'Failure Is a Mindset Long Before It's a Reality' and Other Takeaways From REBOOT's Female-Empowerment Panel

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Hannah Estes
From left: Linda Perry, Anne Preven, Maria Egan and Jo-Ná Williams, Esq.

What does it take to be your own girl boss in today’s music industry? On Wednesday (April 24) at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles, a group of songwriters, producers and industry professionals gathered to find out. The event was the latest installment in a series of workshops called REBOOT, a female empowerment initiative by Pulse Music Group in partnership with YouTube Music. 

The hour-long “Mind Your Business” panel was moderated by Pulse Music Group (PMG) president and head of creative Maria Egan. Panelists included legendary songwriter and producer Linda Perry, who also co-founded label and publishing company We Are Hear, PMG co-founder Anne Preven and entertainment attorney, advisor and founder of J.A. Williams Law and Artist Empowerment, Jo-Ná A. Williams. All shared wisdom learned from years of experience in the music industry, from the inspiring power of failure to why it's important to choose business partners carefully. Below are some discussion highlights.

Past failures often inspire successful songs

“When you come hang out with me, there's not an agenda," says Perry. "We talk about things that maybe were unsatisfying to you in your life. We talk about your journey, your emotions and then all of a sudden it's like the universe comes in and goes, 'Okay, it's time.' And then we write a song. You could have thought that maybe that wasn't even affecting you anymore, but all sudden, the full circle comes back around. And here's that one situation that you completely pushed away because you may have thought it was a failure. It’s now showing itself full circle in song and emotion. And maybe that song is a hit."

Preven echoed Perry’s sentiments, but added that she does have a few career moves she definitely has learned from: “Wasting time on things like shitty projects that I knew would never go anywhere, or not seeing people for who they really were and seeing the cloud of possibility as opposed to the cold reality.”

Pick your business partners carefully

“It’s like marriage: a pretty intense decision, and it can be a long-term decision with long-term consequences," said Preven. "So pick your partners carefully. I got very lucky personally, but I know people who've had bad experiences where they've embarked on something and it hasn't worked out and then you have to untangle. It's like getting a divorce."

... But you can’t “check out” just because you have a business partner

“One thing that I think happens is, people think because they have a partner, that means you are dividing up work and you're going to work half as much," said Perry. "If you're going to start a business, you have to be in it 24/7. You can't just walk away and go, 'They got it.' Because it's the partnership that makes it successful."

Speaking about her real-life partnership with Kerry Brown, who co-founded We Are Hear, Perry added, “He’s really Zen and he works from the brain. He does a lot of our contracts. I'm a little wild. When we go on meetings, I make the deal and then he closes it. I'm aggressive and loud. We’ve been together for two years and we're making incredible leaps and so fast."

Williams stressed the importance of considering the reasons you want to be in a partnership with someone. “Are you wanting to be with a partnership because they're your best friend?" she asked. "That's not necessarily the best reason to get into a partnership with somebody. If you're looking at partnerships from a business perspective, you're looking at, ‘What is this person's strengths? What are my strengths? How are we going to work together?’'"

Divide up responsibilities and put them in writing

Williams pulled from her legal expertise, saying it’s important to hammer out who is doing what in a partnership immediately before you start working with someone -- and get it in writing. “I've seen people go in with all the enthusiasm and then it ends up being a complete and total mess because they weren't prepared with understanding who was responsible for what and then things just start to fall apart,” she said.

Ask yourself “What is my intention for doing this?”

In everything she does, Perry asks herself: What is my intention? “That right there will answer all your questions and help you navigate a smoother, more profitable, more successful route for your life,” she said.

Follow your intuition

Preven says intuition is huge when it comes to making business decisions. Williams seconded that notion and credited trusting her gut with every career move she’s made: deciding to start her own business, not working with certain people, taking a break from work, and restructuring her company. “All of that came through intuition and when I did not listen to my intuition, I suffered greatly,” she said.

Michelle Obama knows what’s up

Egan referenced a line from Michelle Obama’s memoir, which was wildly applauded: “She said, 'Failure is a mindset long before it’s a reality.' That’s true in my life. If you approach things with the mentality that it’s not going to work, you sort of manifesting that reality."

Don’t be afraid to prove your mentors wrong

Williams shared a story of having advisors tell her that she couldn’t realistically become a black female entertainment lawyer and that her educational background wouldn’t cater to her desired career path. “Don’t let anybody tell you who you can and cannot be," she said. "You make the decision for yourself what your path is going to be and how you're going to live. Listen to mentors, listen to us, but listen to yourself first.”

Wearing a lot of hats doesn't lead to financial success

Want to be a songwriter, producer, engineer, manager? Great! Just not at the same time. “People can wear many hats, but if you wear them at the same time, it looks weird,” joked Preven. “You know what happens when you try to do a little bit of everything? That's what you're doing. You're doing a little bit of everything. So if you're going to be a songwriter, concentrate on that and write a great song. Then if you want to go be a producer, produce a great song."

"People who’ve got too much going on are putting 20 percent there, there, there, there, and that will amount to nothing," Perry added.

Egan agreed, noting that it also comes down to your expectations for wearing each hat. “If you want to be the best in the world at something, it’s like the Olympics: You can't train for four sports at once because there are other athletes doing that one sport 100 percent of the time," she said. "But if you do something because it feeds you, and it doesn't matter what happens with it, then that's where the energetic issue comes in. We have some songwriters who need to have performance and artistry in their lives, otherwise they creativity die. If they can just have their outlet and play some shows independently, they don't have to give that 100 percent. But if your goals are to be in the elite of the music business, it's just so competitive. There are maniacs who are doing it at such intensity and such focus. You just have to understand what you’re trying to get out of whatever you’re doing."


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