Welcome back to WIMI, everyone! This week, we had the chance to get to know Allie Gray- she does stellar work at Prescription Songs & Early Rising. It takes a lot know patience to do what she does, but Allie is motivated, knowledgeable, and full of great advice for anyone looking to get their start in the industry! Read below to learn more about her industry journey.
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
I’m Allie Gray. I’m an A&R Assistant at Prescription Songs, a publisher in LA and Nashville. I’m also the Director of Music and Creative at Early Rising, a music discovery blog and brand. I’m originally from Atlanta, GA, then went to Belmont University in Nashville, and now live in LA.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
My first experiences working in this industry was through live events and specifically on the production team at my former church. I was 17 when I started doing that in Atlanta, and I’m 23 now!
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
I wasn’t the big music kid growing up. Music wasn’t a very big part of my life until my older sister introduced me to Coldplay and John Mayer, around 2011. When I was 16, I went to a music festival in Atlanta – Music Midtown 2014 – and when I walked in, it was like time stood still. I just knew that I was going to work in music forever. I had no idea how, but it felt like it was the universe opening this door to me and just asking me to say yes.
What interested you in becoming an A&R? Did you know you wanted to work in the music industry before that?
It started my sophomore year of college. I got really fed up with the music I was listening to, and so I completely wiped my Spotify. I deleted everything and made a new playlist, “Songs that are pulling me out of my music funk.” I wouldn’t let myself put anything that had more than 500K monthly listeners on it. That ended up being this huge catalyst for discovery for me – finding people like Omar Apollo and Charlie Burg when they had less than 10K followers on instagram. I would send music back and forth with a friend of mine, Jeanette Porcello, who had just gotten hired from intern to A&R consultant at Atlantic Records. Eventually she came to me and essentially asked me to give A&R a shot. She introduced me Noreen Prunier, who at the time was in Nashville too and really facilitating a lot of the pop scene there. I didn’t know anything about A&R or songwriters or demos, and Noreen taught me everything. She helped me learn how to love and support creatives in a real way. I owe her and Jeanette so much for seeing the A&R in me before I could.
How would you breakdown your life as an A&R? What’s an “average” day like for you?
As an A&R in publishing, a lot of my day is spent working on sessions for our roster and pitching the songs they’ve written. I also book our studios in Hollywood, manage my boss’ calendar, work on some longer-term projects and ideas, and of course, look for new signings! I work more closely with two incredible writers on our roster, Deza and Peter Fenn, so I spend a lot of time listening to their catalog and coming up with ideas. Peter Fenn just signed at the end of December, and he’s so incredible. It’s been such a fun start to the year diving into his schedule and catalog.
At Early Rising, I get to be part of helping young artists tell their story from a really early stage, and maintain that relationship as they get bigger. My “average day” there is curating the content that goes on our Instagram feed and our playlist. It’s an equal mix of going through submissions and digging on my own to find things. I also work with our team on longer-term content ideas and partnership opportunities.
Are there any skills/lessons you wish you knew before stepping into the industry?
A few things –
Network laterally. It’s true what they say – the people sitting in class with you will be your peers. But It’s also not just your school, it’s the kids at other schools too. It’s the kids three years younger and three years older.
This is a personal industry. You’re going to be friends with these people so be friendly! DM on Instagram instead of Linkedin. Instagram is the best way to meet your peers.
No one is out of your league. You don’t need to wait until you’re a certain level of “successful” or “valuable” before you connect with someone in the industry. You have inherent value in a conversation when you’re smart and kind and doing the work to learn.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
A&R is definitely a competitive field, you have to be on it. It can be easy to beat yourself up for missing something, but the best thing I taught myself lately was – “You don’t have to the first one in the conversation to be the one to make the difference.“ It’s so much more important to be kind and authentic than to be first.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
SO MANY. But if I have to choose – it’s that I get to be friends with my favorite writers, producers, artists, and industry peers. It’s an honor and I have to pinch myself every day.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
Noreen Prunier definitely comes to mind. Without her, I wouldn’t have learned about A&R and the heart behind it. She’s in LA now too, so I still call her up for random questions and hangs.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry, in general, and then specifically in A&R?
Just start with whatever you have access to. I started as a helping hand on the production team at my church in Atlanta, and now I’m an A&R in LA. Be kind to everyone and say yes to as much as you can. Everything is a valuable experience.
