As the CEO/Founder of the New York-based boutique talent firm, Agency for Artists, Heather Lowery has carved out a respectable reputation for herself in the entertainment business. After switching career goals from that of an entertainment lawyer to an artist manager, this Spelman graduate knew that in order to reach the career success she desired she had to start from the bottom and work her way up.
BlackEnterprise.com spoke to Lowery, whose company is going on 10 years old, about her transition from being an employee to the CEO of her own business and some of the challenges she has faced while working in entertainment. Check the interview below and see what tips Lowery also offers for young professionals who hope to follow in her career footsteps.
BlackEnterprise.com: How did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
Lowery: Since I was in high school I always knew I wanted to be in the field of entertainment. When I got to college I made sure I had internships in the field, but I thought I wanted to be an entertainment attorney. I interned for LaFace Records, Fox Television station and different entertainment attorneys. At the end of college I decided that law wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I moved back home and got a job at [producer Larry Gold’s] recording studio in Philadelphia. That was my first real job into the industry. It was during the time of the neo soul movement and the studio was home to artists like Jill Scott, The Roots, and Musiq Soulchild.
What prompted you to start your own talent booking agency and how long had you been in the industry prior to starting your company?
I was in the industry for three years before I started Agency for Artists. After working at the studio, I wanted to work at William Morris Agency. When I left William Morris, I started working in artist management. I was trying to figure out what was next for me so I took a job in artist management and then started my own agency.
I never set out to be an entrepreneur, it just kind of happened. What I did for the management company was handle the booking for the particular artist I was working with and that’s when I got the idea that I have all this experience so why not use it to start my own company. So that’s exactly what I did.
What tips do you have for someone who is thinking about becoming a talent agent?
I would say gain as much experience in the industry as a whole. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to not be afraid or feel like you’re too big to take a step down to get to where you want to be. When I graduated from Spelman I started at the recording studio as a receptionist. That was a job that was below me, but I thought I had to do what I needed to do to work my way and gain experience. The same thing with the William Morris Agency, I started there as an assistant and by the time I left the recording studio I was a general manager where I managed producers for a while. But then I had to take a step back down to gain experience in the career field that I wanted to be in so I accepted a position as an assistant. So I would say just don’t be afraid. If you feel like you’re at a certain level and you want to change your career goals in your field, don’t be afraid to start from the bottom and gain the experience that you need to get where you want to be.
What artists have you worked with at Agency for Artists?
I’ve worked with Nicki Minaj, Trey Songz, Chris Brown, August Alsina, and Charlie Wilson. My biggest deal to date has been with Prince. I booked him for a trio of shows last winter. That has been my all-time biggest deal that I didn’t even know I could do, but I did. So I pretty much can work with anyone in music. There is no one that I can’t reach. When I get a deal on my table, I go for it and get it done.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you have faced since running your own company?
I think one of the biggest challenges is me being female and having a boutique agency. I often run into a lot of my male counterparts at the bigger agencies thinking they can bully me or disrespect me. Along the way, I’ve been able to earn the respect that I deserve. At first it was hard to get because I had to prove myself, but now I’m in a position where I’ve earned the respect that I get in this industry.
What are some of your tips for getting your firm out there to be a respected agency that talent can trust?
I do honest business. First and foremost, people know that my resume speaks for itself and people know they can trust me. I think that’s the first step because a lot of managers and artists don’t like working with people they don’t know. I go to a lot of my events and show my presence to make sure that everything is running as smooth as possible. I get a deal done and I get it done quickly, which I think sets me apart from other agencies. I also have a passion for the music. I’m a music lover and a fan of music so it’s not just business for me. I’m into the music and listen to the artists that I’m working with.
After having more than 10 years of experience in the industry, what do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about working in entertainment?
I think people think that it’s all glam and I feel like artists are just people and they’re human. Nothing impresses me but talent. I also think that people think it’s easy. People think that you become an overnight success and they don’t see the work that you put into growing a company.
Where do you see Agency for Artists in five years from now?
I see myself definitely expanding and growing into a full service agency that not only provides booking, but management, branding, PR, and events.
To learn more about Heather and her talent agency, be sure to follow her on social media @heatherlowery and @agency4artists.