10 Questions with ... Jennie Smythe
January 9, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Jennie Smythe began her career in the mid 1990's working for Elektra Entertainment, Spivak-Sobol Entertainment, Disney's Hollywood Records and more. In the early 2000's, YAHOO! Music brought Jennie on board as Director of Marketing and Promotion. She eventually became the Music Director and the Content Producer overseeing the programming of over 150 formatted internet stations on the #1 global music website.
In 2005, Jennie accepted an offer in Nashville with Warner Brother's new media team and just after getting settled in Tennessee, came aboard as Clear Channel's Senior Director of Content and Marketing overseeing the digital initiatives for over 120 stations.
In January of 2008, Jennie started her own company, Girlilla Marketing, a boutique digital strategy firm that was quickly acquired in 2009 by Beverly Hills based ROAR, LLC. Girlilla Marketing's current clients include Zac Brown Band, Sugarland, Randy Houser, Colt Ford and more. Girlilla Marketing also has local businesses, restaurant clients, does event planning and online media buying.
Jennie is personally active in organizations such as NARAS, Country Radio Broadcasters, Leadership Music, loves reading, writing and most important, has a huge soft spot for four legged friends who need homes.
1) You describe your company Girlilla Marketing as a boutique digital strategy firm-what does that mean and can you give us a snapshot of the business model?
Girlilla Marketing is a new media department for hire. We launch projects; maintain and market our clients' websites and social networks; partner with blogs and editorial partners; aid in content development and most importantly grow and nurture our clients' email and mobile databases.
I'd love to give you a snapshot of the business model but it keeps changing! It is par for the course in my world, but as soon as the needs of our clients shift or a new opportunity arises, we adapt.
2) Tell us, what about publicity draws you to it and what do you think makes you such a good fit for this line of work?
If you had asked me a few years ago if I considered what I did publicity, I would have said no. However, as the online industry expands, so do our roles as digital marketers. Having a good publicist to partner with makes all the difference in the world. There's room for both new media and publicity in the current landscape.
3) You moved to Nashville in 2005 after some good jobs at places like Yahoo Music as Director of Marketing and Promotion. Why did you decide to make a move to Music City?
I was responsible for the Country music programming at Yahoo! (amongst other formats) and really enjoyed working with Bill Bennett and Lynette Garbonola at Warner Nashville. Lynette was far ahead of her time and is still one of the best online marketers out there. We partnered so well that when an opportunity arose to move to Nashville and work with 'non-traditional' acts like Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy, I jumped at the chance. Every digital person wants to do something first and be a part of something unique. That job, with that team, under that leadership, gave me that opportunity.
4) In a very short time you have established yourself as one of the 'go to' people in the Country music industry in new media. It's not an easy town to break in that quickly either! Do you have any tips for people who have not been so successful?
It's just about doing good work and trying not to get stuck doing something one way because it's the way you have always done it. My biggest pet peeve is when someone pretends to have all the answers. It's just not possible. Instead, I am always prepared to say, 'I don't know. But, I will find out.' Again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but in digital media, it's impossible to perfectly shoot a moving target.
What I do have is a lot of experience in music and digital marketing, which has yielded amazing friends and resources, the best staff ever and a parent company, ROAR, who allows me to take risks.
5) In your honest opinion, when you first got here, how did Nashville stack up as far as taking advantage of the newest technology?
The perception of Nashville being behind is perpetuated only by Nashville. As I alluded above, when I was at Yahoo!, I really enjoyed working with the music community. I was in a bubble of creativity, had way less legalities to contend with, and most importantly worked with artists who were willing to try new things. Times have changed drastically, but finding solutions and being creative is still the best part of my job, so I am lucky. Business is good.
I hear people from Nashville put themselves down all the time. I believe that is due to them not being up to speed on the talent pool that we have here. If you are old school and not willing to grow, you complain a lot and long for the old days. The people complaining seem to be folks that don't understand the opportunities the digital medium allows. I can't for the life of me figure out why they wouldn't give it a go. Instead of getting in the game and learning, they opt to complain from the sidelines.
6) How do you think artists will be delivering music to fans five years from now? Will there be any gatekeepers left?
The tracks will be free, the live show will rule and the fans will be the gatekeepers.
7) It seems so vast and there are so many choices out there. How does a new artist get noticed?
GREAT music. The ability to play that GREAT music live. Artists must realize that it's an honor to have to direct contact with fans and the desire to want to engage them. The fans want the total package and I think our industry will be better because of it. It's not easy, it's not quick and it's very hard work.
8) You work with Colt Ford, who has sold a ton of records, in most cases, without much support from radio. What was so unique with that launch?
No one works harder on Colt Ford than Colt Ford. The music, even without radio is right for Colt and his audience. I am hopeful that radio will come aboard when the time is right for them. However, we aren't dependant on radio. The album sales, ticket sales and merch sales speak for themselves. Every single live show, every single interview, every single fan interaction is always at 100%. That is a gift as a marketer and working for Colt is an honor. The Average Joe's Entertainment philosophy allows me to take advantage of technology, opportunity and trudge forward without layers and layers of opinions, meetings and roadblocks.
9) Who would you list among your mentors and what is the best advice you have been given?
I have so many mentors that I hesitate naming them for fear of room. I started working in this industry when I was very young and many people have graciously taken me under their wing professionally and personally. I have always been tenacious, I have always been ambitious, but I have always and continue to rely on many people who I am extremely grateful for.
Jay Frank, who really gave me my first big shot, told me once that I needed to be less reactive and more accepting. I am still working on that!
10) Was your experience with Leadership Music fantastic? I think I remember you telling me that it was a life changing experience.
Leadership was a great experience. I had the opportunity to really delve in to people's perspectives and respectfully walk away with an understanding. I think it made me better at my job. Plus, we had to turn off our phones and email, which is a smart thing to do every once in a while.
1) You're an admitted dog lover. How many do you have and what are their names?
2 mutts: Lola and Claud Von Dog
2) Can you remember the first concert that you ever attended?
Beach Boys, with my parents at Red Rocks.
3) Your bio saves you love to read. What are you currently reading?
Keith Richards' autobiography. AWESOME!