Stephanie LaFera, WME’s Head of Music, on Racial Injustice and Planning Concerts During a Pandemic [Q&A]
LaFera oversees a group of agents whose roster contains Calvin Harris, Kygo, Steve Aoki, TOKiMONSTA, Martin Garrix, Marshmello, and a lot more.
2020 will certainly go down in the annals of music history as not only one of the toughest, but among the most seminal. The music community–and also the entertainment industry at large–have had to completely rethink their plans so as to stay afloat. AEG, Live Nation, and many of other music industry giants have fought to stay in business.
But deep inside the roots of music, innovators like Stephanie LaFera, WME’s Head of Music, have employed all these unprecedented times to encircle the music market.
LaFera oversees a group of agents whose roster includes major dance music acts such as Calvin Harris, Kygo, Steve Aoki, TOKiMONSTA, Martin Garrix, Marshmello, Eric Prydz, Grimes, and a lot more. In the midst of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, LaFera has success in creating opportunities for her artists, such as stewarding Kygo’s powerful Golden Hour Festival and securing brand partnership deals with Fortnite and Sour Patch Kids for Aoki.
LaFera also continues to drive for equality across the industry. She works closely with all the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) to assist galvanize the global dance music community also also dismantle institutionalized racism. She functioned as co-chair of the dancing music committee for She Is the Music, in addition to played an essential role in assembling the Dance Music Diversity Initiative.
EDM.com cried with LaFera concerning her direction over the present condition of the music and how she has set up her team for productivity and efficiency during times of a strife.
EDM.com: Thanks for your time now and congrats on all your success. It’so inspirational to see everything which you’ve ever attained. Tell us a little more about your character as the Head of Electronic Music in WME. What’s a day in your life like?
LaFera: Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say. I was fortunate to wander into an unbelievable group of artists and agents which were already here. WME Electronic continues to be instrumental in the development of this music and has a proven history of producing lasting global businesses for our artists. I’m eager to bring a fresh outlook to the group and forge a path for our continued growth.
Currently my days have been full of constant communication with the staff concerning what new opportunities we all could bring to our clients, and of course reserving meetings, A&R meetings, keeping up with managers, promoters and artists. This business is armed with many unique ways to attract an artist’s vision to life, that it’s just like being a kid in a candy store for me. So I’ve ever invested a fantastic amount of time getting to know the different departments here and learning about all they have to offer.
EDM.com: 2020 has contributed every staff and music specialist a run for their money in terms of strategy and innovation. How did you evolve your plans in your group to match the worldwide pandemic?
LaFera: Within just a few days we found our entire international touring industry come to a standstill. With this much disturbance happening everywhere, we put our focus and energy into finding ways to assist our clients continue to bring attention to the viewers.
From pod shows, drive-ins, sponsored livestreams, ticketed livestreams, virtual meet & greets, personal zoom performances, VR displays in matches, there are many ways that people are creatively hoping to bring the music to fans. These are areas the agency was very active in but today with everybody at home there was more necessity than ever to make a new experience.
EDM.com: How does an artist and their staff strategy a new bargain or partnership? What if they look out for?
LaFera: The partnership being real is obviously the most important thing, however should you’re a DJ selling cologne–or whatever it might be–you will need to clearly explain the “what” and “why” of that partnership. How does that brand speak straight to your fire? The Branding Department in WME is second to none and their expertise makes sure that the artists under our banner ’t even have to go through this procedure alone.
EDM.com: The worldwide protests sparked by George Floyd’s passing have cemented systemic racism in our nation. What changes are you seeing and implementing to alter these behaviors in the digital music market?
LaFera: I took the time to really reflect on my own relationships and employing practices to ask myself“How do I become a better ally? ” I’ve been actively involved with equal gender representation from the music community, but today I spend a great deal of time considering how we could have artists, executives, tour managers, publicists, et cetera, who really reflect the audience we’re doing shows facing that are streaming this music. While I expect that those that are in a place to lift up people do this with an openness to all cultures and communities, I know it ’t happen on its own. So I speak up.
If I visit a lineup that looks off-balance or walk into a room full of people that all look the same, I listen to it. I know that lots of folks aren’t in a position where they feel they can speak up about such matters, but we must continue to be on the offense when dealing with systemic racism and gender bias. There are some encouraging signs that changes have been implemented. I enjoy watching the way the DSPs have accepted this moment to emphasize artists which may not have been provided a playlist cover before. There seems to be a real urge to course right and to make the essential changes instead of simply talking about it.
EDM.com: What kinds of items can music professionals would be to hasten this procedure and further the origin?
LaFera: Offer to help. Open your schedule to mentor people. If you’re in a position to hire somebody be sure you really open that chance up to a wide set of candidates. The changes will take time however also the willingness to make the change has to be a daily thing. Each and every day you have to make it a more conscious priority to make an environment which everybody has access to, and also where all feel welcome.
EDM.com: Your career as an artist director is extremely admirable. How’s your experience as a manager aided the transition into WME?
LaFera: Creating opportunities for artists while also maintaining a company around them is not that far away from what I am doing at WME. I spent nearly 20 years waking up considering how to make somebody else more effective and bring the art they create into the masses. I’m using the same skill set here in order to bring ideas to the teams while supporting the agents to provide for the clients.
EDM.com: What would be your most used skill or tool set to get from the digital music business?
LaFera: Love your music! Should you would like ’t even feel connected to this music, culture and the extraordinary community around it, then you’re missing the best aspect of working in this business. Possessing an entrepreneurial spirit helps.
EDM.com: You said on your Rolling Stone interview which you’re taught to treat everyone with respect–interns, janitors, and CEOs alike. As a youngster, what’s the best lesson you were taught?
LaFera: I’m the youngest of a family of seven and am fortunate enough to call my sisters, brothers and parents my best buddies. We all support each other, and it enabled us to enter the world to cover that support forward. My parents headed for instance, be kind, work difficult, but don’t forget to spend time with family and friends.
EDM.com: What advice would you give to women working in the music business?
LaFera: There is room in the table for you personally!
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