For the past 25 years, Jenna Rose has had an unparalleled passion for supporting musicians, and an unmatched penchant for building relationships.
What started as superfandom for Tulsa-based sibling trio (and “MMMBop” songsmiths) Hanson has turned into two-and-a-half decades of connecting with people through music. Upon moving to Nashville in 2020, Jenna quickly immersed herself in the music industry, co-founding her own female-owned community organization, Music City Movement; becoming a contributor for Underground Music Collective; and, most recently, joining Nashville-based artist development company AGD Entertainment as an artist coach and program manager.
How has Jenna done it? By mastering the art of networking. Today, we’re honored to have Jenna share her insights and expertise with us!
Psst… after you read this interview, put some of your newfound knowledge to the test by signing up for Muze and connecting with your community. It’s free, it’s easy, and you can do it right here!
First, what was your entry point into the music industry?
Well, that depends on how far back you want to go. My interest in the music industry was sparked by my passionate obsession with Hanson, starting in 1997 when I was about 12 years old. I organized my first music festival at 15 with a handful of friends in Tulsa, OK – the first annual Hanson Fanfest 2001. After that, I continued to get involved wherever I could, mostly with friends and independent artists I really loved. One of those artists – a Nashville local who I had discovered when his band opened for Hanson – ended up taking me on in a big way. I helped Austin Williams (The Slow Drag) with day-to-day management and business development tasks for a few years, and really owe the majority of my most important experience – and my formal entry into the industry – to him. He trusted and empowered me with a lot of projects and decisions regarding his musical career, and put me through AGD Entertainment’s Zero to 60 program for artists and artist management. In 2020, I moved to Nashville and transitioned into the music industry full time, starting up Music City Movement with my business partner, Michelle Stone, and now working with AGD as a Program Manager for that very same program that helped me to get where I am now.
You have a hand in so many parts of the independent arts scene here in Nashville. Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now, and how your relationships have played a role in helping you find opportunities.
Everything I do is centered around, and fueled by, the strong bonds and relationships I’ve built within the community and industry.
I’ve always been passionate about finding ways to lift and empower artists. So, the first thing I did when I got to town in April of 2020 was connect with the few artists that I knew, to provide pro-bono coaching sessions and help them cope with the halt in the industry (and life). I helped them figure out how to set new goals for themselves and create actionable steps to achieve them. For a couple years prior to my move to Nashville, I had been building a kinship with Underground Music Collective founder, Gerard Longo, through song submissions, email, and social media exchanges regarding artist features and promo. So, upon my arrival in Nashville, I immediately got on board with UMC as a content contributor, as another way to help empower artists via press. I was also able to get involved with the business development and production sides of things. This all helped shine a spotlight on the artists and community members who were really reaching to thrive through the pandemic, and to continue to keep their careers afloat. Getting to work with them firsthand – through livestream productions, artist interviews, and song/album features – and to start to build those connections, even in the midst of a pandemic, was invaluable.
Shortly after I moved to town, Michelle and I attended one of the few musical events that were actually happening in 2020. It aimed to feature local artists and build a scene around original music. The concept hit home, and the magic in the air was evident. So we tracked down those in charge, started a conversation, and got involved. That lead to us branching off and starting our own series, Music City Movement, which has now evolved into many things, including networking and education events, open mics, writers rounds, and showcases. All of our events are focused on building community and creating opportunity for the artists involved. Providing that space has allowed us to build meaningful relationships with many of those who regularly attend and participate in the events and the community, and has gifted us the opportunity to watch many careers, projects, and relationships blossom.
Due to my involvement in so many areas of the industry, I’ve been able to build a lot of relationships. I tend to be out at local shows and events several nights a week, supporting my friends and the artists I believe in. In turn, that strengthens those relationships. and exposes me to new artists and projects I want to get involved with.
I’ve also been able to utilize many of those same relationships outside of music in my own creative endeavors, such as modeling and dance. I’ve had the opportunity to dance on stage with many local artists and creatives, and collaborate with a myriad of talented models and photographers whom I’ve met through the same avenues I’ve been discussing here.
