Epic Records VP Shares How Women Can Break Out and Make it to the Top

Traci Adams' keys to success: Power guidance and confidence

Traci Adams, Epic Records' vice president of urban promotion (Image: Adams)

Stemming from her college days in Savannah, Georgia as a mass communications major and theater minor, Traci Adams, Epic Records’ vice president of urban promotion, has done her fair share of climbing to get to the top of music’s corporate ladder.

With a chance opportunity to step into entertainment, radio to be exact, Adams found herself pushing through her days as an assistant at a new radio station in St. Louis in 2000, to working as Q 95.5′s uncanny and cutthroat music director. Admitting that her career in radio “just happened,” it’s now 13 years later and Traci stands as the youngest urban VP in the music industry.

From Mariah Carey to Future, the Southern belle has worked every artist across the board. And as Adams has met every career goal she’s set for herself throughout the years, her next step is to become senior vice president within the two years. They say there’s nothing like a woman with a plan, but when it comes to this go-getter there’s no telling what could happen because it seems as if the sky isn’t even her limit.

Radio for me…

Traci Adams: Honestly, it just happened. I started in radio promotion as an intern at LaFace Records [in Atlanta] while attending Savannah State University. After I graduated from college, I needed a job. I was ready to relocate from Savannah. The Program Director, Mic Fox, [at] W-FUN, Q 95.5 in St. Louis needed an assistant. I was like, Hi, I need a job. [So] I got my first job at a Radio One station. I was an assistant for a year, and after that year I became Music Director. So it literally just happened. I was supposed to be an actress—it didn’t work out that way. Thirteen years later I’m still in radio promotion.

The biggest hurdle I’ve ever had to jump through to get to the top is…

[Working] in a position of power as a music director saying, ‘Yes, I’ll play your record, yes I’ll play your record, no your record is whack’ to [now] sitting on the opposite side [with a] record label [where] I’m in the position like ‘I need you to play my record, I need you to play my record.’ I would say that was the most challenging, going from radio to records. The second would be working in a heavily male-dominated industry. It’s difficult. If my counterpart who’s a male, who’s my age is putting 100% in, I need to put in 250% just because I’m a female and I’m a minority.

I let people know I’m a woman in power…

[By] playing that fine line. It’s a fine line of being cocky versus confident—being too nice, which means you’re too soft or being too stern, which means you’re a b*tch—whereas if you’re a guy and you’re direct and you’re hardcore and you’re my in face, it’s like, ‘Okay, he’s the guy that gets the job done.’ When you’re a chick and you’re extra and you’re assertive and aggressive and confident then you’re a b*tch. [It's knowing how to] play that fine line.

You find that fine line by…

Know[ing] your power. You have to be an expert at what you do. Like, I know I’m good at what I do, and it shows in my work. It’s about the results. It’s just about knowing your craft. And then, it’s like,’ Oh, okay, she’s more than just a female or she’s more than just that chick.’

If people ever refer to me as something outside of my name…

I just let my work speak for myself. I know I’m good at what I do, so I don’t worry about what other people may say and/or think. If you’re not the person that I’m working for or you’re not my mentor or you’re not a person that I respect then I’m good ’cause no one else matters.

The people that have influenced me in this industry are…

Mic Fox, and my mentor is Benny Pough. Mic Fox introduced me to the music industry, but once I got in [here] it was Benny Pough who taught me 75% of what I know about the music industry. [I talk to] Benny everyday—Saturday and Sunday included. This is my first position as a VP, so [our conversation] is about leading me in the right direction and the knowledge. It can be something small in his opinion, but major to me. It can be anything regarding a budget, managing the staff, dealing with an artist and he’s asking about this…how should I respond?

The best advice Benny Pough ever gave me was…

Stay true to yourself; stay true to who you are. You have to be in this industry for the passion for the music, and not for everything else—the glitz, the glam, the popularity. You have to do it because this is what you love, this is what you enjoy, this is what you have a passion for. This industry is based on relationships, so you have to have strong, keen relationships in this industry. Whether it’s calling somebody at 2PM in the afternoon [for] something that needs to happen at 8PM at night. Like we don’t have 9 – 5s, the music industry is 24/7. So you just have to have those relationships where you can get the programmers, the music directors, the mixers, the artists on the drop of a dime. So the relationships is the good advice Benny gave me.

My position with Epic Records manifested…

When LA Reid went to Epic. He brought over Benny Pough, which is my mentor, and [I] stuck with my mentor. That’s how that blossomed. When LA resigned from Def Jam, Benny Pough resigned pretty much the same week not knowing what LA’s plan was going to be. So once LA came to Epic and Benny came to Epic…they were interested so I came to Epic.

I would encourage women of color to get into this business by…

[Telling them] at the end of the day it’s definitely about hands-on experience. Whether you’re in high school [or] college, it’s just about hands-on experience. If a person wants to get in the industry and they live in Atlanta versus Miami and/or New York it’s just about getting that knowledge. Whatever that interest may be—promotion, record label, digital, marketing, A&R, artist management—it’s about finding who that person is in the market that you live in, reaching out to that person and doing your own homework and/or research because that opportunity isn’t gonna come looking for you, you have to go looking for that opportunity. You have to be aggressive because everybody wants to have that opportunity. Everybody wants to be famous. You have to go out and fight for it, and you have to want it for the right reasons. It can’t be because of the paper, it has to be because of the passion.

I’ve worked with so many artists over the years…

I don’t know if there is [one] favorite. That’s like asking an artist to pick a favorite song off of an album. Obviously there are few and far between that I have to catch myself and be like, Oh my God! I’m working with this person…like Mariah Carey. Will there be another Mariah Carey? There’s just few and far between artists like the Mariah Careys, the Lionel Richies, the Jay Zs of the world. So I can’t say there is a favorite. I’ve enjoyed working with all of them. Whether it was Ne-Yo to Ludacris to Young Jeezy to Rick Ross to the current artists which are the Yo Gotti’s, the Tamar Braxton’s, the Future’s and the Ciara’s of the world. So yea, I don’t have a favorite.

Looking back at my career…

I definitely have no regrets. Without hesitation, none.

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