This is Magnetic’s Industry Focus, where we highlight those working behind the scenes of the EDM biz. These are the folks running the record labels, representing the artists, promoting the shows and just getting it done.
They may not get the shine of deadmau5 or Kaskade, but they work just as hard making sure the parties are packed, the music is perfect, and that the artists are where they need to be. We’ve decided to shine light on the behind the scenes movers and shakers that are helping you move and shake.
Today, we highlight Nina Brunello, Director of Operations and Marketing for AWOL Events. Nina is an original "Lifer", first participating 'another way of life" in 2010. Here are her words...
How did you start your career in the electronic music business?
I’ve always loved house music, since well before its recent popularity boom. I was always going to new events, discovering new music and DJs, and educating my friends on my discoveries. An opportunity presented itself to attend the first AWOL Sun (Cabo, 2010) with two of the co-founders, so I jumped on board. I helped out onsite, got to enjoy incredible shows like Dubfire with an ocean sunset background, Anthony Attalla by the pool, and Calvin Harris closing down an intimate night show for about 200 of our closest industry friends. After that event, I told Matthew Martinez (Founder/CEO) that I wanted to help him build a business out of AWOL – we instantly clicked and have been building the project together for the past 3.5 years. We’ll be celebrating our 5th AWOL Sun at the end of the year, it’s crazy how time has flown and how much growth we’ve experienced since the first event.
What is the best part of the business?
I feel very fortunate that I get to experience so many great parts about working in dance music – the people, the music, and the locations. Our event travels across North America, so I get to curate these amazing experiences from Canada to Mexico, all while listening to great music with people that I call family. Obviously the day-to-day work isn’t all glamorous, but when you’ve worked tirelessly on an event for three months and then get to share it with old friends, make new friends, and see the joy on people’s faces, it is truly a beautiful feeling. We get to build relationships with everyone from the artists to the fans. Our clients unite from all over to celebrate the music and connect, which is something I believe is relatively unique to house music.
What are the biggest challenges?
In the events business, everything that can go wrong, will. And then you’ll get hit by a hurricane. Twice. Murphy’s Law is in full effect. We’re such a small team and we wear so many hats, sometimes it’s hard to stay organized, make sure nothing falls through the cracks, etc. We’ve learned over the past few years that as prepared as we are, the one thing we haven’t planned for is probably the thing that will occur onsite. It’s all about how you adapt – we try to always focus on solutions and not waste time talking about problems. At this point we’ve been hit with so many obstacles that nothing surprises us and we’ve become very resilient. We know we can make it work beautifully, through hurricanes at a pool party to bare mountain conditions at a snow party. As long as the music is good and the people are connecting, they’ll walk away happy (and so will we).
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
There are so many facets of the dance music industry – it really takes a unique drive to make this your career. Just because you’re a fan doesn’t mean you want to deal with the politics of booking DJs, negotiating with venues or hotels, recruiting salespeople and affiliates, traveling 10+ times/year. My advice would be to really analyze your skills and what you love about the industry in particular – do you just love the music, or do you love the business behind the artists/entertainment? Do you love being an organizer and behind the scenes, or the face of a brand/company? Are you a techie or a salesperson? There’s room in the industry for all types of people and skill sets. Really hone in on what you love about it and what you think you can bring to the table. Then, get an internship, make phone calls, meet people, talk to them about their positions, how they got there, etc. This industry, just like any other, is really about relationship building.
As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
Dance music has been around for decades, and it always will be around. Now that it’s more mainstream, even if the bubble pops and brand-name DJs are no longer the focus in Vegas or at festivals, there will always be a huge fan base. Before dance music recently took over most of the nightclubs, fans were going to warehouse parties, underground raves, and going wherever they could find the music they love. I don’t think they’ll ever have to look that hard again, but just like any other genre, dance music is going to have to grow with it’s fans. We like to think that’s what we’re doing with AWOL – providing a next-step for the dance music fan.
Did you start off as a fan of electronic music and then became involved on the business side, or did business bring you into the electronic music world?
My closest friends and I have been listening to dance music since it was just techno, and our parents thought we were all on drugs (which we were not). Then lyrics started to seep into the genre and house music grew. I’d love to say “I’m a huge fan of every kind of music” but that would be a stretch – while I do enjoy some Indie Rock or Disco/Funk, I’ve been listening to mostly house for the past ten years. My friends and I were well into the scene well before I got involved with AWOL, so it was no shock when I ended up making it my career.
What does electronic music mean to you?
Dance music always evokes feel-good response, and I consider myself a feel-good person. I’m all about creating a positive environment, connecting with people, and always showing love. Dance music is about friendship, love, appreciation, being present in the moment. Plus, you can’t be sad or depressed to house music. Try listening to Axwell’s “I Found You” and be unhappy. You just can’t. I think if more of the world listened to house on a daily basis, people would be uplifted and nicer to each other. I get goosebumps when I go to a huge event (like EDC) and look across at all the people united for dance music – 115,000 people squished in like sardines, dancing and smiling without a care. It’s magical.
Where do you see the most innovation in the EDM industry and why?
Now that dance music has become such a huge industry, it’s amazing to see how it’s been integrated into our daily lives. Everything from video games to television commercials are featuring artists like Tiesto and Skrillex. I honestly never thought I’d see the day when dance music was on Top 40 radio stations, and now it’s virtually everywhere. The technology side is booming as well – everything from new apps and video/film teams covering big events to social media and new ticket platforms. Just seeing the vast number of tech companies adapting into the EDM space is quite surprising and exciting at the same time. I got to attend the EDMBiz conference for the past two years, and got to meet so many people with new websites, products, and innovative ideas looking to get into the industry.