Zoe Gillespie: Director of Brand Partnerships at Capitol Music Group
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
My name is Zoe Gillespie and I am a Director of Brand Partnerships at Capitol Music Group. I was born in New York but grew up in LA and am a “West Side” loyalist.
How did you get your start in the industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I started out as an intern at Capitol Records in 2012 in the Publicity Department. After graduating from Boston University, I was hired as a Coordinator supporting both the Publicity and Digital departments. After a few years in Digital, I made the switch to Brand Partnerships and have been doing this ever since.
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”?
I don’t think there was an “aha moment” per se, because music has been a thread throughout my entire life.
My siblings and I were more encouraged to pick up instruments than play sports. Our dad Geordie, is a percussionist and worked in Radio Promotion at labels when we were growing up so music was a constant in our household. We always had music playing in the background, anything from Steely Dan to João Gilberto to Gorillaz, Alanis Morissette, and Kanye West. I was taught the concept of an “elevator pitch” when I was 5-years-old which may sound odd, but showed me the effectiveness of conciseness.
When I was in high school, I promoted for an all ages Hollywood club called Seduction (yes, it really was called that). Unbeknownst to my parents at first, I marketed the events on MySpace, sold tickets, and helped make sure it was packed every week of the summer. Seeing a line around the block and hearing the DJ play our favorite summer music is something my friends and I still talk about to this day. That energy was exciting to be a part of and definitely attributed to my desire to work in the music industry.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
Work-life balance. Everyone talks about it, but not many people actually practice it effectively. Our work is 24/7 and so competitive that there tends to be a “if you’re not doing it, someone else will” mentality. It’s easy to think if you miss that one event, one show, one email that might change the trajectory of your career. I make a conscious effort to hold myself to also make time for that one class, one night out with friends, one weekend without work talk that might change the trajectory of my life. Ultimately, life experience will make me a better executive and teammate to my peers and our artists.
What is the best part of your job? Why?
The artists. I feel so fortunate to work with the roster that I do – they are some of the most talented, outspoken, creative individuals in the world and sometimes I have to pause just to absorb it all.
And, of course, the incredible partners I get to collaborate with on our artists’ visions.
Who are some of the women who have helped guide your career thus far?
There are so many!
I’m very fortunate that Capitol Music Group has incredible women in leadership positions – over half of our senior staff is female – and that I get to work for Michelle Jubelirer, one of the most badass and smart executives in the business.
Meredith Gardner, of Maverick Management, gave me a chance when I was fresh out of college, mentored me and taught me the importance of thick skin and balance early on. Working for an unapologetic, strong female executive the first few years of my career shaped me so much.
It’s important to recognize men who elevate women in our industry, too, and I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive boss, Brian Nolan, who challenges me to be better every day. His energy and reputation are unparalleled and he champions all of the women in our building and on our roster.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Network with purpose and be confident about what makes you unique. It’s so important to do your research before attempting to meet up with someone to “pick their brain” because guaranteed they are already getting 10+ LinkedIn and Instagram messages per day from your peers. Make yourself stand out by asking thoughtful questions and pursuing a network of people who are innovators in lanes that you’re actually interested in, not just to get a foot in the door to ask for another intro.
Always have a “no job is too small” mentality. Even as a mid-level executive, you will be doing tedious tasks – it’s just part of the grind. There is so much value in not skipping the important steps and if you do it right, you’ll likely gain access to and be recognized by some of the most powerful executives in the industry who can open the next door for you.
Lastly, be fearless. You owe it to yourself, the women who took risks to pave the way and the women who will one day look up to you.
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’ve never felt explicitly turned down for being female, but I have been mistaken for my counterpart’s assistant on email. I’ve also been and have witnessed others get tuned out likely because we’re women or because of our age. It’s important to support each other and back each other up – if your colleague gets interrupted, help her get the floor back to finish her point.
In these situations, I remain confident in my opinion and, most importantly, I brush it off. Negativity often stems from the other person’s ignorance or insecurity and I refuse to spend time absorbing that energy.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Free time and hobbies are key to staying balanced and it wasn’t until this year that I held myself accountable for my “me time.” I take cooking classes, my girlfriends and I are in a monthly book club, I hike and spin, I add to my sneaker collection and I try new restaurants. It’s also important to have a community outside of the music industry who will (hopefully) give you unbiased, honest perspective and keep you grounded.
You mentioned you travel a lot for work, what do you always travel with? How often do you travel?
I’m actually on a plane as I write this. I’ve been on almost 40 planes this year so far and it’s safe to say I have packing down to a science. My Away “Everywhere” Bag, for starters, keeps me organized and prepared for any trip. I keep it packed at all times with a phone charger, my Kindle, chapstick, Nuun hydration tablets and headphones so that I can easily grab-and-go before a trip. I also research restaurants, coffee shops, etc. ahead of time and star them in Google Maps so I’m prepared to show partners and artists a good time.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Impossible to choose!
What is something you can't live without?
My soda stream! I have an addiction to sparkling water.
Go-to Karaoke song?
Probably something from Kelly Clarkson, Aretha Franklin, or Spice Girls
Tea or Coffee?
Iced almond milk latte. Every. Day. (Sometimes 2x per day)
Favorite music event?
I went to Austin City Limits a few years ago with a group of about 20 friends and it was one of the best weekends of my life. I need to go back!
What’s something that you always have on you?
A portable charger, Glossier lip balm, and Altoids.
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
I get to work with them every day! But my 5-year-old self would say Spice Girls.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
No two days are the same. Some days I’m out meeting with partners and pitching artists for a new campaign, shooting content with a brand and an artist, on set of a music video or working on an experiential activation. It’s always changing and that’s what I love most.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If you asked me five years ago where I would be, there’s no way I’d dream up what I’m doing now. That’s the beauty of being open to opportunities and constantly accepting and pursuing new challenges.
In the next 5 years, I want to grow into a leadership role that not only continues to create innovative and strategic opportunities for artists to get their music out to the world but helps young professionals – especially women – to grow in the industry.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
We’re already on our way but I hope to see exponentially more women involved and credited across all levels and aspects of the music industry, from music creation to mid-level and leadership roles to running labels and management groups.
What is most exciting brand you have worked with?
I truly love all of the brands I’ve been able to work with, otherwise it wouldn’t be an authentic experience.
One of my favorite partners to work with is Lyft because they understand how to integrate seamlessly into all verticals of entertainment and culture while making bold statements. Chloe Slobotkin, Jessica Zhang, Bette Ann Schlossberg and Hannah Broadhurst are some of the amazing women who are absolutely crushing it at Lyft.
Working on the MAC Viva Glam 25th anniversary campaign with Troye Sivan this year was also a career highlight – he and his team, MAC’s Petrina Goldman and all the talent and creatives involved are amazing and it was a special moment for an incredible cause.
There’s another project launching soon I’ve absolutely loved being a part of, so stay tuned on that!
What are you most proud of?
Forbes wrote about an article about Capitol Music Group’s International Women’s Day event this year. I framed the piece entitled “Why Capitol Music Group’s International Women’s Day Event Is So Important For The Music Industry” (shout out Lauren Alvarez) and keep it next to my computer at work as a daily reminder to keep passion and progression at the core of everything I do.
I’ve also had the privilege to help oversee Capitol’s “Hollywood & Vine” summer internship program over the years. We focus on project-based initiatives that challenge our interns to answer real music industry questions. We truly have the best, most diverse talent and to date, I’ve helped “graduate” 60 students through our program. I love staying in touch with them and witnessing them develop their careers.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
“Just because it’s over, doesn’t mean it’s really over.” – Katy Perry. Never take “no” for an answer.