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  • Writer's pictureCheyenne M

Katie Philo: Social Media Lead at Pitchfork

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?

Hi, I’m Katie! I currently lead social media for Pitchfork, AKA, the Most Trusted Voice in Music.™️ I’m originally from a small village in Hampshire, England, but I have been living in New York for the last five years and currently call Brooklyn home.

How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?

I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for over a decade. My career began in a variety of internships in London, while I was working in a supermarket to pay my way. I then took part in a career exchange program, in which lots of Brits live in New York (ok, well, Jersey City) and work for a year. I was placed at Thomson Reuters and worked on a very early video streaming platform, which served as the perfect segue into my first job at the BBC in London where I spent three years working across some of the biggest TV and radio shows. Digital and social media roles were rapidly evolving at the time, so it was a great opportunity to cut my teeth at what I consider to be one of the greatest broadcasters in the world. After three years in London, I still had New York on my mind. Determined to move back, I booked a trip with my resume in hand. Turns out, BBC studios were starting a new streaming service for British TV in North America. I moved back to NY in 2018 and spent three years leading social for BritBox.

One of the best parts of my time at the BBC in London was the experience I gained working in digital on British festivals such as Reading and Leeds and Glastonbury, in addition to leading social for BBC Radio 2, the biggest radio station in Europe. Music has always been such a huge part of my life. So when I saw the role to Lead Social Media at Pitchfork advertised, it was an absolute no brainer that I would apply. Much of my experience was transferable and my appreciation for the site and music came through in my interviews. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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”?

When I was 13, I won a competition to interview Madonna on a BBC show for children. From that moment, I was relentless in my pursuit of a career in the entertainment industry. It wasn’t the launch party that got me excited, but instead the moment I stepped into the famous BBC Television Center in Shepherd’s Bush, London to record a voiceover. I’d grown up listening and watching BBC content, so to play a role in the behind-the-scenes production was thrilling. When I think about it now, my desire to create comes from a desire to connect with other human beings through storytelling. The BBC is steeped in an incredible history of storytelling and winning that competition set a dream in motion that I finally achieved when I got my first BBC staff badge aged 24. I had no idea where it was going to take me, and I think that’s a huge part of traversing the digital and social landscape — it’s constantly changing and all you can do is buckle up!

Was it hard to make the move from the UK to the US?

From a purely logistical standpoint: definitely. Visas are always pretty complicated. I’m a firm believer in being able to make anything happen if you want it enough, though. I’m pretty determined and it felt like trying to crack a code while I worked out how I was going to move back. And then on a personal level, moving thousands of miles from your friends and family is inevitably difficult. I’ve never felt the distance as much as I did during the pandemic when the travel ban stopped me from seeing family for two years. That aside, I wouldn’t still be in America if I wasn’t enjoying it. I’ve built an amazing community of friends in New York, and now feel at home on both sides of the Atlantic! I’m still in a phase of my life where I’m learning, adventuring and discovering so much about myself and the world. I find it exciting that a lot of the future is yet to be written and I can still try so many new things, and live in so many places.

How would you break down your life as a Senior Social Media Manager at Pitchfork? What’s an “average” day in the industry like for you?

I started at Pitchfork in 2020 during the pandemic and I joined the team remotely. Like many companies, we’re still rolling out a hybrid return to office model, so I am going to run you through a day from home. I’m an early bird so I usually wake up, work out, get coffee from my local coffee shop and go for a long stroll through Greenpoint and Williamsburg with a podcast. I start work around 9am and usually begin by catching up on slacks, emails and any news that broke overnight. The entire Pitchfork Editorial Team has a daily meeting at 10.30am, where each department runs down what they’re working on that day. My day is then usually punctuated by creative meetings for upcoming editorial packages and regular social media or editorial meetings. My role involves looking at high level strategy for Pitchfork social, in addition to editorial roll outs and distribution plans. It’s very collaborative and I work closely with editorial, design and video on a daily basis. The social team is responsible for four different channels and so I also spend a good part of my day publishing and curating content, too. And, of course, there’s a lot of music. We tend to have a team “Listening Room” at least once a week, in which everyone listens to upcoming new releases. We actually have a physical room in the office, but also do this remotely on Zoom to account for the hybrid work set-up. I’ll often have a show to go to during the week and I often cover these for a Pitchfork Instagram feature called “At the Show”. This involves taking Polaroids with an artist backstage before the show, which is always a highlight of the week.

Did you always want to work at Pitchfork or were you just looking to stay in the music industry realm?

