. 


Pamela and Monia, decided to purchase a condo in the Waterfront community in Chelsea, MA, which used to be a historically lower income neighborhood in Boston. Pamela notes that this was the first place that her and her sister saw that they could envision their lives in. Having to make an appointment for a time slot to view the condo due to COVID-19 restrictions, when Pamela and her sister left the place they immediately put in an offer. Pamela mentions that walking the neighborhood really sealed the deal in terms of convincing them to invest. They could see that a lot of investments were being made in terms of upgrading the T-station and new buildings going up that made buying the condo a good future investment, as the area becomes more appealing to others overtime. “You know a neighborhood is on the cusp of major developments when a grocery store chain begins its build or a new or upgraded T-stop is underway” Pamela notes. The easy 15 minute commute to work also didn’t hurt.

Pamela’s Advice for Future Investors

  1. Considering moving now? Do it! If you’re confident in your financial situation and have the money saved, go for it! It seems crazy and intimidating, but it’s not. There is a lot of paperwork, insurance papers, and lawyers involved, but it’s not as intimidating as you’d think.
  2. Look into federal programs offered in your city or states for first time home buyers. There may be some beneficial incentives that you can take advantage of. 
  3. Evaluate your situation with public transportation or personal car usage in terms of your needs (i.e. street parking, private parking, etc.).
  4. Make a checklist in terms of what you are looking for (number of bedrooms, hardwood floors, etc.).
  5. Talk to the neighbors if you can. Pamela and Monia ended up running into their future upstairs neighbor and spoke with him during their condo walk through, making sure to ask him about the neighborhood and to get a sense for who lived in the building.
  6. Come at night and drive around the neighborhood so you can to see all aspects of your future surroundings.
  7. Check the demographics online to get a sense of who lives there and how far it is from local amenities, etc. 
  8. Do some research on the condo board, read the condo documents, and make sure you understand all the legalities and fees associated with the purchase of your unit, who is managing it etc. 
  9. If you are in one, read your lease before you renew it and take into account where you are going to be in the future. 

*Condo (HOA) fees depend on how much it takes to take care of and maintain the building and all of the shared amenity spaces. The condo board is elected by the people of the board, takes care of the shared services such as snow removal, a common pipe bursting, etc. They also takes care of shared amenities, establish condo rules etc. 

Grace Yoon on Working in Fashion PR and Production

You know like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs- those guys.

Grace Yoon is a California soul with a New York state of mind. At only 29 years old, Grace has worked on fashion shows for the world’s top designers and brands including Michael Kors, Rodarte, Derek Lam, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co and Gucci. 

Grace is a Korean-American, currently living in Northern California, who is an ESTJ (Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging) personality type according to Myers Briggs. Although many expect Grace to be serious, she is actually the most goofy person I know! “A lot of the fashion world is serious, but fashion isn’t supposed to be serious, it’s supposed to be creative and fun” Grace mentions, a mindset which has gotten her far within the industry. 

Grace knew since high school that she wanted to be involved in putting on events after watching a TV programme with Brent Bolthouse, producer of Coachella’s infamous after party, Neon Carnival. Grace had no idea that you could have a career as an event planner, a natural profession for her, as she was obsessed with planning birthdays and school dances growing up. Right after high school, she came across BizBash, which is the event industry’s main resource and publication. Grace ended up driving six hours to LA to volunteer at BizBash’s annual conference, listening to their keynote speakers like Mindy Weiss and becoming inspired while she was there. 

This mindset is what set Grace up for so much success later on in her career, as she is always keen on absorbing everything around her – going to new hotels, exhibits, galleries, performance arts and theater shows, and pop-up events. Whatever Grace was interested in, she explored and experienced, which she was able to use to leverage within her work. 

When Grace was 20, she interned in New York City in fashion public relations at Seventh House PR and fell in love with New York, soon moving there permanently. At Seventh House she worked with brands such as Charlotte Ronson, Imitation of Christ, and many more up and coming brands. At the beginning of her career, Grace was so excited just to be in the environment – an excitement that is required to do the hard work that Grace put into the long hours and many times tedious work.