When you first entered the music industry, what did you find to be the most effective ways to network and build relationships?
Consistently being present and paying attention. There is nothing like consistency. When you regularly show up and support your friends, people notice – and they want to know you. Everyone appreciates a philanthropist. If you pay attention and show up where there are needs to be met, give to your community, and express your interest, they’ll show up for you in return. It’s not always tit-for-tat, but the tide will continue to rise in your favor over time.
Certainly, technology has changed what it means to “network” in any creative field; giving us exponentially more opportunities to connect with others in the industry – perhaps, to an overwhelming degree. For somebody entering the game now, where would you suggest they begin?
TikTok. I know the majority of those over the age of 25 hate to hear it, but that platform is offering almost guaranteed success at the moment. If you play it right and make smart decisions with that leverage, you can really take it a long way. There is also an amazing community on TikTok that shouldn’t be overlooked.
I often hear artists complaining about how social media affects their mental health, and I get it. It can be a very toxic place. I think the key to surviving social media, if you’re someone who feels negatively affected by it, is to stop treating it as something you do in your down time or as a distraction, and start treating it like a job. If you worked in an office, and part of your job was to post a certain number of videos and photos for the business on Instagram every day, or to make a certain number of comments on posts, you’d do it without complaint, and it wouldn’t affect your mental health. Think of it in exactly that way. Budget a certain number of hours per day or week to work on your social media presence, and then turn it off completely. For the majority of artists, social media isn’t going to be something they can ignore without it having a significantly negative impact on their careers. I believe that shifting the way we look at the parts of the job we don’t like is the key to overcoming the dread.
Even with all of the technological advances, does grassroots networking (i.e.; in-person) still work?
Here’s the difference: the majority of in-person networking is usually going to be focused around building your resources, your networks, your personal and professional relationships, and your opportunities. The majority of online efforts are usually going to be focused around building your audience. While there may be plenty of crossover in those areas, committing to budgeting time for both is very important.
From your experience, what personality traits tend to benefit creatives when building relationships?
Obviously, extroverts and those who like to socialize are going to have the easiest time networking and building relationships. But, when it comes down to it, the qualities that benefit you in this industry are just the same things that benefit you in life: authenticity, being a good friend, doing kind things for others, helping when you have the capacity, and knowing your boundaries – and expressing them with tact – when you don’t.
On the flipside, what shouldn’t creatives do if they’re looking to build lasting relationships in the industry?
Be difficult, complain, or be rude. One of the most important things you can do for your career is to be a good hang. The best opportunities you’re going to get in this industry are usually going to come from your friends. And, this industry is a tight-knit community. Burning one bridge means burning many. Don’t make enemies, and don’t make the mistake of discounting people because you think you have more experience than they do or are more knowledgeable in certain areas.
No one is an expert in this industry right now. This iteration is too young. Where you lack in knowledge, the person you thought was an idiot may be very well-versed. There is too much information out there for any one person to have a good grasp on all of it. So, assume that someone who knows very little about one area of the industry may have a wealth of knowledge in another.
Anything else you think we should know?
Think about it less as networking, and more as friendship building and leveling up your quality of life. Almost anything can be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your community and your friends, so think outside the box. Put yourself into situations where those who share your vision will be present. The obvious places to network are shows and local events, but don’t discount the more intimate places to build relationships: co-writes, songwriting retreats, podcast interviews (hosting your own or being a guest on someone else’s), calling up that one person you connected with a while back and inviting them for coffee. Host an acoustic jam in the park. Join Facebook groups for creatives with similar goals. Take the initiative to step outside your comfort zone to expand your horizons.
And, if you’re looking for a place to start, I’ll be hosting a free Q&A at 12 p.m. CT on Tuesday, August 23. We’ll deep dive into finding opportunities in networking, and share tips and best practices for maximizing those opportunities. It will include an open discussion. Plus, you’ll get access to our online community, which has a wealth of resources and ways to connect. If you’d like to attend, you can sign up here.