I had the honor of attending ASCAP’s 8th Annual Women Behind the Music event on Wednesday, October 12th in Hollywood; a celebration of the contributions women make to music. This year celebrated Priscilla Renea (singer/songwriter), Dominique Dunn (Vice President of Publishing at Roc Nation), and Eufaula Garrett (Manager/Brand Strategist). WBM was a glamorous event held at an intimate bar in Hollywood’s Entertainment District and was hosted by Moya Nkruma (ASCAP Associate Director, Rhythm & Soul/Urban). Music was provided by DJ Niena Drake as guests mingled before and after the main event.
WBM started off with an amazing performance by Priscilla in which she sang selections from her catalog along with songs she has written for Rihanna, Chris Brown, Fifth Harmony, Pitbull, and more. We were all in awe of her talent and her stage presence was full of energy, confidence, and joy that made the audience feel welcome to join in and enjoy.
Moya then interviewed each honoree on stage asking questions about how they got to this point in their careers and the challenges they may face as women in the male dominated music industry.
Priscilla Renea, a Vero Beach, FL native, started her career recording herself singing on YouTube 10 years ago. Eventually, her videos gained major attention and led to her discovery. She then moved to LA when she was 20 to pursue her dreams. When asked how she got connected to the artists she has written for, Priscilla explains that she was just being herself; she was weird (unique) and people wanted to be around her. At first, she was told she was too lyrical but she stayed true to her art and began writing hit records for some of the world’s biggest artists. Fun Fact: Priscilla was actually looking for a bed to sleep in when she wrote “California King Bed” for Rihanna. The rode to success wasn’t always easy for Priscilla as she talks about being diagnosed with Lupus, dealing with bankruptcy, and challenges she faced being a woman in music including intimidating/demeaning comments and even being grabbed on the butt by producers. However, Priscilla knows her worth and realized that people didn’t like her, they liked her gift. She was able to overcome those obstacles by being knowledgable and trusting in her faith in God stating,
“I know how to play the guitar, the difference between vocal production vs. production, copywriting laws – they don’t expect you to know that… If I hadn’t had God and a deep spiritual relationship with God, I would not be here today”
Her advice to any up and coming songwriters or people looking to work in the music industry is to trust your gut feelings, desires, and God and take that leap of faith to make it happen. Never chase and never doubt yourself.
Dominique “Domo” Dunn started as an intern at Def Jam in the A&R department in her sophomore year in college 10 years ago then transitioned to managing and now publishing. She never had a desire to work in any other industry; music is her passion and seeing an artist’s creative talent never gets old for her. While working at Def Jam, Domo eventually caught the attention of TyTy Smith, A&R to various Grammy-nominated projects and co-founder of Roc Nation, and began working for Roc Nation. Her first studio session was with Ne-Yo; a few weeks later she heard the song that Ne-Yo was making in the studio that night on the radio (“Because of You”). Domo explains she has an “old school” approach to A&R; her main focus isn’t about numbers and metrics, but about the music and what feels good/right to her. A day in the life of Domo includes: listening to demos all day from artists on Roc Nation’s label and artists who are not (key point to all aspiring artists: she opens and looks at all of her emails) and sitting in on various studio sessions. When asked how she knows a song is a hit, Domo says its a gut feeling. Domo also states that when she’s looking for talent, she looks for something different/ something that Roc Nation doesn’t already have. Her advice to artists is to be persistent and patient; its all about timing.
Eufaula Garrett is the brand and talent manager for Andre 3000 of Outcast. As we all know, 3 stacks is non-existent on social media, which has become a major marketing tool for artists. Eufaula explains that the most important part of being a good manager is to know your client and to not try to force them to do something that isn’t right for them.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ for artists.”
She also states that we are in the times of the multi-hyphenated artist; every ground is up for grabs. Artists are much more diverse and are now able to collaborate with various brands outside of the music industry; she has an artist that is going to be a lead actress in Ava DeVuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time”. When asked about the challenges she has faced being a woman in the music industry, Eufaula describes growing up having three brothers and being used to be around men, but still experiencing misogyny in hip hop and how that affects how women inform their input. Eufaula talked about a meeting she attended for her client with a brand in 2014 in which she was told to “leave the room so that the men could talk.” Needless to say, that meeting never happened without her. Eufaula offers encouragement to women stating
“Women are the most resilient beings on the planet.”
ASCAP’s Women Behind the Music was so informative and empowering! Make sure to follow and support these three women in music and others you may know personally. Let me know your biggest takeaway from reading this article in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.