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 2.19.46 PM“I specifically remember Bill Cunningham showed up and overheard one of the publicists say ‘Bill showing up just validated our event.'” says Grace. DEGEN Presentation, September 2011

Grace’s next internship was with PR Consulting, working on accounts like Raf Simons and Brian Atwood. Grace had full intentions to return to California, however she received a job offer from fashion PR agency, Krupp Group as an assistant to the founder and President, Cindy Krupp. This was Grace’s first full-time job and it was an exciting time at the agency as they represented brands such as Sandro, Maje, and Rachel Comey and a number of new designers who were participating in the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund. Grace helped Cindy and the agency with anything and everything, allowing Grace to learn invaluable lessons that she couldn’t have learned anywhere else, as she was copied into every email that Cindy was on. This work was also a deep dive into introducing Grace to the fashion world, allowing Grace to figure out that she loved fashion, but did not want to stay in PR.

While Grace was still working at Krupp Group, she freelanced during a free weekend she had during fashion week as a production assistant.  This was her first introduction into fashion show production and backstage management, which was more her speed than front-of-house PR.  Grace ended up getting a full time offer with KCD a month later.  At KCD, Grace’s role was partially assisting Julie Mannion and Jarrad Clark the President and SVP. Although the initial transition was bumpier than expected, Grace soaked in everything that she could.

KCD is unique in that it is the only agency in the industry that has PR and production. At KCD, Grace found her niche in pacing, choreography, backstage and model management for the fashion shows KCD produced. In her role, Grace would work with the technical director and lay out where the models would be if they were sent at certain intervals.  She would also work with the DJ’s to layer on the show music and other cues into what she calls the “pacing chart” or script for the entire show.  In this job, Grace had the ability to travel all across the globe to Los Angeles, London, Milan, Paris, Nice and Seoul, over the course of three years. 

Gigi x Tommy Hilfiger Rehearsal, Milan, February 2018, Marc Jacobs Rehearsal, September 2017, & Maison Margiela Rehearsal, Paris, February 2017

At KCD, Grace experienced one of her most memorable shows, which was Virgil Abloh’s first show with Louis Vuttion Mens. Abloh is the first Black man to hold the helm of a luxury brand represented by the LVMH conglomerate, making his first show a momentous event. The show was held at the Jardin du Palais Royal and the runway was one straight path that was over a thousand feet, taking the models over three minutes to walk it’s entire length. Many of the models were friends of Abloh, including famed rapper Kid Cudi. Cudi did not attend the rehearsal for the show, and is also not a working model, so during the actual show Cudi was walking too slow and not spacing himself correctly with the other models. Grace and her boss were calling this show and noticed the gap forming between Cudi and the models in front of him, making her boss shout at him to speed up, however he remained steadfast in his “Kid Cudi walk and grin” the entire time. All jokes aside, Grace felt extremely thankful to have been part of what that moment meant in fashion. Grace distinctly remembers the energy at the show, everyone so excited and in a celebratory mood – the same celebratory feeling that lured Grace into events to begin with. 

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 2.18.23 PMLouis Vuitton Men’s Show, Paris, June 2018

As time progressed, however, Grace still had an itch to produce more than anything and when she found no mobility in her current job, she moved to freelancing with first Maybelline and then with Bureau Betak, where she coordinated her first runway show with client Michael Kors. Soon after, Grace went to produce her first event, being the Tiffany & Love fragrance launch. Grace then signed on full-time to work at Betak working on press previews for Gucci, producing Rodarte’s show last February, as well as many other events. Having since left Betak, Grace is taking a break to reconnect with family and friends back in her hometown in the Silicon Valley.

Screen Shot 2020-11-17 at 2.17.59 PM



Grace mentioned that she heard in a documentary Ralph Lauren say “sometimes you need to fulfill your dream to realize your true dream,” for now Grace is mulling over these words, discovering if the future has in store a new dream for her or just a bigger one.  

Tiffany & Love Fragrance Launch, October 2019 (right)


What advice would Grace give to someone interested in producing events and working in fashion?

Intern, intern, intern she says because you cannot learn fashion production in school, you really have to get first hand experience to learn. If you cannot get an internship in the field, which are often few and far in-between, volunteer or work as a production assistant on show day, just do anything you can to be in the room, Grace advises. Plain and simple, “work hard while you are young and able” Grace says, “because hard work has a trickle down effect in terms of opportunities and learning”. You never know where all of that hard work will land you. Maybe also next to Gigi and Bella, who knows!


