During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted a further 14 amazing industry executives (including one posthumous award) into the Roll Of Honour, in association with TikTok. They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks and Sarah Stennett to Kanya King, Rebecca Allen and Stacey Tang, that have been selected since the awards began in 2014.
The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are game-changers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity. Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.
Christine Osazuwa booked her first show aged just 15 and spent most of her adolescence deeply entrenched in the music industry, from running street teams to making a music documentary. She went on to receive an undergraduate degree in music business, followed by an MBA in marketing and a master’s in data science. She then combined all her passions into roles consulting and working with various music startups, venues, festivals, radio stations and labels bridging the gap between music, tech and business.
Originally from Baltimore, Osazuwa spent two years in Stockholm as head of data and insights for Universal Music Sweden before calling London home while working as the global marketing director for data and insights at Warner Music Group, where she helped to develop WMG's global priorities. Upon leaving WMG, Osazuwa joined as strategy director at Pollen, curating one-of-a-kind fan and artist-centric live music and travel experiences. Currently, Osazuwa is the chief strategy officer of Shoobs where she is instrumental in helping develop the company's marketing and brand partnerships strategy, while supporting organisers in executing experiential activations.
Osazuwa is a Nigerian-American immigrant who has lived in three countries and continues to travel the world to speak at events such as Reeperbahn Festival, Music Ally's Sandbox Summit, the Ny:Lon Conference and Canada Music Week on topics that range from diversity, strategy to marketing and tech. Osazuwa has also been a grant recipient and participant of PRS Foundation’s Power Up programme, and featured on Shesaid.so’s Alt List.
With a deep understanding of the global music industry, Osazuwa has worked tirelessly to make sure the industry reflects the multicultural world we live in. She has worked on international artist projects that range from Brazil's Anitta, Nigeria's Burna Boy, and Korea's Blackpink in addition to European and North American stars such as Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber and Lizzo.
To ensure that professionals behind these artists are in a diverse, safe and inclusive workplace, while at WMG, Osazuwa was a co-chair of Warner Music UK’s people of colour Employee Resource Group. The group created traditional and reverse mentoring programs, implemented a speaker series and facilitated important community conversations. Currently, Osazuwa is the UK director of Shesaid.so, where she develops partnerships and programming to elevate women and gender minorities within music. She also currently sits on the board of several music tech startups advising on data, marketing and diversity.
In 2021, Osazuwa launched the Measure Of Music Conference and Hackathon to help others understand and thrive in the world of music, tech and data. The weekend-long virtual event features networking, startup pitches, talks, keynotes and panels from artists and music industry execs, while teams create data-driven music projects to present to an audience of peers and tech and music industry execs. The event will take place for the third year running in 2023.
Here, Osazuwa reflects on her journey so far...
How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?
“Right chuffed, as the Brits would say. Seriously, though... it's a huge honour. Just this year alone I was thrilled to see people like Charisse Beaumont and Shani Gonzales inducted alongside me and I’ll take literally any opportunity to be uttered in the same sentence as the likes of Kanya King, Remi Harris, Paulette Long and Amber Davis. Looking at the calibre of talent on the Roll Of Honour, I’m just really proud and happy you let this little American girl into this esteemed group of absolute powerhouses.”
When you look back, how do you reflect on your early years getting into the industry?
“As an immigrant, I had to get into the music industry three different times, basically. I started booking shows at 15 in the States. I had no roadmap or guidebook on how to ‘get into the music industry’, especially in Baltimore which – though excellent music comes out of the city – is certainly not an industry hub. I just knew I wanted to be part of it and started by booking shows, publishing a zine and running street teams. Somehow I turned that into a career working with labels and in music tech. Not being afraid to ask for what I wanted and saying yes to every opportunity that presented itself really got me so far when I was younger. Even with a few major labels on my resume, I don’t think that DIY ethos I picked up of selling $2 zines and booking shows in church basements ever really left me. I left the industry for a few years, so when I moved to Stockholm five years ago, I had to start from scratch to have my experience and talent recognized. It took building my network again and knocking on what felt like every single door but it really helped set in motion the international career and network I now have so I'm incredibly grateful for my experience.”
Did you have a mentor at that stage?
“When I first started out, I didn't have a mentor. I got started so early, I'm not sure I even know what the word mentor meant at the time. There were certainly people I admired and thought, it'd be really cool if my career could be even close to what they have been able to achieve. These are people that ran venues, promoted shows, launched their own indie labels and so on. I got my start in the pop-punk scene – everyone was so young and just doing what it took to make things happen. Some of those people are now friends, some I worked with directly, some indirectly and some still have absolutely no idea I exist but I admire them greatly. I am a huge believer in mentorship. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some amazing mentors over the years. I joined the global gender minority community, Shesaid.so as their UK director. Ironically, I was encouraged to take on that additional role by Keith Harris who was the mentor provided to me by Shesaid.so via PRS Foundation’s Power Up programme I took part in.”
What do you consider to be your biggest achievements so far?
