‘Being nimble and flexible is the only way to make money in today’s music industry.’

MBW’s Inspiring Women series profiles female executives who have risen through the ranks of the business, highlighting their career journey – from their professional breakthrough to the senior responsibilities they now fulfil.

It was while growing up in Minneapolis that INgrooves EVP Amy Dietz got a taste for the entrepreneurial and diverse nature of the independent music business.

In her home city, Dietz was exposed to a rich history of independent labels and artists like Twin/Tone Records, Amphetamine Reptile and Red House, plus Prince, Bob Dylan, Soul Asylum, The Replacements and Hüsker Dü.

Her music taste, meanwhile, was formed by all-ages shows at rock venue First Avenue, while Dietz became a fan of metal through AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne and Queen (who she saw play live at the tender age of 12 for the first time).

Inspired by a thriving DIY music scene, she got a crash course in the production cycle of an album while working at a local record store having left school aged 18.

Dietz then joined Jake Wisely – now a top exec over at Concord (pictured inset) – to help launch his label Red Decibel, where she worked across all aspects of the business.

“There was this scene that was happening and a support system for that,” she remembers. “A very close of mine did a fanzine, and you had people that were actually being the labels, making records and putting them out.

“I also had friends that were in bands and friends that were getting signed, some to independent labels, some to major labels. There were people talking about getting new managers or getting signed, going into pre-production, going to studios.

“I found myself [working] around the pieces and that became part of me understanding that there was more to [the music]. I always felt this desire to take care of other people’s art; there was a lot of people making music, how could I help them get that out in the world?”

Red Decibel was partly distributed by Twin/Tone which went through Warner‘s ADA, and that’s where Dietz spent the next 15 years – rising to Vice President of Label and Artist Development – during which time she relocated east to New York.  

After INgrooves bolstered its operations with the acquisition of Fontana Distribution from Universal in 2012, shortly after hitting No.1 with the debut album from Mac Miller (the first independent debut to top the US chart in 16 years), Dietz became interested in what the growing company had to offer.

Inspired by its approach to marrying technology and creative, she left ADA and again moved across the US to take on a General Manager role at INgrooves in San Francisco, where she oversaw the merger and helped move the newly combined company forward.

That was over six years ago, during which time INgrooves has grown its marketshare to 2% in the US whilst turning over $100m+ a year, and becoming a leading player in utilising data to grow revenue and inform decisions. 

Dietz added Executive Vice President to her GM title in 2015 and is now based in Los Angeles.

Here we chat about her career to date, lessons learned and thoughts on the independent sector at large…

How did your diverse beginnings set you up for what was to come in your career?

I think the combination of the work at the record store and the work within the record label taught me to be open to the opportunities as they come up.

I learned a lot about wanting to have my hands in everything and understand how everything works, and not be myopic or siloed.

Something that has been important to me throughout my career, is that I don’t end up in a place where I am not allowed to collaborate.

“Everyone is doing multiple jobs in the independent space and I thrived in that situation.”

Necessity is the mother of invention, is that the saying? I think that’s what happens in the independent space: the necessity being you don’t always have the resources so you’re often working on a shoestring.

Everyone is doing multiple jobs and I thrived in that situation. I learned early on that I was interested in understanding how everything worked.

At ADA, working in or overseeing multiple areas gave me a sense of how it is to do many of the jobs, so you have perspective and context when you move into a different role. That gave me some ability to start to see around corners.

Can you tell us about any mistakes that you made early on in your career and the lessons that you learned from those?

I don’t believe in looking at anything as inherently good or bad. There are experiences that have helped me navigate how I want to be in the world and what I want to be doing.

An example of that is when I was an assistant buyer at the record store, and there was a buyer position that had opened up. I really thought about going for that position but was very politely discouraged, and told how my role was going to change when we got a new buyer as opposed to, ‘Yes you should really apply for this position.’

There was a moment later that I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know why I didn’t just raise my hand and demand that they let me apply for this position.’ I realized afterwards that if I’d have gotten that position, it wouldn’t have put me in all of the other places to do all of the other things.

“the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be very open to all the possibilities and don’t spend a lot of time regretting or thinking of things as mistakes.”

The moment that I decided to move from Minneapolis to New York was a watershed moment. I originally said no to that because I’d always envisioned myself on the West Coast.

I didn’t know anyone in New York, with the exception of the ADA people, and it was a completely different office dynamic. There was a lot of running head first into brick walls with culture shock and the move, but I learned so much about myself and gained a tremendous amount of confidence. 

Saying yes to things and being open to the possibilities started with saying yes to New York and I have continued to do that.

So the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be very open to all the possibilities and don’t spend a lot of time regretting or thinking of things as mistakes, but thinking about them more as an opportunity for something else.

Also, don’t be afraid to stretch. I’ve learned that I need to lean into whatever is scaring me or making me feel the most uncomfortable, whether that’s doing a panel or running the numbers for a deal.

Talking of public speaking… do you have any tips?

I always get nervous. What I do for myself is take a deep breath. There’s a reason why you were asked to be on that panel, so own that you have something to say. Self-doubt, your own inner critic, is the worst enemy.

Speak slower and more clearly and listen to people — you don’t always have to compete for the discussion. Also, spend some time practicing. Practice in the mirror, or ask a friend to go through some of it with you.