How the Music Industry Came to Be: 1970s to Present

The music of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Historically, the music industry has been shaped by its means of consumption. In the 1970s, when the vinyl record was predominantly used, the music publishing and recording businesses gained widespread attention for their profitability. Large companies began to buy into the industry and made large investments in this creative sector, considering it to be “an acceptable risk” (Baskerville, 9). Investments in music enterprises continued into the 1980s, as the invention of the compact disc or CD overtook vinyl and consumers quickly replaced their record collections with CD releases (Baskerville, 10). During this time, the recording music business saw its peak in terms of profits as a result of high margins in music purchasing. Consequently, there were heavy investments in all aspects relating to the musician, such as scouting, development, production, promotion, touring, and management; everyone wanted to become involved in the artist life cycle to take their piece of the profits. The musician exerted the majority of their energy into their craft, while various business-related roles were outsourced.

Summer Nights & City LightsThe invention of the MP3 in the 1990s was the first format to begin to disrupt the traditional music order. What made the MP3 unique was the fact that it could be “compressed into files that could be distributed over the Internet freely (in every sense of the word), a new form of mass media became, in part, a medium controlled by the masses” (Baskerville, 10). Consumers could share and duplicate their music themselves using a computer without needing to even go to the store or shell out extra money. This illegal form of digital distribution was done by peer-to-peer networks, facilitated by companies such as Napster and Grokster (Baskerville, 13). With music being listened to, copied, and shared for free, “global recorded music sales dropped by nearly half in the following decade,” causing the music industry to cut costs and look for alternative methods of profitability (Baskerville, 13). Labels lost their ability to control this underground market and take their fair share of the profits.

The Internet soon became a thriving hub of fans who were distributing music and sharing their opinions about it. For, “[i]f the 20th century was about discovering new audiences, the 21st may prove to be about finding new, better, and… profitable ways to connect with them wherever they are and through whatever medium they desire” a new challenge for artist and record companies alike (Baskerville, 10). As communities and cultures quickly formed, artists were eager to become a part of connecting with these audiences in an intimate way like never before. Music streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music and YouTube, which require a paid subscription for use, were soon popularized and would regulate online music listening.

Not only did the Internet change the method of consumption for music, it changed so much more, as this digital revolution provided aspiring musicians with high-quality tools for producing music with inexpensive methods of personal promotion. The Internet also created access to self-education in areas such as marketing, production, and networking, where an aspiring musician can learn a host of information from online resources. Whereas there used to be many gatekeepers and an extremely high barrier to entry, those walls have been lowered and a music digital democracy was formed. Yet, this shift does not come without many challenges for the artist. Currently, anyone can put their music online, significantly increasing competition within the industry and making it difficult to become noticed amidst all of the noise. Musicians have also needed to take on business roles that they may not be accustomed to handling, such as their own marketing, promotion, and music distribution. This will take away from the musician focusing on their art itself, the core of their work. Now, it is not enough to be talented, one must know how to curate themselves as an artist in order to make a living as a musician and to become recognized by significant players within the industry.

The Watching shared by Lucian on We Heart It

Similar to how the digital revolution has changed the musician, it has also altered the music consumer. Consumers of this new generation expect instant access to music, which is often “perceived as being free of cost” (Baskerville, 20). Fans, who were never used to purchasing CD albums or songs in the iTunes store, view music listening as their right, without a willingness to pay for what they are receiving. Subscribers to Spotify, for example, can pay as low as $4.99 a month or listen for free with advertisement interruptions (Music). Consequently, labels have poured money into creating merchandise and massive world tours for artists, to re-engage the listener and have them invest in music experiences over virtually free, passive listening (Naveed).

21st Century Record Companies

Record companies play a new role within the 21st century music industry, given that the traditional use of the record company has been regarded as expensive and unnecessary. Whereas before labels focused their energy on scouting, developing, and creating a star, all costly tasks, musicians can now do this themselves. Consequently, record companies have shifted their strategy to “an increased concentration of the ownership and control of the market for recorded music. Another, and connected, strategy consists of shifting the costs of producing records to musicians and other actors involved in the creation of music” (Mazierska, 7). Now, the value that record labels can provide are their financial resources as large conglomerates and extensive networks, two key components in the musician’s venture. “The record companies have the resources to get your music heard above the noise of all the other artists out there,” including experienced marketers and relationships with streaming services and radio stations as well as massive amounts of data, which can help with artist’s strategy development (Passman, 77). Every platform requires a pitch and record labels have access to every platform. Record labels also have the funds to provide artists with exposure or help in funding large tours, yet are now more selective with whom they invest in because there are lower margins to be made in a given artist. Everyone is taking a risk. Consequently, record companies have shrunk their artist development efforts and A & R divisions. Considering that artists have the ability to grow a significant repertoire and following, to mitigate risk in artist investment, record labels invest in promising, emerging industry performers and a “common pattern is for an artist to get to a certain level, then move to a label because they feel they need the company’s resources to take their careers to the next level” (Passman, 77).