I’m a long-time Pitchfork reader and fan, so it had been on my radar for a while. I knew I wanted to be in the music industry, and was pretty open minded on what that would look like. Not everyone had the luxury of working for a brand they truly believe in and care about — and I’m grateful to work at Pitchfork for this reason.

Do you travel a lot with your position?

The main travel opportunities are around Pitchfork Music Festival. Each July, a number of staffers descend on Chicago to work at the festival. We also have festivals in London, Paris and Berlin but work with local agencies when running these for a variety of reasons. Otherwise, most of the travel has been more local, such as photoshoots in New York or Philadelphia.

Are there any skills/lessons you wish you knew before stepping into the industry?

Don’t be embarrassed about your guilty pleasures! There’s no such thing.

Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?

Personally I find it hard to switch off. Social media never sleeps and you can’t hit pause on the news cycle. I’ve found it very important to try and limit my screen time when I can.

What is the best part of your job? Why?

New music discovery. It’s genuinely a joy hearing people geek out about music all day and discover new (and old) music in the process. There’s so much to listen to and not enough time!

You’ve been in the music industry for a while, how has it changed since you first started? Specifically with social media?

The only certain thing about social media is that it’s always changing, and it can definitely be hard to keep up when the platforms are constantly adding new features. When I first started, Facebook and Twitter were the main platforms and TikTok didn’t even exist. The role of a social media specialist has expanded beyond simply writing posts – it now encompasses strategy, creative development, planning and project management, data analysis, paid media, community management, editorial guidelines and tone, and much more. Social media usage has grown exponentially, as so has social media. I think companies are often still figuring out exactly where it fits into their organization’s strategy and overarching business goals, and I anticipate this will continue to shift.

Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?

Not currently, but I have received endlessly good advice from my old boss and great friend Owen Williams. He now runs his own social media company from Wales in the UK. I always send him a text when I have a professional or social media related question, and I always get thoughtful and concise advice in return. I was also lucky to have a great boss (hi Elizabeth!) at my first job in New York, who taught me so much about the importance of using data to inform creativity. I used to find Excel terrifying, but now I find it very empowering.

What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry, in general, and then specifically in the social media world?

If you’re looking to get your start in the music industry, I’d recommend starting somewhere or anywhere to simply get work experience on your resume. Nearly all skills are transferable so if you can demonstrate you have a passion for the area you’re applying for, you’ll likely stand a good chance. Once you’re building out your resume, start trying to learn as much as you can about the industry. Read job postings on LinkedIn, have informational coffees, take notice of what people do. You’ll start to gravitate towards certain elements of roles and get a better sense of the kind of thing you’d like to try. And finally, in terms of social media, I’d recommend building up all the core social media skills at any brand you can. If you can get experience in some kind of music capacity (such as a local venue, friend’s band), even better. But as I said, all skills are transferable and we often look at that when hiring. I’m a great example because I was moving from TV into music when I applied to Pitchfork.

What skills do you recommend someone focusing on if they want to be a social media manager?

If you want to work in social media, I’d recommend being cognizant of the brands you enjoy following on social media and why. Once you start critically engaging with your feed, you’ll notice that certain images or copy choices are more likely to trigger a double tap, comment or share. If you’re starting out, why not see if there are any local organizations or school-related initiatives that need help with their social? The good thing is, the tools are there and anyone can get started.

Working in social media is truly like having seven different jobs. You’re a strategist, project manager, curator, writer, producer, scheduler and data analyst. So in terms of skills, I’d say project management is vital. You have to be able to spin many plates at once without making a typo. And on that note, being a good communicator and writer is also essential.

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?

I haven’t experienced this yet, but I understand it’s unfortunately more common than you’d imagine. If I was in this position, I like to think I would say something. After all, lots of small actions are what creates meaningful change.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is such a difficult question to answer, not least from a Geographical perspective! I definitely want to try living in a different city and have been LA curious for a while so I sense that will probably be my next move. I’ve also thought about Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City, Sydney or Canggu. But who knows? Maybe even London or New York after all!

In terms of work, I definitely want to leverage my experience in content, creative and strategy in a more senior leadership role to create meaningful change in the music and entertainment industry. I also wholeheartedly believe in the idea of multi-hyphenated careers and would like to also: write a novel, write and direct a screenplay, present a TV series on sharks. Above all, I want to be happy and healthy!

What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?

