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