For the inaugural Artist Project Collective issue, we had the pleasure of speaking with music industry vet, Partner at Alamo Records, and all around boss lady Shari Bryant. Shari is a leader in the music industry who has been instrumental in many artist’s careers and intends on paving the way for young women pursuing their passions. Upon announcing her new position in August, Shari exclaimed “I’m excited to be given a platform where I am able to dedicate true resources to developing new talent and new executives.”
Swisher: You hold a degree in political science and government. How did you end up pursuing a career in the music industry?
Shari: I actually starting interning in the music business during my senior year of high school. 1999. I always knew I wanted a career in music, and set my mind out on being an entertainment lawyer, as that was the only career field I was aware of, that deal with the music industry. When I started interning in 99′, at Rocafella Records, I knew from the first day of walking through those doors, that I wanted to be in the music industry, in a more music executive level way. The problem was, lol, I had to go to school (Damon Dash CEO/Co-Founder of the label & my parents wouldn’t have it any other way), so I choose a school near Rocafella Records (John Jay College of Criminal Justice), where I could do both. I continued to intern while attending college. My schedule was really crazy during this time.
Swisher: You have been in the music industry for almost 18 years, do you have any advice for someone just beginning their career?
Shari: Still to this day, hearing how long I have been in the industry bugs me out. For several reasons, but two of them being, I still feel like I’m just getting started, and so excited for what’s to come. I’m also in my early 30’s, so when people hear how long I’ve been in music it baffles them lol. In regards to advice, the main thing I would say, take the stairs and not the elevator. Chase opportunity and not a check, I’ve learned that the money comes when you actually know what you’re doing, and it sticks around, which is always nice.
Swisher: Of the various projects you have worked on, is there one that you’re most proud of?
Shari: Well, I have so many projects that I’m very proud of. I’ve been blessed to work with some of the greatest artist in the business. Most, career driven artist. One of the projects I would say I’m most proud of is Meek Mill. Having worked with him, since his signing at Warner Bros. Records in 2010/2011, I’ve been front and center with him, through all that he’s endured in his career. It has been a major learning experience, and has definitely reassured me how important trusting your gut is. There were times in his career where it may have seemed that all the odds were against him, but my heart and gut always told me that his gift is bigger than the challenges. We continued to push through, and successfully fought through all the challenges. Just goes to show how true talent can always prevail with the right team behind it.
Swisher: In your role as VP of Marketing at Warner Brothers, you identified unsigned talent that you thought would bring value to the roster. Who were some artists you signed and/or worked with?
Shari: I always say my time at Warner Bros. Records, was a very important career defining moment for me. While working with both Todd Moscowitz and Joie Manda, we were able to build something very strong, in a very short amount of time. We signed and marketed Jill Scott, Common, and the MMG deal with Rick Ross which Meek Mill and Wale derived from.
Swisher: What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Shari: As mentioned earlier, I would say being patient with my progress, and chasing opportunities before the money, has gotten me very far.
Swisher: You spoke at the Roots Picnic “Breaking Barriers” panel about what being a woman of power in the music industry looks like. Can you shed some more light on that for our followers?
Shari: Yes that panel was amazing. I was excited to represent not only being a woman in the music industry, but being a woman of color. Representation is extremely important to me. It wasn’t until I walked into Rocafella Records, and was able to see women like Chaka Pilgrim, Omoyele Macintosh, Dara Mcintosh, Carline Balan, that I was able to believe I too could have a seat at this table. Being a woman of power in the industry USE to look and feel like an anomaly, but now we are seeing more women, who have been working very hard, for a very long time being recognized and more importantly being rewarded with high positions for their hard work. I would say it’s a beautiful time for women.
Swisher: You founded a company Pinkest LUV that is a platform to inspire women to live life to their “Pinktential”! How did that idea come about and where do you plan on taking Pinkest LUV?
Shari: I’m so big on living out your purpose. I think people go through life not putting enough energy into what truly makes them happy for various reasons, but one of the main reasons is just not being intentional about what their gifts are. I want young women, as they are in their formative years, to understand how important it is to be intentional about recognizing your gifts. I want young women, especially in underprivileged areas to know what’s out there, so they can tap into their potential. It’s important work for me, and my goal is to continue to push that messaging, through media platforms (podcast, youtube content channel), blogging, IG content, etc. I’m currently working on a relaunch of Pinkestluv, and super excited about it.
Swisher: You also own a boutique – Eboni & Ivory. In your words, can you expand on the point where fashion and music intersect?
Shari: Yes! So excited about the boutique, founded by me and my best friend who I have known since a toddler. I was always a big music fan, particularly of hip-hop, and I loved everything about the lifestyle in which I was introduced to music, mainly the fashion. I remember as a kid just sitting up and watching music videos all day, and just being enamored by the fashion aspect of the artist. I think music, especially hip hop music is a lifestyle. You rarely fall in love with an artist solely for their music, you fall in love with the lifestyle in which the represent, and fashion usually is at the forefront of that lifestyle.
Swisher: It’s no doubt you must work round the clock with balancing being a Partner at Alamo and owning two other businesses. How do you balance it all?
Shari: Lol. I still don’t know the answer to that question. I know that being passionate about what I do, and simply loving it makes balancing it all easier. I’m very intentional about loving what I do, because I’ve realized how much better I operate when i’m truly passionate. I also make sure to take time out for myself, so I could have even more energy to be great at the businesses I own. Oh, and delegating is key, building a strong infrastructure is extremely important in balancing it all and not driving yourself crazy.
Swisher: We saw in your IG comments someone asking if the XXL Freshman Class is “really what hip-hop has come to”. In your response, you talked about how music has evolved and you’re still a fan of the music you grew up on, but you’d be out of business if you ignored the current trends. Where do you think the future of music is heading? Do you think mumble rap and bright colored hair will last? Who are some emerging artists you see blowing up next year?
Shari: Wow. A loaded question, hopefully I can answer this correctly without writing a book. I think music is in a very interesting place right now. While mumble rap is not something I choose to listen to on a daily basis, I do feel that as a music executive you can’t ignore what music consumers want to hear. The truth is in the data that is so available to us right now through streaming platforms. So having this information, although something may not be for you, and very different from what you are use to having success with, you have to pay attention to it. I’m not sure what the artist will look like, in the future, that deliver us the music, but I do believe that the future of music is bright. What I’ve realized is, that music has to connect to some type of emotion, whether it makes you “turn up”, connects with your emotional feelings at the time, or just something you really relate to. The music that ultimately prevails, is the music that evokes something in you.. and that’s ultimately what music is about. I’m not sure what the kids will look like in the future, but as long as music continues to evoke emotion with the generation they are speaking to, we will continue to stay in business.
Artist that I see blowing up, Asian Doll, Lil Durk, Roddy Ricch, Melii, Gunna, just to name a few. But there are a laundry list of artist that I’m really feeling right now.
Swisher: What is a major goal you plan on accomplishing being the Partner at Alamo?
Shari: My major goal while being at Alamo is redefining what a “music label” looks like. I like to look at us as more of a lifestyle label. We do it all, in a very management company type of way. I do think how we operate is the future of the business. Being able to create very close knit relationships with the artist, and being nimble keeps us ahead of the game, and i’m looking forward to continue building on this model.