Lindsay Hart, a Pittsburgh native, has been working with Move Forward Music to shape New York’s hip-hop nightlife scene for the last seven years.
Beginning as a management company, Move Forward Music later transitioned into independent tour booking, and eventually pivoting the company’s focus into event production and marketing. The company specializes in introducing New York artists by producing their headline debuts, and later building them into bigger opportunities.
Artists like Playboi Carti, Kodie Shane, Brockhampton, D.R.A.M., and Ravyn Lenae headline Move Forward Music’s excellent track record of breaking artists into New York’s live music space. Hart has also successfully helped the company execute multiple brand activations in the tri-state area and festivals like SXSW in Texas, and A3C in Atlanta.
How does your company identify new artists to feature in a live music activation?
We listen to music all day long on streaming sites, though I would say SoundCloud personally because that's where new breaking artists, who may not even be developed enough to be on Spotify, live. I know people are all into Spotify and Apple Music, but I still have a lot of love for Soundcloud. As far as blogs are concerned, I really love Pigeons & Planes- and that’s not even because of our working relationship. They just really align with what I like personally, and they emphasize on discovery. So definitely blogs, streaming sites.
Word of mouth definitely, a lot of times you’ll hear someone say “have you heard of so and so” and then you’ll hear about them three more times from other people, and it's like, ok this someone that we need to book and get on it.
After doing this for so many years, you look at the numbers, you look at the socials, how many views do they get on their videos and you kind of get a feel. We have gotten really good at predicting how many tickets an artist can sell in this market specifically, and at what price. So it has kind of has become second nature at this point.
Also, we are super open and love for artists to email us their music, we try to listen to everything, and we’ve actually ended up booking a lot of artists that way, especially for support opportunities on shows because we really focus on curating our shows entire lineup, this includes the support acts, and we usually book local artists are always looking for new artists to put on, so it can be as simple as sending me an email.
How should brands measure their return on investment in regards to curated activations, especially in the live music space?
I feel they shouldn’t look at it in a direct dollar amount. You also have to recognize that we are in the urban space and that’s the most widely listened to genre right now, and that is not going to change. Hip-hop culture is pop culture now, and it’s going to keep trending in that direction. With events, and being active in the live music space, you gain an entryway into that culture, are able to be apart of it, and be on the ground. Yeah, there is so much potential being online, but nothing will ever replace being in a room with other fans and people that are there to support the same artist, experiencing that same moment in time.
When a brand has the right people in the room (tastemakers, labels, agents, artists) and there's a conversation (IG stories, Twitter) happening about the event, then you have the perfect storm and know you've done something right. If you're consistent with having those right people in the room, you can grow your own insider community, anchored by your brand. Plus if you get a room in New York dancing, then you know you've really hit the jackpot!
What is expected of the artist or band once they are booked for a live music event?
My biggest thing is that I have artists often begging to be on shows, begging for an opportunity, we give it to them and then it's so disappointing when they don’t do anything with it. We have to beg them to post the flyer or tweet about it, and I know your job is to perform, but for a growing developing artist, you have to promote and bring exposure to yourself as well. Not only that but once you are in the room, bring your best live show, don’t be lazy. Put your best foot forward, be on time, be professional, you never know who’s who, and don’t just brush-off whoever and have an ego because you don’t know any better. I have been in that position where artists say “oh it’s a woman, I don’t need to know her” and then I’m like “oh I’m the one running your show tonight, hi” and then they’re a little nicer. So basically, no matter what scenario you are in, there might be five people [at your performance], just do your best, and be professional.
What is your advice to the future generation of women looking to combat sexism as they pursue a career in the music industry?
My advice is to work really hard and let your work speak for yourself. Be strategic with your time, and be observant of the people around you: the way they are moving, what motives them and the interests they might have.
The important thing is to find someone that you can look up to, and who you can trust doing the kind of business you want to do, and try and learn from them. Find another woman in this industry, even if it’s not the same area you want to work in, someone that’s doing it the right way that you can really follow. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are tons of women doing excellent work in live music, and I see the landscape adjusting so that more women are collaborating and mentoring in the near future.
Was there ever a moment where you doubted your career path?
Yes definitely, probably more often than most would admit. I've spent many years building this company and you could argue I've missed out on some big corporate opportunities, but there is a trade-off. I’ve gotten to build something, if I think an artist is cool I can literally book them the next day potentially, and I own my own time.
Let’s go back to Pittsburgh, where you involved in their local music scene?
I was, I interned with a company called Nakturnal which was an all-female company and did a lot of street promotion and event promotion, and that is how I originally got involved with the Hip Hop Scene in Pittsburgh. Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa were just breaking when I lived there. It was just a really cool time to be there and experience that. I hung out at this little venue called the Shadow Lounge, R.I.P., it’s now condos I believe. It was a little room, not even 200 people packed at full capacity, but that’s where I met all the hip-hop acts. I was always at the open mics, I was friends with all the local rappers, so I was always there on the scene, probably more as a fan than anything else, but that’s where my love for hip-hop really grew.
We are fortunate to have just expanded to Detroit. What is your advice to creatives living in cities other than New York or Los Angeles, who are looking to get involved in their local music scene?
Network and meet as many people in that local scene as you can, develop those relationships. Meet artists, meet venue owners, meet people who are already producing events that you can work with. Meet brands in your city, and build as many relationships as you can where you are at.
What are the best media practices for creatives that looking to create a buzz around their project or brand?
Build your email list, it is our most valuable asset. It takes time, but as once you build it, it pays off so much. We are pushing 40,000 recipients, it is highly curated, we have a crazy open rate, and some of the people we’ve met say “Oh Move Forward Music, I get your emails” so that is really great. Have all of your social media sites aligned, when pitching press for an event, have a press release put together. Send your email list all of the necessary information about the event, with some content featuring the artist or the event topic.
Facebook ads are great for gaining traction with events, I know people think that Facebook is sort of dying or for older people, but there is definitely value in facebook when it comes to marketing events as well.
Just make sure you are crafting a professional email with all the information that they will need. Make sure you approach them in the right manner. Make sure there is a nice image, that there are links to more music, links to the event, or anything that will grab the reader's attention.
Was there an investment that you made into yourself that you felt positively impacted your career?
Time spent working and learning the game, going out and meeting people, researching, choosing to stay home and put in the work versus just going out to party with friends. Really just being willing to sacrifice the time to really learn, develop my craft, and just make it work.