WME Partner Becky Gardenhire was recently announced as one of this year’s MusicRow Rising Women On The Row honorees. MusicRow will feature Q&As with each of this year’s six honorees leading up to the event. MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row for 2018 also includes Faithe Dillman, Leslie DiPiero, Lynn Oliver-Cline, Annie Ortmeier, and Janet Weir.
Gardenhire is responsible for guiding the daily touring, film, literary and sponsorship opportunities for several well-known artists including Adam Craig, Charlie Worsham, Chase Bryant, Courtney Cole, Ingrid Andress, Jake Owen, Jordan Davis, Justin Adams, LANCO, RaeLynn, Rascal Flatts, Reba, Sara Evans and many others. She leads a team of agents that work across WME’s entire country roster booking concerts in arenas, amphitheaters, theaters, PACS and casinos in the South and is an integral part of WME’s New Artist Development Program. Gardenhire sits on the Board of Directors for the T.J. Martell Foundation and the W.O. Smith School of Music, and is a member of ACM, CMA, NARAS, IEBA and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
MusicRow caught up with Gardenhire to discuss her music industry career, and advice she has for industry newcomers. MusicRow Magazine’s sold-out Rising Women On The Row event will be held Tuesday, March 27 at Omni Hotel Nashville.
MusicRow: How did you become involved in the music industry?
Becky Gardenhire: This sounds stereotypical, but I grew up on a farm, and I listened to country music. I knew I wanted to get into the entertainment industry, but I went to school for film and television so I thought I would be going into that side of the entertainment industry. Then I moved to Los Angeles after college and worked for WME’s [formerly William Morris] TV department, but the agent I was assigned to had a project working with our Nashville office, so through that I began to understand what clients we represented in the country space.
It became obvious that I was enjoying the concert side of things while my day job was as an assistant to a TV agent. I visited Nashville for a weekend, fell in love with the city, and decided to move here. I told the agent I was working for, and soon a job opened up that allowed me to move to Nashville and still stay with the company. Then I just started working my way up through the Nashville office.
Who were some of your mentors once you got to Nashville?
Greg Oswald was the first agent I worked for in our Nashville office, and is still a great mentor to me to this day.
Jumping from the TV side to the music side, I had to be tenacious and surround myself with the right people, especially when you are starting off with not as much experience. Sometimes, people are afraid to ask, ‘What am I not doing right?’ but you need to hear that so you can grow in your career. That was helpful when I transitioned from being an assistant to being a music agent, because I was the one booking the dates and the one in charge of that territory.
What lessons have you learned that help in your day-to-day job?
Listening is so important, especially when you are working strategically. Our job is to fulfill the client’s vision, whether it’s their music, tour, or they are putting out a book or some other project. If you don’t really listen to what their vision is, you can’t enhance it or make it better. That happens in negotiations, too. If you can’t hear what the other person is trying to get from you, you can’t figure out how to negotiate that conversation.
How have you seen the touring world change during your career?
Ticketing is still a huge challenge. We are all still trying to figure out how to make it a better experience for the fans, and how to keep the secondary market from being such a problem. No one has the answers yet and that has certainly something that has consistently been a challenge. The other thing is, there are so many ways artists can release music now, which leads to more people touring, but it also requires you to be more strategic about how you are touring, and what other tours you are competing with. The volume has definitely changed. We have more headliner tours every year, so we are trying to make sure strategically that everyone is successful.
You also started the Talk The Talk series at WME, which helps foster connections and empowers women. How did that start?
I am a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote Lean In. That book inspired me. We needed to be doing more at our company and I wanted to be part of something like this. When I was first promoted, I was the third female agent in our country department. So I thought, we need to make sure we are supporting each other. We brought in speakers to talk about how they made it in their career fields. Every woman in our office, from intern to the most senior-level agent, is attending. We’ve had women speak who are leading companies, and entrepreneurial women in the industry. We’ve kept it internal, and it may turn into something outward-facing. Right now, we’ve just kept it for our WME staff.
Also, there is Women In Music at WME, for women working in music at all our WME offices. We started off doing weekly meetings and now it is every other week. We are doing mentorship programs, we are talking to non-profit organizations we want to support as a group. We all work together within the music department as part of the business, but now we have another core opportunity to come together to support each other as women.
What advice would you have given to yourself when you were first starting in the industry?
Keep your mind open to all opportunities that can come along. I was a super planner. I remember graduating college and thinking, ‘Ok, this is what my career is going to be like.’ I thought I knew my exact career path, which is so naïve. You don’t know what opportunity is going to come your way that might change your path, but don’t be afraid of it. I think people fear that if they get off their path and go explore something, that they can never get back, and that’s so not true. You have to follow your intuition. I never would have gotten to Nashville if I didn’t follow my passion for country music.
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