As a result of this “do it yourself” revolution, musicians can often undervalue the continued importance of the record company and their role in artist success. If the musician is undertaking so much on their own, why would a large corporation need to become involved? This may be true for smaller artists, where, “[i]f you’re a niche artist and you’re happy with selling your music to a small niche group of fans, you don’t need a record company and if you can make a living doing gigs promoting yourself directly to your fans and selling your music (genre limits your potential audience) you will make more money doing this on your own” (Passman, 76). Yet, for those who strive to have a broader group of people hear their music, record companies still have a crucial place in helping achieve this success.

We’ll see if this still holds true in the future. My bet is that the industry is on the precipice of a massive shift, just waiting for a disruptor. 

Stay tuned for next week’s article on “Who is the 21st Century Music Entrepreneur?”

Baskerville, David, and Tim Baskerville. Music Business Handbook and Career Guide. 11th ed., SAGE, 2017.
Mazierska, Ewa, et al. Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age : Politics, Economy, Culture and Technology, Chapter 12, et al., Bloomsbury Academic & Professional, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central,  
“Music for Everyone.” Spotify,
Naveed, Kashif, et al. “Co-Evolution between Streaming and Live Music Leads a Way to the Sustainable Growth of Music Industry – Lessons from the US Experiences.” Technology in Society, vol. 50, 2017, pp. 1–19., doi:10.1016/j.techsoc.2017.03.005. 
Passman, Donald S. All You Need to Know about the Music Business: 10th Edition. Simon & Schuster, Incorporated, 2019.

Jeremie Cabling on Combatting the Struggles of Selling

Sale (/sāl/): the exchange of a commodity for money; the action of selling something (Part III)

If you can believe it, we have come to the last part of Jeremie’s three-part sales series! Through these past two weeks, we have learned what it takes to be a good salesperson, how to confidently write a cold email, how to persuade and pre-suade, and so much more. This week it’s all about combatting the struggles of selling, Jeremie giving some expert advice on how to navigate a few of the challenges that come along with sales- yes we saved the best for last. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have and get to use some of these tactics in the real world. Just make sure not to use them on Jeremie, I have a feeling he’ll see right through them.

What are some of the ways you combat rejection during a sale?

Jeremie says, if your prospect rejects your proposition, it’s because you led them to that objection. Don’t push prospects to objections.

People have the primal urge to feel safe, secure, and in control. A pushy ask like “Do you have time to chat this week?” puts a person’s guard up and stops a sale dead in its tracks. An ask like “Is it a bad time to chat about X” gives the recipient a feeling of agency and power. It asks the same thing as the former question, but it asks in a way that empowers the recipient to respond.

Ask questions that uncover your customers’ wants. Then, dive deeper to understand how they want to feel. Only then you can pull them in by showing how your product/service is the way there.

If an objection does come up, the only 3 responses I use are:

  1. You’re right in feeling that way, [my prospect very similar to you] felt that too, what they found is [benefit]…
  2. That’s right, but [benefit]…
  3. I don’t know, but let’s regroup and I can get back to you on that…

How do you not get discouraged during the sales process?

“I do get discouraged,” says Jeremie (phew I thought it was just us). “If I’m not performing, I can only blame myself or my process. Discouragement is the natural reminder to step back, analyze and correct myself (my attitude) or my process.”

Sales is fun, Jeremie reminds us, but success in sales is almost essential for fulfillment in it. Discouragement is the cue that something needs to change to get better.

Jeremie, what is the best piece of advice you have received in terms of selling and sales?

Most mentors helped me with the technical parts of selling… best times to sell, how many times to follow up with a lead, etc.

