My Music Row Story: Spotify’s Brittany Schaffer
The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
As Head of Nashville Label Partnerships, Music Strategy, Brittany Schaffer co-leads Spotify’s Music Team in Nashville, with responsibility for setting the vision of the team and cultivating and nurturing industry partnerships across the greater Nashville market. Schaffer co-leads the development and execution of Spotify’s global strategy to grow the country, Christian/Gospel, and Americana genres, and has been a leader in an era-defining shift in country music consumption habits.
Her work includes the transformation and marketing of the flagship playlists Hot Country and Indigo, bringing country music to fans through Spotify’s annual four-day activation at CMA Fest, extending the St. Jude t-shirt campaign into streaming, and ongoing global artist marketing campaigns. Schaffer has also been instrumental in strategically acquiring and retaining an impressive team to meaningfully bolster Spotify’s presence in the Nashville market and has built a culture of teamwork and collaboration that fuels Spotify’s partnerships across Nashville.
Outside of Spotify, Schaffer is a highly engaged board member of CMA, CRB, and St. Jude Country Cares. Prior to joining Spotify in January 2018, Schaffer spent more than seven years practicing law in the Entertainment Department of Loeb & Loeb, LLP, where she was Senior Legal Counsel.
Schaffer will be honored as part of the current class of MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row on March 23. For more details about the class and the event, click here.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up?
I moved nine times before high school. I was born in Orange County, California, and lived in California, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. I call Nashville or the Middle Tennessee area home because I lived here when I was younger for several years and then this is where we moved when I was starting high school. I went to Battle Ground Academy in Franklin for high school and went to college at Vanderbilt, so, Nashville’s been home for a long time.
Were you musical growing up?
I always knew I wanted to work in the music business. I was singing and performing in musicals at six years old. I was even one of the little kids in the General Jackson Christmas show for a couple years. For a long time, I thought I wanted to be an artist, but when I was at Vanderbilt, I had the privilege of interning in the promotions department at Sony Nashville on the Arista imprint, and then at ASCAP. Both of those experiences for me confirmed that I definitely wanted to work in the music business, but that an artist path wasn’t for me.
How did you start your career in the business?
During that same time, I had also been considering going to law school. I met a few music lawyers and decided that being a music lawyer would be my entry point into music. I attended Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law for law school. After my ASCAP internship, Connie Bradley was very kind and had given me a list of lawyers that she really respected in town. I sent very formal, written cover letters and emails to all of them. I think I sent 10 out and only one person responded, but I only needed one. (Laughs) It was Bob Sullivan who was running the Loeb & Loeb Nashville office at the time. He told me to come visit him over Christmas. I had no grades back—I really only had a good track record at Vanderbilt and a recommendation from Connie. He said, “Why don’t you come work for us this summer?” So I did, and that turned into two summers.
I had done really well in law school and that made it easier for him to convince some of the other partners, so I received an offer my last year of law school to join them when I graduated. During my last year of law school, I was already attending conferences with the lawyers at the firm and I thought I was coming into a dream job with a perfect cushion to learn. And then about a month before I started work and a few weeks before I took the bar exam, Bob Sullivan was diagnosed with leukemia and ultimately passed away a year later. So I came into the firm at a really challenging time.
To say that I had bath by fire my first year of work is an understatement. There was so much work that others had to take on to fill his shoes that I had no choice but to step up, to ask questions, to learn quickly, to work insanely long hours, and to learn how to manage a lot of different types of people from a lot of different parts of the music business. I was negotiating contracts and sitting in federal copyright jury trials almost immediately. It was really hard for a lot of reasons, but when I look back on it, I’m really grateful. I learned that I was capable of so much more than I thought that I was and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward. It has stuck with me to this day that even when you get in those somewhat overwhelming situations, you’re always capable of more than you think you are.
After seven years as an entertainment attorney, you made a change in careers. Tell me about that.
I really enjoyed the work that I was doing. I loved my clients, I loved the people that I worked with and I definitely had a growing career in the legal field, but I kept feeling this pull that I wanted to be closer to the music business and to really explore the other parts of the industry. I always give the example that my colleagues and I represented the contestants on The Voice and negotiated numerous contracts for them, but no matter how talented we thought someone was, there was only so much we could do to expose that music and those artists as their lawyer. I felt like if I was going to truly help people navigate their way through the music business, that I was going to have to spread my own wings a little bit.
