Sheema Siddiqi: Head of Digital for Activist Artist Management
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi! My name is Sheema Siddiqi and I am Head of Digital for Activist Artist Management. I’m originally from Wilmington, Delaware but got my start in the music industry while I was living in London, UK.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I have been working in the music industry for 10 years. I interned a lot in college and was able to network with people who were in the entertainment industry. I used to read a blog about making the transition from college to career and the woman who wrote it offered a mentorship scheme. I reached out and told her what I wanted to do, and she linked me with a woman who worked in tech PR at the time. I met with her a few times, and she knew of someone was looking for a digital marketing assistant at a management company. I interviewed and got the job!
Did you always know you wanted to be in digital marketing? Originally, I had wanted to work in PR, but I had a PR internship in college and didn’t enjoy it. When I graduated, Facebook and Twitter were becoming prominent marketing tools and once I started my job as a digital marketing assistant, I realized that there was a lot of opportunity for growth within digital and that I was good at it.
When did you know being in the music industry 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”? In high school, I helped put together a ‘Battle of the Bands’ with local high schools to raise money for a women’s shelter. On the day, my job was to look after the bands and make sure they went onstage at the correct times and ready to go. I remember having the best day and thinking that if I could do that as a job, I would be set!
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry? I definitely struggle with impostor syndrome from time to time and I have to remind myself that I have worked hard to get where I am, and I have just as much right to be there than anyone else. It helps me to remember that even Michelle Obama struggles with impostor syndrome sometimes! I also struggle having a work/life balance- the music industry can be all consuming, so I try to make it a priority to hang out with friends and do non-work related activities.
What is the best part of your job? Why? The best part of my job is seeing creative ideas come to fruition and witnessing fans get excited about engaging with their favorite artists.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry? There have been a lot of really great people who have guided me throughout my career. Jez Hughes helped me understand how album campaigns work and identified what my strengths within digital marketing were. Genevieve Ampaduh has also given me a lot of career advice, especially on how to advocate for myself. I have been lucky enough to be friends with a lot of really smart and talented women within the industry that I can turn to for guidance and support.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry? The best advice I have for women who want to get into the music industry is to just got for it! Be tenacious, be passionate and work hard. Surround yourself with people who support, inspire and uplift you, and remember to have fun and find some joy in what you do.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? All the time- being a woman in an industry that is still dominated by men is tough. There are many times when I have been ignored, spoken over, or people have gone over my head to my bosses when they didn’t like the answer I was giving them. I’ve been mistaken for an artist's sister or girlfriend. I’ve learned to try and brush off those moments and keep pushing forward cause it’s their issue, not mine.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to be still working in music with artists that I am passionate about and overseeing a kick-ass diverse digital department. I would also like to have made an impact as a woman of color in the music industry.
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 going to the movies, hanging out with friends, traveling, and going to see stand up. I have also made reading a priority so I am not spending every minute staring at screens.
Was there anyone that ever doubted your passion? I don’t think anyone has doubted my passion- I love music so much and I have been lucky enough to work with artists that I would be a fan of. I believe my passion is evident in my work.
Is there anything else in the industry you would like to try that you haven’t gotten a chance to? I think I would make an excellent music supervisor for a TV show or a movie. I love the idea of choosing music that would make a scene even more poignant.
Who is your all-time favorite artist? The Backstreet Boys- I have been a fan since I was 8, and I really admire how they have sustained such a long career in pop music. Getting a #1 album and a Grammy nomination after 26 years is no small feat. Honorable mention goes to The Beatles, whose music I grew up with and who set the stage for modern pop music.
What is something you can't live without? Music, burritos, red velvet Oreos and my friends
What is the hardest thing about being on the road? Living out of a suitcase and being away from friends and family for long periods of time. Also, getting alone time. I love doing my own thing on off days because there’s no personal space on a tour bus!
You mentioned you toured with big artists like One Direction and Little Mix, what was that like? Who else have you toured with? Touring with 1D and Little Mix was such a fun experience! I’ve also toured with Hey Violet, 5 Seconds of Summer and Niall Horan. Being on tour has made me better at my job- getting to know the artists and seeing what their schedule on tour is like allows me to suggest digital activations they would actually want to do.
What is your favorite tour memory? I remember being in Chicago with One Direction when they released ‘Drag Me Down’ as a surprise. The next night on tour in Indianapolis, the guys performed it and every single person in the audience knew the words to the song. It was such an epic moment and a testament to how passionate their fans are.
What is something you always take with you on tour? A friend once told me to bring my own sheets, so I always do that as it feels homier on the tour bus A good book, ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones are also key.
Do you still tour now? Not as much as I used to, but plan on going to a few dates throughout the year depending on if artists need more digital support.
What is a day in the life of Sheema like? The best thing about my job is that no two days are the same. I typically start with checking Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for news & to see what my artists have been posting. I then check emails, take conferences calls and check in with digital agencies I’m working with. Some days, I’ll take my artists to promo. Other days, I may be touching base with a digital partner or meeting with new tech platforms.
Who is your dream artist or band work with? I would love to work with John Mayer because he is the funniest artist on Instagram and has really made the platform his own. And Coldplay because their live shows are epic.
First concert you went to? The Backstreet Boys in Tampa, Florida. I lost my voice for a week after!
Tea or Coffee? Peppermint tea or a caramel latte
What’s your favorite season? I love summer, because it means going to the beach, festivals, going on vacation and my birthday
What’s something that you always have on you? My cell phone and a portable charger- I get anxiety if my phone goes under 40%!
What is a saying you live by? ‘Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.’- Conan O’Brien
Images courtesy of Sheema Siddiqi