This week's feature is Marketing Professional, Kyla Lombardo! She gave us some amazing insights and advice as to how she got her start in the music industry as a woman! Check it out below... ✨
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi, I am a marketing professional who has worked in the music and live events industry for most of my 20+ year career. I have lived in Chicago for my entire adult life. I am originally from Madison, WI.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I have been in the industry for over 20 years. Although I have not always worked in music, I have consistently worked in some form of entertainment.
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 have always been passionate about music, part of the reason I chose to go to college in Chicago was to have better access to live performances. I didn't know how to translate my passion for music into a career in the industry. Within a year after graduation, I joined an advertising agency where I got the opportunity to work on sponsorship activations in the music industry. This experience gave me a window into all of the roles that were music adjacent. I knew then that I always wanted to work in entertainment or live event marketing.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
One of the biggest challenges is staying on top of new marketing technology and changes to existing marketing platforms. I love all of the advances in tech and how it has helped connect artists and fans. However, it can be hard to keep up with all of the changes.
What jobs have you worked before you ended up in the role you work today?
After graduating college, I worked in the PR Department at Bloomingdale’s where I helped produce fashion shows and special events. Then I joined DDB Chicago, a large advertising agency, as an account executive. At DDB, my primary responsibility was managing sponsorship activations for clients including, Discover Card, US Gypsum Corp, Morton Salt, Budweiser, and McDonald's. While I was at DDB I worked on everything from the Grammy’s, national concert tours, celebrity campaigns, and NASCAR sponsorship. I left DDB after 7 years and took some time off to be a stay-at-home mom.
When I was ready to reenter the workforce, I was concerned about how my 8-year absence would impact my ability to find roles doing what I loved. I joined a digital startup focused on disrupting the publishing and entertainment industry by creating transmedia campaigns to engage fans before a book/film/tv series was released and keep fans engaged between releases. The campaigns included storytelling delivered via video content, social media campaigns, RPGs, and email messaging. I used the project management and marketing tools I had acquired in my previous roles to concept, build and manage the content while growing an audience around entertainment.
Although I was working in the digital entertainment space, I used the skills I honed there when I joined Riot Fest as the Marketing Director in 2014. Marketing a live event is very much focused on storytelling. While I was at Riot Fest, we built and released a website that was not only a tool for promoting the Festival and club and venue shows, it is also a content platform that allows Riot Fest to deliver entertaining content to grow their fan base. The content platform gives Riot Fest the opportunity to partner with other content developers like bands, media, and brands to engage the Riot Fest audience.
Since leaving Riot Fest, I have been the Marketing Director for Red Frog Events (producers of Firefly Music Festival/Warrior Dash/Chicago Beer Classic) and North Coast Music Festival. Most recently I was a Marketing Director at AEG Presents, I am currently on furlough due to COVID. I am keeping busy during the pandemic by providing branding and marketing consulting to brands in the entertainment and live events industry.
Any advice you have for breaking into the industry and setting yourself apart from other marketing professionals?
There are so many more opportunities to get experience while you are in school than there were when I was coming up in the industry. I would recommend getting involved in the concert programming board or student activities club if your school has one. If your school doesn’t have programs like this, you are not pursuing college at this time, or you are post-college, don’t worry, you can still find ways to get involved in the industry. Many venues have street teams or internship opportunities. Also, look for marketing agencies that have ambassador opportunities that often participate in activations around music. All of these will be good ways to meet people and get a feel for the roles that are available in the industry. Check out to see if there is an independent record label in your community that is looking for volunteers. Figure out what you like doing and are good at. Look for roles that utilize those skills. LinkedIn is a great place to look at job postings to see what companies are looking for and then hone those skills. The best advice I can give is to network, if you are respectful most people I know in the industry will be happy to connect and chat about their experiences and give advice.
How did you find your facet in the marketing role?
I feel into it and evolved as the industry evolved. When I started working, there were so few festivals it never occurred to me to pursue a career in festival and music marketing but as the industry grew so did the opportunities.
What are some of the changes that have occurred in regards to marketing in the music industry, especially in the past year?
