Rising Women On The Row Spotlight: 5 Questions With NSAI’s Jennifer Turnbow

Jennifer Turnbow

MusicRow Magazine’s eighth annual Rising Women on the Row event will be held Tuesday, March 26, at Omni Hotel Nashville.

This year’s honorees include Sandi Spika Borchetta (Big Machine Label Group, Sr. VP Creative), Janine Ebach (Curb|Word Music Publishing, VP), Kelly Janson (Kelly Janson Management, Manager), Meredith Jones (Creative Artists Agency, Agent), Lenore Kinder (Paradigm Talent Agency, Agent), and Jennifer Turnbow (NSAI, Sr. Director of Operations).

Leading up to the event, MusicRow is spotlighting each honoree with a brief Q&A.

As Sr. Director of Operations at Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters trade organization, Jennifer Turnbow oversees day-to-day operations and finances for the 50-year-old organization and its 2008 acquired entity, The Bluebird Cafe. Turnbow serves as co-director of NSAI’s annual fundraiser, Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, which has become the largest songwriter-only festival in the U.S. over the past decade. At NSAI, she plays an integral role in advocacy for American songwriters, including on Capitol Hill for the passage of the Music Modernization Act. Since its victory, Turnbow has overseen the selection of songwriters for the board of the Mechanical Licensing Collective and Dispute Resolution and Unclaimed Funds Committees. Additionally, Turnbow staffed the Copyright Royalty Board trial for NSAI, which won songwriters the largest pay raise in digital mechanical royalty history. Her service extends to Nashville women’s organization SOURCE, where she is serving as Secretary of the Board of Directors. She is also a 2016 graduate of Leadership Music. Following her graduation from Vanderbilt University in 2005, she launched her career at NSAI as the organization’s Finance Director.

MusicRow: What is the biggest lesson on leadership you have learned in your career?
The only way to lead is by setting the example. I will never ask any of my staff members to do anything I wouldn’t gladly do alongside them and often I will, even when unnecessary, because I want them to know how much I value their work and their time.

MR: Who has been one of your biggest mentors, and what have they taught you?
Bart Herbison, NSAI’s Executive Director, is obviously my biggest mentor. Bart took a chance on me when I was 21, straight out of college and couldn’t tell you how to navigate to Music Row from my sorority house at Vanderbilt University. He has taught me so much, it’s hard to narrow it down from matters of broad scope like songwriter advocacy policy and politics and how to run a trade association, to more practical lessons like to trust my gut.

MR: Describe a time that you took a big risk in your career, and how did it pay off?
Funnily enough, probably the biggest risk in my career happened before I was even employed. When I was interviewed for the Finance Director position at NSAI, my very first real job, I was asked if I was familiar with Quickbooks, to which I answered “yes” even though I had never worked in Quickbooks in my life. It wasn’t exactly a lie…I was “familiar” that there was a product called Quickbooks, but had Bart known at the time that I had never worked in Quickbooks, I don’t think I would have been hired. I ended up being offered the job on a Friday, went to the bookstore and bought Quickbooks for Dummies that afternoon, and taught myself enough by Monday morning to not get caught in my “little white lie.”

Since I’ve been at NSAI, my biggest risk was probably advocating for producing NSAI’s 50th Anniversary show at the Ryman Auditorium in 2017, which was a huge financial risk and I had no experience producing a show of that size. We pulled it off and it led to now doing our annual awards show at the Ryman, which has really allowed us to honor songwriters in a grander way – and I’ve learned to produce a live show of that size! I’m realizing that apparently self-teaching is my preferred form of risk management!

MR: As Nashville continues to grow and evolve, what changes in the music industry excite you the most?
My work on the Music Modernization Act makes its implementation and the formation of the Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) the most exciting change for me right now. I was sitting in the room engaged in the conversation when the structure for the MLC was envisioned. Getting to witness it develop into a physical entity that will completely change the way we license digital mechanicals is pretty amazing.

MR: Favorite Nashville place to hold a business meeting/lunch?
Midtown Café and Tavern have never let me down and they are walking distance from my office.

(City National Bank, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, and Loeb & Loeb are again the Presenting Sponsors for the 2019 Rising Women on the Row.)

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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