Here are my 5 favorite tools of persuasion in relation to sales

1) Reciprocity: people feel compelled to return favors.

Take the initiative to treat others well -> get treated back exceptionally.

2) Cognitive Dissonance: people feel compelled to act in a way consistent with the image they want to project. Show their actions/inactions don’t project that desired image, but your solution is a way how.

3) Signaling: “We can’t help but assume the importance of a message is proportional to the cost of delivering it.”

-Rory Sutherland.

An email < a text < a tweet < a call < a handwritten letter < a personalized gift.

Make your customer feel like they matter by signaling that you put in effort to reach them.

4) Social Proof: Going back to the need to feel safe… People will go along with people that are similar to them.

5) Liking: All else equal people buy from who they like.

What is the biggest challenge you face in sales?

Time management is critical. Your job is entirely dependent on the interaction with other people — largely strangers. You have to balance your daily tasks to keep your sales pipeline full (prospecting, nurturing old leads, etc.) with calls that go longer than scheduled, people flaking your meeting, having to do miscellaneous work for your company, etc.

Some days you’ll feel like there’s not enough going on. Some days you’ll feel overwhelmed. You have to be comfortable with a level of uncertainty.


The Journey of the ASHITA Diamond

Making every ASHITA jewelry purchase, the right one.

Use COLORFUL10 for $10 off!

Ever wonder how jewelry is made from start to finish? As consumers, most of the time we don’t know where the items we purchase come from or how they are made. However, now more than ever, we have an increasing interest in investigating the supply chain of our purchases, for ethical practices, quality, and sustainability. ASHITA is unique for many reasons, one reason being that the company is in complete control of every stage of the jewelry making process and ensures adherence to the highest standards throughout. A luxury jewelry company that handcrafts colorful, fine jewelry in New York City, ASHITA is eager to share its mission for providing ethically made, fair priced jewelry that sacrifices nothing in providing beauty in all of their pieces. 

ASHITA was kind enough to walk me through their jewelry process, from diamond mining to expert local craftsmanship, so that I can share what makes this company unique with my readers, so let’s jump right into it!

Step 1 The Mining

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ASHITA diamonds are hand selected by expert gemologists, who choose some of the best diamonds according to clarity, color, and carat. In terms of clarity, ASHITA uses VS diamonds, which are diamonds that are only just very slightly included. Their diamonds are also FG in color, meaning they are almost completely colorless, which increases their value. In regards to cut, the diamonds are ideal and the carat varies from piece to piece, depending on jewelry style. As partners with authorized sightholders, ASHITA is able to track the diamonds from mine to consumer, ensuring ethical practices. ASHITA also uses the Kimberley process, which is a recognized certification system that imposes extensive requirements on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as ‘conflict-free’ and prevent conflict diamonds from entering legitimate trade.

The ethically sourced 14-karat gold that ASHITA uses is mined in North America and is classified as Grade 1 Metal in quality and brightness. The karat number reveals how pure the gold is, meaning that 14-karats is 14/24 or 58.33% pure gold. The remaining components in ASHITA jewelry are alloys, which are infused to harden the naturally soft gold and make it last a lifetime. ASHITA even allows the option, upon request, to manufacture nickel-free jewelry, which is made from 18-karat white gold and palladium-alloy.

ASHITA is as much about quality as it is about purpose, which makes the environment also a priority in their process. ASHITA helps to reduce our carbon footprint by recycling any material waste lost during manufacturing.

Step 2 The Jewelry Making 

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ASHITA’s jewelry is designed and manufactured in Manhattan, New York, the city that also serves as inspiration for all of the company’s jewelry collections.   

First, ASHITA’s design team creates sketches of the jewelry, which are then prototyped and 3D printed before expert craftsmen get to work. ASHITA’s jewelers, who have over 200 years of experience, then handcraft all of the company’s incredibly beautiful pieces, which are minimalistic in design and brought to the next level with splashes of colored enamel. 

What makes ASHITA even more unique is that the company is able to cut out the wholesale and retail fees that are associated with jewelry buying so that the consumer can get the highest quality at the lowest price. There is no supplier, import tariffs, distributor, or storefront sales, which means that all of their jewelry is priced at a fair, direct to consumer price point. 

Step 3 Delivering on the Promise 

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After the materials are mined, the jewelry is designed, and all of the pieces are made, the decisions are left up to you, and ASHITA makes that decision a tough one, given all of the options available for you to choose from. 

