As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan to Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Farris. She is the Chief Digital Officer for the Recording Academy®, overseeing the evolution of the organization’s digital media platforms and supporting its mission through omni-channel strategies and execution. In collaboration with the Recording Academy’s leadership team, Farris is responsible for building upon the foundational elements of the organization that support all music creators, while connecting music audiences and stakeholders across digital platforms.
In her role, she is tasked with transforming and innovating digital experiences, while keeping the Recording Academy attuned to the changing media landscape. Farris leads the Digital Media team responsible for audience growth, product strategy and development, content strategy, production distribution, and data analytics. Under Farris’s leadership, the Digital Media team forges relationships with technology partners to further drive innovation and improve experiences across all digital touchpoints.
Prior to joining the Recording Academy, Farris served as chief digital & brand officer for MetricVision; co-founder of Get This, a technology that leveraged audio recognition to shop video entertainment; chief marketing officer for Move, Inc.; senior vice president of strategic marketing at Universal Music Group’s eLabs; and vice president of strategic marketing & new media at MCA Records.
Lisa currently serves as a mentor for entrepreneurship students at Loyola Marymount University and advises a summer financial literacy program there that is taught by the University’s students to high school pupils.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in the music industry?
I began in music publishing at an international, family-owned publishing company called Music Sales Corp. I started in marketing and then began helping with A&R for music tablature and print publishing production.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out in your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I am not sure about funny, but it was a mistake. I moved across the country for a Product Manager’s job and the record label had layoffs the day I was scheduled to start. No contract, no network. I had to start from scratch, interning and meeting people in the industry to grow my contacts. You can never be too proud to start over and prove yourself.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Probably Donald Passman’s book “All You Need to Know About the Music Business.” Ironically, I helped market Passman’s first fiction book about five years later with my grassroots marketing team at UMG eLabs.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your career, what was your vision, your purpose?
I’ve always had a passion connecting fans to music they love and helping artists make a living making music. Making music for a living is a gift, but it’s not easy. At the same time, it’s what defines our culture. It’s part of our cultural significance and nothing touches people like retaining a soundtrack of their lives.
Do you have a “#1 Principle” that guides you through the ups and downs as a music executive?
Yes! While we may not be saving lives, we’re certainly improving them.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis?
I have two teen daughters and while we found ourselves working from home, or in their case going to school, we learned to adapt together. We’ve realized how incredibly fortunate we are to have each other.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Frankly, I dove into work with occasional breaks in the evening for family dinners, card games and binge watching the TV series, “Schitt’s Creek.”
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The greatest challenge has been the sheer number of work hours due to working from home since the middle of March through the end May. It felt like one very long work week. Since the majority of our work was focused on the MusiCares COVID Relief Fund, The Recording Academy’s focus on the Cares Act, followed by the development of Pro>Sessions, it truly became a labor of love …and hope.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family, loved ones and associates who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Focus on how fortunate we are, keep an open mindset, and keep hope alive by finding new ways of looking at life. We truly are all in this together. I see this as time for innovation, trying new things and spending time with family that I would never have had. Mother Nature has given us a gigantic time out and I’m taking advantage of it.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities in the recording industry that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
While I can’t speak for the entire recording industry, as sectors are thriving and others such as live performances may be the last to recover, there are ways to innovate, create and explore opportunities during this time. If you check out the Pro>Session series, you will find several artists connecting digitally to create new prospects.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the music industry?
If not permanently, it will most certainly affect creators and artists for quite some time. These changes can range from learning new digital skills to connecting with audiences globally.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, how do you think the music industry is planning to grow in the Post-Covid Economy? What are some areas that will see growth in 2021?
As we highlighted in the recent Pro>Session digital series, there is so much entrepreneurship and innovation in play that many artists will never go back to being limited by physical boundaries.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
This is such a great time to test, play, learn something new, make mistakes, become grounded for a while, and grow!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life goes on whether you choose to move on and take a chance is the unknown or stay behind, locked in the past, thinking of what could’ve been,” by Stephanie Smith is my favorite life lesson quote. That is often where people have ended up during COVID, in this suspended place of limbo. For me and the work we do supporting creators each day, we have chosen to stay focused and move forward. Even if creators don’t find new skills or leverage digital business opportunities to their fullest during this time, I think there will be a deluge of great music heading our way.
How can our readers learn more about the free digital programs The Recording Academy is offering to help music creators?
Visit www.GRAMMY.com/ProSessions and follow our social pages on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.