As someone who works in social media, I’d love to see the pressure taken off artists to have a social media presence or “marketing plan” around a release. I, like many people, love following artists on social media but I truly believe they’re at their most interesting when they’re not relentlessly plugging a record. Privacy is definitely the new luxury and having a social media presence is almost a necessity these days, so I really respect artists when they decide to take a break to focus on their art. It’s a fine line to traverse.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of myself for the level of independence and resilience I’ve developed while living and working in another country for five years — two of which were during a Pandemic. I remember the night before my visa appointment at the US embassy in London back in 2017. I was talking myself down from the decision to move and convincing myself that I could, actually, have a very happy life in London. I’m sure I could have, but I’m glad I took the risk. I did this completely single-handedly and have had many solo adventures in-between. I may not be married or have children yet, but I’ve learned how to be alone. And I think that’s incredibly important.

Who is your dream artist or person to work with?

From a social media perspective, Phoebe Bridgers. She is one of my favorite artists to follow on social media. She just gets it. I read that one of the things she loves about running her label, Saddest Factory Records, is the creativity in marketing. I can imagine she’d be great at my job, actually.

What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

Live music. Even before working at Pitchfork you’d find me at a gig at least once a week. Even now, despite going to a lot of shows for work, it doesn’t feel like work at all. If 15 year old Katie knew that I was going to the concerts I go to, she would give a very firm nod of approval.

I also love nature and the outdoors. It’s the kind of yin to the yang of my hyper-connected social media life. I am a certified diver and wish I could do it more because exploring the ocean is one of the most magical experiences I’ve had in my lifetime. I hope I get to live next to the ocean at some point. Some may say I’m strange, but I’m mildly obsessed with sharks and I’m absolutely desperate to do this five day Great White Shark voyage. None of my friends want to join me though, no idea why?!! I’m pretty into film and can often be found going to the cinema solo, and walking around the city listening to endless podcasts. I used to make two for fun in my free time. And finally, I just bought a skateboard and am soon going to be that tragic 30-something year old at the skatepark. Watch out.

Who is your all-time favorite artist(s)?

Justin Vernon, and pretty much every musical project he’s touched. Bon Iver has soundtracked so many important moments in my life over the last 15 years. Every record comes with a lot of nostalgia and happy/sad memories.

What is something you can't live without?

Voicenotes from friends and family back in England and beyond. My twin brother lives in China and I haven’t seen him for three and a half years now because of COVID travel restrictions. The time difference makes it challenging to speak on the phone in real-time, so we often leave each other long ramblings about our lives.

Go-to Karaoke song?

I really want to get into karaoke. I’ve hardly ever done it, aside from on a stage in front of hundreds of people at Glastonbury the night Muse headlined (I sang a Muse song, which was very risky) and at a very awkward work offsite for a previous job (I sang Beastie Boys). That said, I’m pretty sure that when I do karaoke next, I’ll sing “Little by Little” or “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis. It feels very on brand.

Tea or coffee?

This is a very difficult question for a Brit who has been living in America for five years. Tea is my first love, but I’m now an iced coffee (with oat milk) kinda girl. Needless to say, I’ll never turn down a good cuppa.

First concert you went to?

The NME Awards tour, featuring Hundred Reasons, Thrice and Million Dead at the Astoria in London. I won tickets and had to be accompanied by an adult. Thank you to my cousin Colin, who was at university in London at the time, for taking me.

What’s something that you always have on you?

Aside from the obvious (phone, wallet, headphones, keys), I nearly always have my Minolta film camera with me. I started taking photos on film just before the pandemic and now it’s just part of my life. It forces me to be creative, think about getting the shot (rather than 50 options on an iPhone) and I absolutely love the ritual of picking up developed film and seeing all the photos you’d forgotten you’d taken. I upload some of my snaps here: @philoonfilm. Given how visually oriented my job is, it makes sense that I enjoy photography.

Lastly, what saying do you live by?

Oh my god. I'm a sucker for a good mantra, so I’m going to give you a few of my favorites and tell you why I love them:

I am exactly where I’m meant to be.

I am not sure who wrote this affirmation or exactly where I got it from, but it’s pretty simple and self explanatory. Everything that’s happening to you is meant to be happening to you, so relaaaax! It’s going to be ok! You’ll be able to connect the dots looking back eventually — see Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech for more comforting wisdom of this nature.

“I had no plans of any destination. I wish to flow like a river.” — Lailah Gifty Akita

I love to organize and plan things, but I’m coming to realize that life just doesn’t work that way. If you can learn to embrace uncertainty and roll with it, you’ll live an infinitely more exciting life. Let life surprise you.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle – Philo of Alexandria

Try to be kind, always. (I also love that this came from a famous philosopher with the same name as me. Although, I have read this is mistakenly attributed to him, but I will continue to attribute it to him for that reason).

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

It’s not the problem but the way you’re thinking about it. My dad taught me this and always says it to me when I’m stressed about something. Reframing the way you’re thinking about something is so powerful, and it’s usually possible to find silver linings in the most unlikely places.

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