Roanne Mesirow: CEO of Mezz Entertainment
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
My name is Roanne Mesirow and I was born and raised in The Windy City of Chicago, Illinois. I attended college at the University of Redlands located in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Here, I studied International Business and French, and in my junior year I studied abroad in Paris, France. Today, I am the CEO of Mezz Entertainment, an NYC-based management and consulting firm overseeing the careers of a variety of talent from singer-songwriters and DJs to fashion brands and everything in between.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I got my start in June 2015, when I held an event planning position at the Ace Hotel in New York City. One day at work, a young lady that did event production sat next to me and overheard me on the phone with my clients. This coworker attended New York University's Clive Davis Institute so she was interested in the music industry, and she told me that she had “never met someone as on top of their shit” as me. That quote always stuck with me and planted a seed of motivation within me to pursue a career in artist management. She became my first client, and within a month, I had an entertainment lawyer and a contract.
When did you know being in the music industry was what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “wow, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
I knew that I wanted to be in the music industry when I started working with my first client in the previously mentioned story. I dove in head first, but it never really felt like work. That was how I knew I was meant to be in this industry. You are winning when it doesn’t feel like work and you are having fun with your job.
Were there any challenges that presented themselves when you first started working in the music industry? How did you overcome them?
It is definitely a challenge being a female working in the entertainment industry, and especially in hip-hop. I face a lot of judgment, because people think that you are a poser; I had to show people that I was genuine and that I cared about what I was doing. I overcame these challenges by building relationships with people and reaching out to my connections for help.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
The best part of my job is seeing people grow and challenge themselves. It is amazing to see someone accomplish something that they never thought they would be able to accomplish. I love working with the interns and mentoring them. I am a huge people person so I am all about building a team; two heads are always better than one.
What inspired you to start Mezz Entertainment?
Working with my first client really inspired me to start Mezz Entertainment. She was very encouraging and wanted me to start a business. She had a friend who was a rapper as well and wanted to be managed by me, so things really started to pick up from there. My accountant advised me to start an LLC and make it a legitimate company because it would help me grow overall, and Mezz Entertainment was born.
How would you say your work in public relations prepared you to run your own entertainment company, and for the role of CEO?
My work in public relations has helped me learn a lot of things, mainly how to keep track of so many things at once and to never be afraid to talk to people. I started working at a very young age and one of my first jobs was at a high-end boutique in Chicago. I was only sixteen and the owner was hesitant to hire me, but I asked her to let me work there for two weeks to prove myself, and I did just that. I also worked as an assistant at WME which was a great experience. I have always been super outspoken, and these jobs prepared me for my position at Mezz.
You maintain a large team of interns each academic semester. What is something that you aim to instill in those who work at Mezz Entertainment?
Things that I aim to instill in those who work at Mezz are self-confidence, strong communication skills, being okay with making mistakes and learning from them, a strong work ethic, and persistence.
How much would you say your academic experiences, including studying International Business and spending a year abroad in Paris, helped you to develop your skillset for working in the music industry?
I think my academic experiences helped me a lot in developing my skill set for working in the music industry. The fashion internship I did in Paris taught me how to juggle a million things at once. I was surrounded by so many different people ranging from stylists to models to designers, it forced me to be quick on my feet and be ready to face challenges head-on. It made the transition easy and I was able to jump headfirst into the industry.
Is there someone you consider a mentor in the industry?
I consider Reggie Hawkins, the former program director for Shade 45 and Hip-Hop Nation at SiriusXM, to be a mentor in the industry. He was one of the first people to give me the time of day with my first client. He would always answer my calls and emails when I had questions or needed advice. To this day, I still work with Reggie, and he has been by my side as Mezz has grown throughout the years.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
I would advise women entering the music industry to find and surround themselves with good people. It is important to find people that are open-minded and will support you during the early stages of your career. Also, you have to make sure to get a good feel for a company’s culture before you dive in. Do your research!
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a woman in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
There have definitely been moments people have doubted me. People perceive women differently in this industry, typically more inclined to sexualize you before they take you seriously. But you must stay strong and remain motivated in order to establish yourself; from selling pencil grips when I was 7 years old, I’ve always strived to defy people’s expectations of me and, as a woman in the entertainment industry, you’re forced to do that on a regular basis.
What are your favorite genres of music?
My favorite genres are Hip-Hop and Alternative Rock.
Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on?
I honestly don’t have one particular project that is my favorite because I love all of the projects that I work on with my client’s. They all create different and unique experiences. I enjoy being in the studio and listening to beats while my client is working on new tracks. It is amazing to see the art unfold right before me. One of my favorite events that I got to be a part of is The Essence Festival a few years ago when an artist I was managing performed there. It was incredible to be working in that atmosphere with amazing artists and awesome people behind the scenes.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time (which we know can be very hard to find)?
I love to go hiking, do yoga, draw and paint.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
What is something you can't live without?
My organizer and my cell phone.
Go-to Karaoke song?
“Killing Me Softly” by Lauryn Hill
Tea or Coffee?
First concert you went to?
My first concert was in 2003 at the Rock the Mic Tour in Philadelphia which featured rappers like 50 Cent, Jay-Z, and Missy Elliot.
What is something you always have on you?
My organizer, my cell phone, lip gloss and dental floss.
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
The Weeknd, Drake, or Lil Wayne
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
There really is no such thing as a typical day in my life, which is why I love this industry!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
On private planes traveling internationally on tour with artists and having at least three offices!
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
Within the next few years, I hope to see more females working in the higher-up positions of the entertainment industry. Also, I want to see more films and documentaries being produced about successful females, whether they’re in the music industry or something completely different!
What are you most proud of?
The growth of Mezz and watching how it evolved from a conversation and an idea to an actual company.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
It is better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.