If you are a woman with qualms about entering the music industry, Heather Lowery’s story will motivate you to take action.
“Music is my passion. I am a music-lover first and foremost. So I knew that I wanted a career in this industry. I thought I wanted to be an entertainment attorney. What I wanted to do specifically has changed several times but from high school on I never stopped working toward my goal.”
Before she was the entrepreneurial force of nature she is today, Heather worked as a secretary…for one of the most notable and iconic figures in the music industry.
“I worked for Larry Gold during the height of the Philly Soul Movement, which was such an amazing experience. I started as a receptionist at “The Studio” but realized Larry needed much more so I took control, and quickly became the General Manager. I ran his business, booking his studios and strings, which allowed Larry to focus on producing, conducting and arranging. I feel like I was a part of history….The Roots, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Floetry, Erykah Badu, Glenn Lewis, Common all recorded classic albums at the Studio and everyone – Jennifer Lopez, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, R. Kelly….went to Larry Gold for his string arrangements. I learned so much about music and the music business working for Larry. It was there that the late Gerald Levert named me Sylvia De Passe (Sylvia Rhone & Suzanne De Passe names combined). And it was there that I learned how to run a business.”
Lowery took what she learned and moved on to become the assistant to the Senior Vice President of Urban Contemporary Music at the award-winning William Morris Agency, a talent agency where she would cultivate her ability to book artists and to manage, market and scout new talent.
“When I left [WMA], I didn’t really have a plan. I always thought I would stay and work my way up the ranks. I started working in artist management. I handled booking. I got a lot of calls from boutique agencies and I thought I can do what they are doing but better. It was never my plan to be an entrepreneur, it just kind of happened. It was in God’s plans.”
In 2005, Heather Lowery launched a boutique talent firm in New York City called Agency for Artists LLC (AFA). A decade later, her independently owned business has expanded into an all encompassing service for artists that includes strategic marketing, sponsorships and endorsements, publicity, brand development, promotions and concert/tour bookings.
“I think booking Prince for a trio of shows in Connecticut,” has been her favorite career moment thus far. “And they were sold out every night. First, me being able to book Prince was incredible and then being there for the shows, seeing how the fans responded to him just made it all worth it.”
She is also an active member of WEEN (Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network). In an industry that, like most, is so heavily dominated by men Lowery admits, “There definitely have been obstacles that I have had to face, that I might not have had to go through had I not been a woman. I had a very strong upbringing, and I went to Spelman College so I was taught a lot about how to be a leader and how to basically not accept any limitations. I know that there is nothing that I can’t do because I am a woman.”
Despite her confidence, Lowery also makes an argument for humility: “There have been a few times where I had to [take a] step down, you know from graduating to being a receptionist, or from being a manager to being an assistant. You may think that you are in a great position and then you may decide you want to change careers. So the number one advice that I always give people from experience is not to be afraid to make a change. You have to be willing to start from the bottom again every time to work your way to the top… I know that with family it can be hard for women. It takes a lot of work and commitment but its possible. We really can have it all.”
Her top five favorite artists? “That’s a hard question because sometimes I am a fan of an artist, and sometimes I love just an album. So currently, it would be J Cole…Teyana Taylor, her album really shocked me. I was completely shocked, I did not expect it. You know, all of the artists that I work with I am stumbling on this question. I’d say Trey Songz. For my old school artists, I’d say Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston…you asked me for five *laughs*.”