Upon first glance, you wouldn’t know that Anastasia Wright is a networking powerhouse. With a graceful demeanor and calm smile, Anastasia hides her prowess very well. But she’s not one to sleep on. Over the past seven years, Anastasia has worked in music publicity for various record labels, including RCA Records under Sony Music and Interscope Records. In addition to these labels she also gained experience at Def Jam Recordings, Epic Records and Columbia Records. While honing her skills in music and PR, Anastasia launched IMG Agency, a public relations and brand management company that now includes a female-owned and operated indie record label for emerging artists. In this interview with BAUCE, Anastasia opens up about being an entrepreneur and shares a glimpse of what it takes to make it in the music business.
When did you first fall in love with music?
Anastasia: From a very early age music and the arts were present in my life. I appreciated and needed the freedom of expression even as a child. However, some of the fondest memories I have are singing along in the car to “RUMPSHAKER” with my mom and watching for the music video for “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” on MTV for the first time. I wanted a four-wheeler, a pitbull and to be Eve all at once.
What is your favorite type of music to listen to?
Anastasia: That’s hard. I really do listen to everything. I have negro spirituals from the Library of Congress in my iTunes! My family is Afro-Caribbean-American. My Mom introduced me to music from the 60s, 70s and 80s, and I discovered R&B and hip-hop in the 90s. Not to mention how great the 90s and early 2000s were for pop, alternative and rock music. If I had a go-to genre, I’d have to say R&B or adult contemporary. I broke it down a little too much huh? [laughs].
How did you first get into the PR music industry?
Anastasia: I have an innate love for music and writing. I’m a writer first. What I love most about music is that it’s global, ageless, raceless, sexless, language-less and is therefore a very powerful form of communication. I felt this power early on as a youth and professionally found a way to combine my love of writing and storytelling with music in college. Through course work and internships at Alloy Media + Marketing, Island Def Jam and Capitol records – I found a calling in marketing and public relations.
What inspired you to create the IMG agency? What inspired you to launch IMG Records?
Anastasia: Circling back to freedom of expression, this ideal has played out in my professional and personal life. Entrepreneurship and ownership is the ultimate freedom of expression. I create and manifest daily. I knew this was my path but the exact road wasn’t clear until college. I started IMG as a college senior with former business partner Karsten Venna. We had a vision and were confident we could bring that vision to life. And we did. We signed our first client and picked up our first check between classes in the entry way at Baruch College. That feeling is irreplaceable.
IMG Records was born out of necessity. I’ve managed alt-r&b singer-songwriter Tangina Stone for 2 years and we were in talks with a company offering distribution for her new album. The company was taking 10% of royalties just for “talking to the actual distributor” on our behalf. No marketing or further promotional support around the release of her album. That didn’t sit right with us. I started a conversation with the distributor directly and here we are. Plus, I think it’s bad ass we’re female owned and operated.
What skills did you learn in PR that have helped you in regards to launching your record label?
Anastasia: Artist management and communication skills are at the top. I don’t think the public or inexperienced artists know how much music publicists do day-to-day. Beyond being a publicist, we’re counselors, fake-managers, best friends, drug dealers, bartenders, alarm clocks, waiters/waitresses…I could go on! We wear many hats, stay calm under extreme pressure and are solution oriented — we find a way. [These are] all the skills I need to run my businesses.
You started IMG mostly as a solo team. Walk us through a day in your life.
Anastasia: For the past 3-4 years, yes [I worked on IMG solo]. This year I hired an account manager and she’s amazing. Shout out to Brooke! I try to instill some sort of normalcy and routine. It’s still important to be disciplined with your time when running your business. I wake up, rather try to, at 7AM, check email and social media, hit the gym for an hour and am out the door by 9AM. I’m in the office by 10AM. My days typically consist of many, many emails and some meetings. I do have weeks that are meeting, conference call and travel heavy. I may have an artist doing press activities that I need to cover. I go to a decent number of events and live shows weekly. Many of my friends and colleagues work in entertainment or media, and we’ll get up randomly for dinner or for events after work to catch-up. Then rinse and repeat.
What are some of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur? What do you love the most?
Anastasia: Staying mentally fit is the number one challenge. In the past few years, entrepreneurship has gained this sexy stamp of approval. It’s not. It’s extremely hard on your physical and mental well-being. Depression is real. Isolation is real. You lose friends. You lose money. Failure, though necessary, is heart breaking. Insecurity, instability, fear. I can go on. But why?
Purpose, passion and profit. My passion has led me to a purpose that I know is profitable and valuable. I can’t give up on that. The work I do is not solely for me. I’m invested in so many lives and so many have invested in me, and it’s not about me anymore. I asked for it too. I asked God to give me the strength and ability, and I have it.
When you can’t sleep because your greatness haunts you at night, you push. You won’t always have the answers but you get up and work through the unknown. The catch-22 about entrepreneurship, satisfaction never comes. Just a longer to do list once you’ve accomplished a goal. I love that though. I determine my limitations and therefore there really are none.
So, what are some upcoming projects IMG is currently working on?
Anastasia: Alt-r&b artist TanginaStone is releasing her first full-length album Elevate March 2017. The album will be released in the U.S. on IMG Records and Japan on Sweet Soul Records. This is the first time I’ve handled an album release – label admin, publishing admin, track clearances, marketing, etc. – from beginning to end. It’s exciting, stressful but very gratifying to know that we did this, Tangina and I.
I didn’t talk too much about my non-profit, but Minds Behind the Music, Inc. has great partnerships and programming coming this year. One of the partnerships we’ll be announcing very soon is with Microsoft. On the IMG Agency side, working with Pro Era’s CJ Fly. It feels great to be part of his first commercial, full-length album FLYTRAP, which was released on 12/9/16.
What is your advice for young women that want to do what you do?
Anastasia: Beyond public relations and music, know smart business. “Be totally unashamed about wanting to make a shit ton of money,” says Cindy Gallop. I must borrow from an article I read on Forbes.com because I can’t phrase it better.
“One of the quickest ways for women to make money is to invest. So please women, make as much money as you can and fund other women because that’s how we will all become billionaires. There was a whole bro network (white guys talking to white guys) who got tipped-off early on to things like Uber. That network doesn’t operate for women. Women, consciously get your ear to the ground and invest.”
She drops jewels in the article like the importance of mentorship, finding champions, etc. But success starts in the mind. Know you’re enough and know your shit. Women, and more so women of color, must be that much smarter and better in what we do. Be that good and have the courage to negotiate what you want and deserve.
Lastly, be patient with you. I can’t stress this enough. Ambition is bitch, but she’s a patent bitch.