Be patient and strategic. When you’re building something you get tunnel vision. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and be strategic.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Edgar.
As an executive in the entertainment business for over a decade, Michelle’s expertise and focus is securing partnerships for her artists as VP brand marketing at Epic Records with clients including Travis Scott, Meghan Trainor, Black Eyed Peas, Wu Tang Clan, Madison Beer and Monsta X. She also secured key sponsors American Express, Shea Moisture, Kering, Morgan Stanley for the 2019 Spirit of Life Gala honoring Epic Records Chairman and CEO Sylvia Rhone. Michelle formerly was a branding agent at ICM Partners for artists across all genres of music. Additionally, Michelle Edgar founded The XX Project over 8 years ago and has made it part of her everyday life to inspire and empower women in business through this network and platform by providing leading women in business with resources and tools to enhance their lives to propel business forward. She is also the Executive Director of Music Unites, a non-profit funding after-school music education programs to empower youth through music. With programs across New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, Music Unites is focused on its Music-Versity digital series in partnership with the Compton Unified School district over the next few months to help empower students through this challenging climate.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My passion has always been music. Since the age of five, I played the piano and would sit there for countless hours until I convinced my mother years later to send me to Manhattan School Music, followed by Northwestern University where I trained with Ursula Oppens as a concert pianist. With my passion for business and marketing, I dedicated a career in the music business. Giving back and providing students with the same educational opportunities was always a priority to me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
At the time I was an editor at WWD and realized that music was missing from my life and I remember learning about El Sistema and Gustavo Dudahmel’s journey and that’s when I got inspired to launch Music Unites to empower youth through music and provide the best-in-class music education and after-school programs along with teaching students about the careers in the business through our Music-Versity programs. I am inspired by all the students who have been impacted through our programs and been inspired by their tremendous growth watching them blossom in high school through college and pursuing their dreams as an artist or music executive. From having our Music Unites Youth Choir perform for the first time at Carnegie Hall to going into the studio to record with Swizz Beatz, to workshops at the Harlem Jazz Museum with Jon Batiste to performing for Quincy Jones at the Tribeca Film Festival and having our students perform at the Annie premiere have all been highlights. Most recently we had Aloe Blacc visit our Music Unites Compton Unified School District program and are in discussions on creating a special graduation song.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ll never forget signing the document that I would raise over 25K dollars to fund our first Music Unites Youth Choir program for several years. I had zero fundraising and events experience and remember my dad asking me why I would sign a legal document committing to that as I only had a year. I told him, not to worry I will figure it out and our very first fundraiser with Sting and Trudie tied to their “Twin Spirits” project. Few months later, our students were asked to perform at Carnegie Hall at The Who tribute.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Music Unites funds after-school music education programs across New York, Los Angeles and Chicago by creating custom programs whether choir, instrumental, beats production. Our goal is to build Music Unites Academy’s and educate students on the different careers in the music business through our Music-Versity programs. To inspire students through music and mentors transforms their lives.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I’m so proud of the three star students from our very first Music Unites Choir: Candace Camacho, Kyle Alfred and Anson Li who have all graduated from our programs and went to study music and pursue a career in the business and pursue their dreams as artists.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Music is always the first thing to go in schools when there are budget cuts. It’s so important for students to have an outlet to develop these skills as it’s instrumental and important for personal development, self-expression not to mention the healing power that music has.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is empowering those around you to lead by example and further your mission. Team makes the dream work.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be patient and strategic. When you’re building something you get tunnel vision. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and be strategic.
- Master marketing. It’s key to learn all forms of marketing and especially now more so than ever the digital and content landscape.
- Study fundraising. Learn all the different forms of fundraising and what is best suited for your business.
- Empower your team. Help provide your team with tools and resources to grow and lead to further scale your organization’s mission.
- Identify valuable mentors who you can ask for help. You’re not supposed to know everything, don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Music Unites is a movement and we are excited to continue impacting and inspiring people around the world with the work we are doing to serve the community. Music empowers, music inspires, music unites us all. Excited for Music Unites to go global and serve students around the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Follow the music” — My mentor and boss Peter Born at WWD said these words to me the last day I worked for him and those words stuck in my head. I didn’t know at first what he meant, and then I realized what he was saying to pursue my passion as I shined and lit up when I was pursuing my passion in the music space.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Gustavo Dudamel, Lyor Cohen, and Richard Branson. I want to help Gustavo with the future of classical music as he’s paving the way leading the LA Philharmonic. Lyor is a true visionary in the music business that I’ve always looked up to back when I had the opportunity to work at Warner Bros. Records when he was leading the charge. Richard’s is a brand building marketing machine and I want him to put me to work and teach me a few of his secrets on Necker Island.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
www.musicunites.org @music_unites @michme12
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!