What are your strategies for getting over negative self-talk and self doubt over the course of your career?

First and foremost is being aware of it, because I think one of the things that I believe people don’t realize is how often we are saying awful things to ourselves.

We can talk to ourselves in a way that is horrible, and in a way that we would never, ever talk to anyone else. As you’re having thoughts, don’t just take them in, be aware that they’re happening and try to find ways to change them.

I don’t allow the spiral to go down the road. It’s like, Okay, that’s happening. Why is that happening? Did somebody else make me feel this way, because that’s not mine, that’s theirs.

“The only thing that you can control is how you react and how you move through the world.”

You cannot control how other people act or what they do in the world. The only thing that you can control is how you react and how you move through it.

Challenging bosses make you understand you’re not always going to have amazing rapport with somebody.

When I was very young I had a job where I was coming home crying and my boyfriend at the time said, ‘You should quit’ but I was like, I don’t want to quit, this is a good job and I’m interested in it.

There was a moment that I just switched… Okay, this isn’t about this boss. This is about me and how I’m going to react to that boss. How am I going to manage my reactions to somebody that I can’t manage?

What advice would you give to a 20 year old version of yourself today?

Find my voice, trust my instincts and have less self doubt. When you really believe something, don’t be afraid to speak up.

You don’t want to be the person that asks the ‘stupid question’ or puts yourself out there too much, but that is really self-limiting behaviour.

“You don’t want to be the person that asks the ‘stupid question’ or puts yourself out there too much, but that is really self-limiting behaviour.”

If you really believe it to be true, it’s probably true in some sense. And if it’s not fully true, you will learn something from it.

You’re in a leadership role at INGrooves — how would you define good leadership?

The first thing that I think is super important is listening. To understand and hear what is going on is a really underrated skill and a way to lead people overall.

Then, being your authentic self, showing up, putting the work in and showing that you’re as invested as everyone else.

Being honest, providing guidance for people but also allowing them to do their job, and giving them an opportunity to shine, succeed and fail on their own.

I think it’s important to create an environment where people are unafraid to speak up, provide solutions and ask questions.

I have a very strong belief that you can lead from any chair. Everyone’s a leader and I certainly don’t know everything.

If you’re within an organization and you don’t understand why the company is doing a certain thing or going in a certain direction, I’d encourage people to ask questions.

what changes have you witnessed in the independent sector across your career, and what do you think of the state of it globally today?

I’ve witnessed an overall rise in independents for sure. An independent was often seen as your first step and the lower step — you couldn’t get signed to a major and so you went to an independent.

Then, through a lack of access to infrastructure, radio and print media, you saw the rise of amazing labels creating their own communities in a grassroots way. Now there’s more of a level playing field.

You still have access issues in that there’s only so many playlists that you can get on, but you’re not having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get your music out into the world and potentially find your audience.

Independents now have access and choice, and can import and export music in a much easier fashion than ever before.

what are the biggest issues faced by the music business in 2018?

What you did three months ago might not be what you’re doing three months from now. That’s a challenge and an opportunity for everyone so you have to be very nimble and make sure that you’re paying attention to what’s going on.

It’s really difficult to build an audience because when you start talking to a developing artist, their revenue streams are stretched, you have to be careful how you’re spending your marketing money, and playlisting isn’t a marketing strategy.

How do we help put all of the pieces together to drive people into listening to music and engaging with artists? 

“What you did three months ago might not be what you’re doing three months from now. That’s a challenge and an opportunity for everyone.”

Something that we’re really focused on is providing tools for our labels that make it easier to digest data, and use it to make sure that where they’re spending their marketing dollars is getting the best return on investment, and helping build the artist’s career.

We can use some data to do that, but there’s so much data that just spewing it at everyone isn’t enough.

That’s an opportunity and a challenge at the same time, but the goal is still about the music and how you build an audience for the artist.

Part of your job at INGrooves is identifying new revenue streams. Where are the most exciting emerging revenue streams and how can those be capitalized?

There’s emerging revenue in the globalization of music and opportunities to find new audiences in new places. We have an office in southeast Asia and that’s very much an emerging market.

There’s not a tonne of revenue there yet but you can see a level of fan engagement and that there’s audiences to be built in many of these places.

We will continue to see things change as more players get into the music space.

We don’t fully know what opportunities there are yet so being nimble and not being too set in ‘this is the only way to do things’ is the only way to make money.

There were some people that were very hesitant to go into streaming, now many of them have figured out how that becomes a revenue stream. There might be opportunities for that to happen again.

How about your future ambitions and visions for the music business at large?

From where I sit right now, I want to be able to help solve these challenges that we have within the industry.

Whatever I’m doing, I want to be part of the solution, and part of thinking about where we’re going from here, and making sure that artists and songwriters get to come along for the ride and are actually paid for what they are doing.

MBW’s ongoing Inspiring Women series is supported by INgrooves, which powers creativity by providing distribution, marketing and rights management tools and services to content creators and owners. INgrooves is a leader in the independent music distribution and marketing industry, provides independent labels, established artists and other content owners with the most transparent and scalable distribution tools including analytics, rights management services, and thoughtful marketing solutions to maximize sales in today’s dynamic global marketplace.

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