Artist Manager Joy Young On Winning In A Male-Dominated Industry Without Losing Your Soul

"Being a manager is a selfless job. You have to be a mother figure, sister, aunt, a counselor, a therapist, a cook, and a personal assistant."


This music business is a fickle industry. It chews up and spits out even the best of them, and sifts out those who attempt to get into it for glitz and glamour, celebrity shoulder-rubbing and clout-inducing social posts.

But for those who truly love music, working with artists and the brands that back them, it offers an opportunity to get paid for your passion. The late nights and early mornings eventually give way to real relationships and worldwide travel with the artists you love and the power players behind them, and what seems like a dream life often becomes a reality that conjures the phrase "find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Courtesy of Joy Young

I first met Joy Young on a warm summer evening after a Women in Music panel in which she dropped major gems for up-and-coming artists and creatives climbing their way up the music industry ladder. As a manager at Wondaland Management (home of Janelle Monae and Jidenna) and CEO of Playtime Talent Group where she manages the day-to-day of R&B group Hamilton Park, Young boasts an impressive resume that's led her to speak on music panels both local and international, attend coveted entertainment events, and garner the respect that allows her to walk into rooms that others aspire to be in. Starting as a Marketing Assistant for Trill Entertainment during her college years has evolved into over a decade-long career working for companies like Atlantic Records, BET Networks, Roc Nation and many more.

Joy Young pictured with her artists, the men of Hamilton Park.Courtesy of Joy Young

But like all things worth having, her career didn't come without its share of setbacks that would ultimately set her up for success. There were many years plagued with frustration, financial instability, and fighting for what she believed in, even if it meant letting go of jobs and people that no longer served her. But in those very moments, God would remind her that the little girl from Baton Rouge, Louisiana who would rush home from band practice to watch AJ and Free on BET's 106 & Park could dream big and manifest the life that she desired.

In this interview, xoNecole chats with the music maven on the different phases of her life and the lessons she's learned from them— from getting your first clients and finding mentors, to knowing your worth and winning in a male-dominated industry without losing your soul.

Get your notebooks out; school is in session.

Lesson 1: Start With Your Circle for Your First Clients 

"Issa Rae said it best when she mentioned to network horizontally versus vertically. All of my initial clients have been very close friends of mine. The first client that I had was a friend of mine, a pastor actually who was starting a ministry. He wanted to branch out to Atlanta and do a conference here. And I was like, 'Well, why don't I help you?' So he hired me to coordinate his first conference in Atlanta.

"My second client was a very good friend of mine, DJ Poizon Ivy. When she started, she had a college show and after she graduated she started opening for different people like Wiz Khalifa. She's now the first female DJ for the Dallas Mavericks, she's gotten an Emmy, and she's just been featured on the Forbes list this year.

"So [the advice] I would give people is to not strive to shoot for the stars, but look around you and see who has talent and who has potential and offer your services."

Courtesy of Joy Young

"[The advice] I would give people is to not strive to shoot for the stars, but look around you and see who has talent and who has potential and offer your services."

Lesson 2: Protect Your Reputation

"There was a situation where the management of talent that I was working with tried to hit on me, and because I did not accept what he was offering, he tried to throw me under the bus. When I would try to make moves or make money or connect with different executives at the label that I was working for, he literally would put in phone calls like, 'I don't want her to work on this project,' and I'm just like, 'Why did you do this?' But at the same time, I never let it stop me. I had people fighting for me inside the building. It affected me in a sense where I had to fight harder or prove myself harder. Even certain relationships I never wanted to be public because I didn't want to be looked at a certain way. I made sure that my reputation was protected. I made sure I didn't wear certain clothes. I made sure that I wasn't presenting myself a certain way on the internet. I just made sure my shit was straight so nobody could have anything to say about me."

Lesson 3: Know Your Worth 

"Women need to understand their worth and their value; they don't need to take disrespect. I once had an assignment where I had to pull receipts from years prior to my being [at the company], so I found as many receipts as I could, printed them out, and organized them in a cute little folder. When I handed [my GM] what I put together, I guess it wasn't in the way that she wanted it. She literally took it and she threw it across the room. So I looked at her, I looked at that folder, I picked up my shit and I walked out. After that, a few weeks go by and I get a phone call from that same person offering me a paid job and I turned it down. I was like, 'No because I see how you guys treat the people who work for you.' So when I declined the first offer, she came back to me with a second offer with a different position as a marketing assistant with more pay, and then I accepted it. The second time around, I was way more respected and I was way more valued."