Music is subjective. Your opinion of music is TRUE because it’s how you experience it. You can still learn from someone with more experience than you, while still being firm in your ear. And your ear will develop over time, trust it.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
I’m lucky that a lot of my experiences have been on women-led teams, and I know that’s not the case for everyone. I think it’s important to let your actions and your reputation speak. When you’re dedicated to your work and kind to the people around you, I truly think nothing can get in your way.
Also, actively seek out the women in this industry! We all need each other. I spent a lot of 2020 “meeting” new people, and now a lot of those women I met are also my best friends that I talk to on the regular – not just about work!
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love the modern art world – I could spend every weekend just going to galleries. I’m so sad covid has shut down most of them in LA, but I’m getting back into painting for myself and spending time learning about artists online. It’s soul reviving for me. When this is over, you’ll probably be able to find me at the Getty every weekend!
I also love cooking. My whole family is obsessed with cooking and trying food from new cultures and cuisines. Luckily my roommate is too, so we always make a point to have our own dinner party once a week. When this pandemic is over, dinner parties are going to be a regular part of my routine! Like music, I love the way a big table of food brings people together.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Only one??? I adore Dua Lipa, I really do – that album saved 2020 for me. But also, Ben Howard. I skipped class for two days and flew by myself to see him play at Red Rocks Amphitheather in 2018. It was bliss. Also, Coldplay!
What is something you can't live without?
Italian food, Facetime, Spotify, and my Bose NC 700 headphones.
Go-to Karaoke song?
Body Language by Jesse McCartney, the entire Mamma Mia soundtrack, or anything from One Direction’s Midnight Memories album.
Tea or coffee?
First concert you went to?
Coldplay’s 2012 Mylo Xyloto tour with my two sisters! We all cried. It was magic. Watch that tour documentary if you have a spare evening.
What’s something that you always have on you?
My phone, gold jewelry, my water bottle, airpods.
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
Coldplay – it would be so full circle.
How has the role of an A&R changed since you first started?
I’ve only just started so come back to me in a few years ☺
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still an A&R in LA, helping creatives tell their stories and making their dreams come true. There’s not much more that can make me happy!
You co-founded Early Rising, tell us about that and how it started?
Early pandemic days, I had just moved back with my parents after my senior year spring got canceled by the pandemic. I had already accepted my job with RX, but had about two months until I started. I had all this free time, so I was meeting people like crazy through Instagram, like 6 calls a day for 6 weeks type crazy. I DMed this guy Sam Morrison, who was writing for Lyrical Lemonade. We hit it off immediately, and two days later he sent me this idea of this weekly updated playlist and an Instagram page that would run like a discovery blog. And within a week of our first phone call, we launched Early Rising with my counterpart, Corinne Dolan. Within a few weeks, Ben Kronenberg joined the team, and our designer Shane Roberts joined in the summer! That’s the core 5 team, and then when we launched the website in October we brought on writers and editors, and now our expanded team is about 25 people.
What do you hope to see done with Early Rising this year?
We want Early Rising to be a community, a home for artists and creatives and their teams to feel seen and heard and supported, and for young professionals to connect and learn. We want to widen our brand to new content pieces and invite more opportunities to be directly involved with helping artists’ careers.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
I hope we start paying writers and producers more, on time, and accurately. It breaks my heart that there are writers in the industry who have Grammy’s and still haven’t paid off their student debt. The system is so broken in that way.
What I’m excited about is the new generation – I have so many friends who got into music because they were One Direction or Brittney Spears or Justin Bieber fans, and I swear, they are the smartest people I’ve ever met. Young people are so brilliant, and honestly, I hope I’m lucky enough to have someone on my team who is out there right now, 16 years old, making TikToks to promote music.
What are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of having both my dream jobs right now. Rx Songs and Early Rising are filling two sides of my passion and it’s so incredible. Both of them give me the opportunity to support incredible creative people. I’m proud to be part of the Rx team who’s already achieved such greatness and to also be building greatness with Early Rising. It’s thrilling.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.”
Thank you, Allie, for taking the time to talk to us! We appreciate it so much and the advice you gave was stellar! If you want to keep up with Allie's life & work, you can follow her Instagram here. Also, don't forget to follow Prescription Songs and Early Rising!