As part of our daytime programing, we’re excited to be hosting 411 Music Group CEO Kristen Agee. As a lifelong musician who shifted into the business side of music about five years ago – starting her own company in 2012 and growing it that same year – Agee’s story is a case study in how it’s possible to make a living from doing what you love. We sat down for a quick chat with her in advance of her attendance at the Conference in November.
Alberta Electronic Music: Hi Kristen. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Kristen Agee: I grew up in Oklahoma first got involved with music when I took up classical violin. I played in orchestras my entire life, and when I turned 18 I moved to LA. On my last day of high school, I just packed everything up and didn’t look back.
When I got to LA, I got into writing music full-time, I went to audio engineering school and learned about gear, and I started recording punk bands in a studio that I built in Silver Lake. At the same time, I was touring and played in a few bands. Then I shifted gears and started focusing on writing for film and TV.
AEM: How did 411 come to be?
KA: I kept finding people who were better than me – better at classical composition and orchestration, DJing, production – and so I just started working with all these different teams.
I was always very entrepreneurial and I always had that in my brain, as a kid, that I would run my own thing. It's still lifelong arts, I'm still producing – I just oversee everything on a bigger scale, as opposed to being in the studio – which I miss, to be honest.
AEM: What was it like, transitioning from an artist or creator's role to a more executive one?
KA: It had its faults! I didn't have any direction going into this. I just did it. I've just been figuring it out as I go. I was lucky to have good creative people around me.
There were definitely discouraging moments – like, what am I doing? – but on the other side of that, I kept pressing forward. Compare what I know now to what I knew 5 years ago, and it's just insanely different. It’s constantly evolving.
The bigger we get, the more pressure I feel. Our composers, artists, clients and such – we're trying to do the best work that we can.
AEM: Why do artists need to understand the work you do?
KA: Oh my god, it's huge. Understanding what you need to make your music heard – to get it into the ears of the people through commercials, video games and such – is so important.
Synchronization is the new A&R – it's what gets people excited now. Whenever you get your song onto the end credits of a primetime show, or as a bumper for a network – that can launch you into a new space as an artist. Many people don't understand it – it's a very important part of the industry.
And what advice do you have for artists who want to make a living from their work?
The people we work with consistently, they get it. It's the people who are new to this industry who are the most apprehensive. I'd encourage everyone to get familiar with the business side of it, to maximize your monetary growth from your craft.
Fear is a big part of it. Like, "what if this becomes the next big hit? This company owns it forever." The odds of that happening are pretty slim. If you hang onto something that's great, and never do anything with it, then it'll never have a chance to become great in the public eye. Don't hold onto things, and just put them out there.