“I think one of the defining things about my career is that it hasn't been a series of big accomplishments. It's kind of been a slow burn in collaboration with so many people, so it's hard to put my finger on just one thing and even harder to claim it as my own accomplishment. I will shout out specifically working on the Burna Boy global marketing campaign for the Twice As Tall album because not only do I love that album, but it also helped build the foundation for the follow up album Love, Damini’s global success, and I know that made my Nigerian family proud! But really, I'm incredibly proud of all of the success I’ve had in my career. I continuously work to create space for others who don't find themselves represented or feel included. I always joke that even when you're literally working in the music industry you're still not sure if you're really in the music industry, so I've just tried to make sure people feel included and seen. Giving a paid speaking opportunity to someone for the first time. Interviewing an artist just getting their start for my magazine. Putting an unexpected opening act on a bill. Taking time to talk to indie artists or new execs about their music careers. Being willing to speak up about sexism, racism and discrimination in the music industry. Showing an artist new ways to reach their fans. Highlighting the importance of emerging markets or not often celebrated industry roles. Explaining how important it is to have actual fans on an artist’s team. Generally just giving attention to the niches, subcultures and everyone else underrepresented and not taken seriously in the music industry for more than 15 years is what I consider my biggest achievement.”
You recently joined as chief strategy officer at live entertainment ticketing and event marketing startup Shoobs. What attracts you about working on “experiential” activations? Has the industry embraced their potential enough?
“My first full-time role after undergrad was in live event ticketing, and live music is where I got my start so it's exciting to come back to that space. Building community by bringing people together be it fans to artists or even just fans to other fans has always been my passion. There's so much opportunity in the experiential space that people are starting to embrace more, such as artist-focused festivals and events, months-long residencies being more common and opportunities for fans to connect with each other through online communities like Discord and translating that offline to fan-driven experiences. The future of live events is hopefully going to be more fan and artist-friendly, allowing artists to be able to execute their creative vision while being able to stay in one place longer, and giving fans unique experiences that allow them to be part of a community they love. At Shoobs, we’re a destination for Black music and culture and we have an incredible community of people who love experiences of all types, be it concerts and festivals or club nights, comedy shows and brunches. This means that we see fans who want to engage with artists and their music in so many ways, and it gives artists the opportunity to show off their passions and interests in ways that can be immersive and interactive on and off the stage.”
My biggest achievement? Giving attention to the niches, subcultures and everyone else underrepresented and not taken seriously in the music industry for more than 15 years
You founded Measure Of Music – what was the initial inspiration behind that?
“For the past two years, and to this day, I speak to two new people almost every week who want to chat about their career as an artist or exec. My calendar was, and is, usually booked up more than six weeks in advance, and though I was always so impressed by the people I spoke with, I felt bad that I only had 30 minutes to chat. I was also incredibly fortunate to keep my job through the pandemic while many others didn't. I wanted to find a way to give back to the community during that time and came up with the idea of Measure Of Music I wanted to be surrounded by people who are excited and passionate about the music industry, and this felt like a good way to do it. Also given my background, I wanted to highlight to the music industry at large that data and insights skills should not be siloed into one part of the organisation, but rather they have a vital place and are skill sets that prove useful in everything from A&R to sync. The event includes a music data hackathon/project so that people can have something to showcase in their portfolio because, so often, even if you're already working in the industry you're not always able to talk in detail about projects you've worked on publicly, or if you're outside of the industry, you have trouble getting your hands on the info insiders used for decision making. For both years, my speakers and project participants were majority-minority in gender and race – and will be again for year three in February 2023. This is entirely a testament to the incredible network I have. I was so grateful to everyone that stepped up to be involved with the event as sponsors, mentors, speakers and more, and there's no way I would have accomplished it without companies offering up their time, staff and access to their platforms and data for the project participants. The most rewarding part is hearing regularly from companies and participants involved in Measure Of Music that they were able to make amazing hires and people were able to secure roles that had alluded them across all seniority levels and sectors within the music industry. It's all about building community and doing my part to make the industry a bit better.”
What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music?
“Don't let your company define you. You will likely have many jobs in many companies throughout your career. Make sure whatever you're doing helps you as much as you help the company. Make sure you're gaining new skills, meeting new people, able to find projects that you're excited and passionate about and finding ways to add value to artists and their fans. These are things that transcend whatever your current role is and stick with you throughout your career. This is the value you bring to the table in every negotiation and on every project. This means people take your call, send you that invitation or present you with opportunities regardless of the current company name on your resumé. Don't give up all your brand equity to something you don't have equity in.”
And what was the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“‘I always tell the girls, never take it seriously. If ya never take it seriously, you never get hurt. If ya never get hurt, you always have fun. And if ya ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.’ – Penny Lane in Almost Famous”
Finally, what’s your biggest lesson from 2022 so far?
“I was laid off this year. I was very public about the layoff and then what subsequently happened with the company I was previously employed by. I was nervous about being so vulnerable and so honest, but it turns out a lot of people were willing and able to help when I said I needed it. I honestly wasn’t prepared or expecting the output of love and support and I was genuinely so grateful to know that I didn’t have to go it alone. Turns out that the community I’ve been building over the years really did have my back, and after a messy situation it was a wonderful way to be reminded of that.”