You can purchase items for their latest Dream Collection, which features delicate pieces with sparkling diamonds nestled in between blush and baby pink, aqua, and coral enamel embellishments. Or, want something specially made for you? ASHITA offers custom styling sessions, where you can speak with a company representative to design a one of a kind piece. You can also shop one of ASHITA’s anklets, which is part of their ‘One to Love, One to Give’ campaign that, with every anklet purchased, all of the proceeds go towards sponsoring a prosthetic limb through Prosthetics for Change for someone less fortunate.

ASHITA is a part of every step in your jewelry’s journey to ensure you get the best value and quality the world has to offer, while keeping sustainability and ethics a priority. With a company that has every detail in mind, you can have comfort in knowing that any one of your choices will be the right one. 

There are so many options to choose from, why not take the ASHITA quiz to find out which piece ASHITA has chosen for you?

Use COLORFUL10 for $10 off!

Credit goes to the Gemology Institute of America for providing certain facts and figures.

Jeremie Cabling on A Good Salesperson

Sale (/sāl/): the exchange of a commodity for money; the action of selling something (Part II)

If you thought you were ready for last week’s sales expertise, you are definitely not ready for this week’s write up on what makes a good salesperson. What makes Jeremie Cabling such an incredible salesperson to me is, not only his ability to sell, but his adept ability at explaining what good selling is and what it looks like. If you want to read more about sales, make sure to tune in next week for Part III of Jeremie’s series, where he explains one of the most critical hurdles that every good sales person must overcome, how to combat the struggles of selling.

What are some characteristics that make a good sales person?

When hiring another sales representative Jeremie is looking for:

Effective Speech: His test is to ask candidates to explain a concept they know well to a 5 year old. If they can explain something to a 5 year old, they can communicate clearly — critical in persuasion.

Good Listener: In a sales conversation you should be doing 80% of the listening and 20% of the talking. People love buying, but hate being sold to. They have to convince themselves that they led themselves to the decision to buy or not. You must know what to listen for. Your job is to ask questions that lead the customer to that decision.

High Integrity: Someone who sees deals as the way to help the customer and their team is someone who will do well in the role. Sales is competitive internally, but you’ll want someone who will help sharpen their coworkers.

What is a good sales opener?

The best sales opener is an introduction from a friend or authority figure. People buy from who they like and respect.

If you can’t get a warm intro, this formula is the most effective I’ve used to start a completely cold conversation over email (21% reply rate vs the ~1% industry average).

Accusation audit + A question that triggers cognitive dissonance + Personalized offer + Call to Value

In English:

Accusation Audit: Label someone with something that you are certain that they identify with. When you acknowledge someone’s emotions, it validates those feelings.

A question that triggers cognitive dissonance: Ask a question that implies that their action/inaction is the contrary to the identity that you just labeled them.

Personalized offer: An offer that shows you didn’t just email them out of the blue. Give them a reason why you reached out, even if it doesn’t make sense. People care about they why.

Call to value: Clear benefit to the customer of continuing the conversation

Here is an example:

Hi {first name} — You stood out as a thought leader in SaaS sales on LinkedIn.

Have you considered sending your best customers gifts? You and 11 other sales leaders in New York City have access to the pilot of my service for sending personalized gifts, automatically. Is it a bad time to try it for free on {company’s best customer]?

Cognitive dissonance is Jeremie’s second most powerful persuasive weapon in sales. This email is meant to make this person question a gap in their sales process, while keeping them in control of the conversation. They should feel safe, but curious. They can trust you to an extent because it seems like you emailed them with a purpose. It’s strictly emotional.

What advice do you have for someone interested in getting into sales?

To get into sales, don’t apply to sales jobs, Jeremie says. Look at companies that you like and start-ups that interest you.

  1. Even email or call your would-be manager, sharing some form of value.
  2. Write a unique cold email that you would use if you worked there and share it… Share a lead with them… Share a relevant article or book summary… Offer to do lead generation free…etc
  3. Put yourself in a position that attracts job offers. While selling my company’s software, I received 6 competing offers by my prospects’ companies because they liked the way I shared value with them. No resume. No interview. Just value shared.

You can’t sell something effectively if you don’t like it. Don’t waste your time, your could-be employers’, and their customers’.