Out of the blue one day, I got an email from an internal recruiter at Spotify asking if I would talk to them. At the time I had no intent on taking the job, but I was going to be in LA the next week and I thought it would probably be smart to know the global head of label services at Spotify. I offered to stop by the office and Spotify ultimately did a really good job of convincing me that Nashville was really important to them and that they wanted to increase their support in this market. Three weeks later I accepted a job. (Laughs) One month later I left the practice of law entirely and started in my current role and I’ve never looked back.
Can you tell me more about what you do at Spotify as the Head of Artist and Label Marketing in the Nashville office?
No day is the same, but I would sum it up by saying that my team and I are responsible for overseeing our partnerships in Nashville. So that’s working with artists, labels and managers; looking out for our relationships with CMA, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the ACM, and all of our different organizations; and looking for how we can continue to partner together. That takes the shape of tracking new releases, so we keep track of all of the new music coming out of Nashville week over week for all genres. Anything that is signed to a label in Nashville or that is originating in Nashville, particularly when it’s independent and unsigned, is what we look over regardless of genre. We try to find different ways of supporting those artists and those releases. That may be everything from how we support on platform through promotional tools, that may be using a billboard, or that may be creating social content or video content. It really just depends on the artist and how we want to engage.
We’re also looking for how we can otherwise engage the fans around the music that’s coming out of Nashville. One of the things that we are responsible for is putting on the Spotify House event at CMA Fest.
Looking at the rest of 2023, what excites you about what Spotify has planned?
2023 feels like an exciting next phase for Spotify in Nashville, with a growing team and more great music from all genres coming out of Nashville than ever before. This year will focus on how we can bring together the music community within Nashville and continue to lean into key cultural moments—particularly around Nashville’s core genres. We will help more independent and diverse artists break through the noise, tap more into our global footprint, and spend more time with the songwriting and publishing community. There is a lot of energy amongst the team this year, and I think you’ll see that filter into everything we do throughout the year.
We will be honoring you at next month’s Rising Women On the Row event. When you look back on your career, what are you most proud of?
Personally, I am most proud of my willingness to jump from a successful legal career that had a very defined career path to a career at Spotify where the path is a little more unknown. Professionally I’m really proud of helping lead the conversation around the importance of streaming and the place that it has in our current consumption habits. When I started at Spotify, audiences were still adopting streaming as a format, particularly in country and Christian music. Today our country and our Christian/gospel consumers have largely adopted streaming and our industry has really embraced strategies and tactics to engage fans through streaming. That’s not to say that radio, sales, touring, merch, and other areas of the industry aren’t incredibly important, but it is to say that streaming is no longer a format of the future. Consumption patterns are changing and we have to change with our audience if we want to continue to reach audiences in a bigger way. I’m really proud that Spotify’s been able to be a leader in those efforts and that I’ve been able to be a leader in Nashville in having those conversations.
Who have been some of your mentors?
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of mentors and I could probably name three that touch on key areas [of my career]. Early in my career, Connie Bradley was certainly one of those. She helped me get internships in Nashville, she helped introduce me to music lawyers when I was trying to decide if I wanted to go to law school, and she helped connect me with people when I was trying to get my first job. I always really looked up to her and the respect that she had within the Nashville community.
Today, John T. Frankenheimer, my old boss from Loeb & Loeb, is still someone that I call for advice. I really look up to and admire how he’s built his career. And then as I’ve become a mom over the last two years, Cindy Mabe is someone I go to for advice. I really admire how she has become such a successful executive while also raising her kids and having a successful marriage. At this phase in my life, it is really important to have other women that I can look to as examples. I hope I can do that for other people, too.
What moment have you had that your little kid self would think is so cool?
I love Dolly Parton. We have had the good fortune at Spotify of working with her on a few occasions. I recall one time sitting with her in a studio with some other individuals, listening to music while she was talking us through it. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, I’m really doing this.” (Laughs) I always say I had never been starstruck until I interned at Sony and she came into the office one day. Everyone made fun of me because my mouth dropped wide open as she walked by. To fast forward all these years later, and to actually be there, getting to engage with her to support her and her music in a number of ways… As a little girl, I would’ve never believed that I would be there. There’s a lot of those moments. I think when you stop having those moments in the music business is maybe when you should get out of the music business. Those are the moments that remind us all why we do this and why we’re so fortunate to be in an industry that brings so much joy to people.