I think that the biggest change in the industry in the past year or two is the ability to customize experiences. Now you can use customer data and apps to create custom music or live event, when they return, experiences for fans. Although streaming has been around for a while, with everything shut down due to COVID, streaming is having a big impact by allowing big and small artists to reach fans and in some cases generate revenue.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
The best part of my job is that I get to work with great teams of people and connect fans with their favorite artists. I am always learning, and I also get the opportunity to mentor some amazing people who also give me new perspectives to consider.
Is there someone you consider as your mentor in the industry?
I have a few friends who I also consider mentors, however, because my career path has been winding, I have sometimes struggled to find a mentor with similar experiences.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
I suggest you reach out to connect with people who are doing what you want to do in the industry. I got my first job because I asked someone who was doing a job that I hoped to do in the future if they would be willing to chat with me. Following our conversation, I was offered an internship that evolved into a job.
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?
Earlier in my career, I have been in positions where I was not taken seriously, I am uncertain if it was because I am female or because marketing was not perceived to be as important as other roles in the organization. I am guessing it was a little bit of both. I feel fortunate that I have not had that experience in the past few years of my career, it was harder to be taken seriously when I was younger.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I am currently furloughed from my festival marketing position, but I have been keeping busy by consulting. I helped launch a non-profit, www.showmakers.com, that was established to provide resources for production professionals and I have been helping one of the largest independent entertainment merchandise companies rebrand and expand their marketing services for their clients – www.secondcityprints.com
When I am not working, I would normally be attending concerts and festivals but due to COVID, I have been focusing on home rehab projects and hanging out with my family and our dog.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
I don’t have an all-time favorite artist. I feel like I embrace music in a time and space and then move on to focus on other artists. There are so many songs and artists that bring back memories of a specific time and I love that. I also love discovering new music.
What is something you can't live without?
I am pretty attached to my ember mug at the moment. It was a gift and it has improved the quality of my life, no more cold coffee for me. Haha.
Go-to Karaoke song?
The only time I have sung Karaoke was as an exchange student in Japan. I think my hosts requested I sing I left my heart in San Francisco. I didn’t even know the song. Perhaps that is why I have never embraced Karaoke.
Tea or Coffee?
Coffee…in my ember mug.
The first concert you went to?
My first concerts were all small punk rock bands on the University of Madison campus while I was in High School. 7 seconds, Fugazi, etc.
What’s something that you always have on you?
Custom earplugs. You never know when you will head to a concert and I am careful to protect my ears.
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
Rage Against the Machine – I came so close in 2020 but then Firefly Festival was canceled.
I would also love to work with Tyler, The Creator, Steve Lacy, and Run The Jewels
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
COVID has completely changed my typical day since I no longer have a commute. I usually check my email around 8:00, then grab a coffee and shower, and then I am online until about 6:00. I try to take breaks and stretch. Some days I am busier than others and on my less busy days, I try to check in with former coworkers to see how they are doing. There are a lot of us who are a little lost with our industry shutdown and we need to keep checking in to keep each other’s spirits up.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
To be honest, I am not sure. Nobody anticipated this pandemic and the resulting shutdown, and I am not sure where our industry will be in 5 years. As I get older, I hope that I will be able to work until I am ready to leave the industry, but I am also feeling a lot of uncertainty right now. I worry about there being a future brain drain because so many people are being diverted from entering the industry right now and more are leaving for other careers because they can’t wait out the shutdown. I am hopeful that the ingenuity and creativity in the industry will help bring it back better than ever once live events resume.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
I hope that there are more developed recruiting and mentoring programs to provide a pathway into the industry for people from all backgrounds who are interested in music careers.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of mentoring the next generation of Women in Music. And helping create amazing experiences for artists and fans.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
Do not needlessly apologize! We are conditioned to say we are sorry when an apology is not needed. Own your mistakes and fix them but don’t apologize for doing your job.
Thank you again to Kyla Lombardo for taking the time to chat with us and sharing your experience! You can keep up to date with Kyla's work by following her on IG here.