Courtesy of Joy Young

"Women need to understand their worth and their value; they don't need to take disrespect."

Lesson 4: If It’s Not Serving You, Move On to Something Better

"Don't look at a client or any situation that you're in as it's the best that it can get and that you need to just take whatever because that's not the case. I've been in a situation where I dealt with a lot of shit for longer than I should have, thinking that it was the best that I could get at that time. At the end of the day, no matter who you're working with or who you're working for, what's for you is for you. So if you feel like a situation doesn't serve you, then you can leave because no matter what you're still going to get what you deserve."

Lesson 5: Invest In Yourself & In Others

"You need to invest in yourself. If you're getting a $2,000 retainer, take a percentage of that and invest it back in your company. Don't be scared to invest your money thinking you're not going to see your return because you will. That's the only way you're going to grow as a business owner and as a company, you have to invest in yourself and into your dream because if you don't do it, no one else will. Also, be open to giving. From a spiritual perspective, the whole purpose of God blessing you is to bless other people. So whether it's giving $5 to somebody on the street, that's the seed that you're sowing to come back to you. If you see a friend selling whatever product they're selling, support their business, support their dream because that's also a seed that's going to come back to you."

Courtesy of Joy Young

"Be open to giving. From a spiritual perspective, the whole purpose of God blessing you is to bless other people. So whether it's giving $5 to somebody on the street, that's the seed that you're sowing to come back to you. If you see a friend selling whatever product they're selling, support their business, support their dream because that's also a seed that's going to come back to you."

Lesson 6: Build Relationships by Caring About People

"The key to cultivating relationships is treating someone like they're human, treat them like they are your friends. People have to remember that you have feelings and you're a person, you're going through shit. So consider that when you approach people, consider that when you're engaging in conversation with people. Instead of the first thing that comes out of your mouth is asking for something, ask me how my day is going to get a gauge on if I can even have this conversation with you right now. Text me like, 'Hey, I hope your day is going well,' or just make me feel that you actually think about me. People are there with their hands out and don't really care about what you have going on. So my biggest thing on building relationships is you have to be considerate about that and cultivate relationships. Try to get to know me a little bit before you just jump in with the ask."

Lesson 7: Offer Your Help Before Asking for Handouts

"Be open to having different kinds of mentorships, whether it's through literature, one-off conversations or even organically having a day-to-day mentorship. There are some mentors that I consider myself having that I've never met, but I read their books. There are also mentors who I may have had one or two exchanges with in the past or professionally who I just followed their careers and take notes based on how they operate, how they move, things they've accomplished or even nuggets that I have just been having short conversations with them. Then there are the mentors who I actually get to have access to on a consistent basis. I started off asking them how can I help them? I think that's the key. If you really want to be able to get access to someone, offer your help because we all need something, especially people at this level. We need help with a lot of shit, and if you can fill the void and serve then that's the best way to get access to somebody."

Courtesy of Joy Young

"Being a manager is a selfless job. You have to be a mother figure, sister, aunt, a counselor, a therapist, a cook, and a personal assistant. And there are different levels too because each client is different."

Lesson 8: Create Boundaries for Balance & Peace of Mind

"Being a manager is a selfless job. You have to be a mother figure, sister, aunt, a counselor, a therapist, a cook, and a personal assistant. And there are different levels too because each client is different. Some clients might not need all that, but then there are some clients who are a little bit more sensitive and need a little more attention. If you're not super intentional about your self-care regimen, then sometimes you get lost in that. You have to set boundaries like I can't be available for phone calls after this certain time if it's not an emergency, or I need Saturday and Sunday to myself. Or hey, I'm going on vacation and I'm cutting my phone off. Do not call me. Make sure you provide them what they need before you leave, but you have to set those boundaries to be able to have that balance."

For more of Joy, follow her on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Joy Young

Originally published on January 20, 2020

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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