Words of Wisdom from Music Business Graduate

Music & Entertainment Business Graduate, Youa Vang
Youa Vang, a graduate of IPR’s Music and Entertainment Business program.


Written By: Youa Vang

On my last day of school at IPR in June of 2011, I breathed a sigh of relief believing I would never have to write another paper in my life, not thinking about all of the articles I would be writing once I graduated. By that time, I had been interning at ​City Pages​ alongside the music editor, Andrea Swensson, for five months and trying to figure out what I would be doing after I was done with school.

I graduated from the music and entertainment business program with the intention of touring and managing artists, so I never thought I would do anything with writing. Although I love the process that goes into an article and finishing a piece, in actuality, I hate writing. I agonize over every word and — not so much anymore — in the beginning had a fear of having thousands of people read what I wrote.

Over time, and through experience, this fear has dissipated. Between meeting and interviewing people for City Pages, The Current, The Walker, and a few miscellaneous publications, I’ve learned that we are all connected through our need to be understood and loved. When you go into an interview with this in mind and ask, “Why?” to responses, people want to share their story with you.

This has helped me when talking on the phone to people like Jeff Bridges, David Lovering (The Pixies), Jeff Daniels, Tim Nordwind (OK Go), Josh Tillman, Emily Haines, and countless others.

At this point in my career, it would be so easy to rest and say I’ve accomplished all I’ve wanted to do. (I haven’t.) When I think like this, I revisit what it was like during my first quarter at IPR. I struggled to find musicians that would even return my emails to work with them, because they didn’t want to work with someone who was just starting out and so new in their field.

When Adam Levy gave me an opportunity to co-produce IPR’s DIY 360, I took it and ran with the ideas I had swirling around in my head. The show brought in independent musicians who spoke about their musical experiences in the industry — and was already established when I joined the team — since Adam knew so many people in the scene. I made an effort to polish up the the behind-the-scenes process by adding video and photos and running social media and promotion. Through the series, I found my City Pages internship and met Chris Koza, the artist I’m currently working with.

So many of the teachers at IPR pushed me to do things out of my comfort zone. Folks like Andrew Lucas and Walter Chancellor directed me to create tracks and learn how to use Pro-Tools and movie-making software to Scooter Nelson giving advice on the industry and life to Craig Grossman sharing his insight on managing and booking artists inspire me to push forward when I had no clue what I was doing to Kevin Bowe helping my find my first job after school at a booking agency.

Outside of writing and working with the two artists on my roster (​Chris Koza​ and ​Candid Kid​), I have a day job at a web agency and run a craft business with my sister. Life is a constant juggle, but it’s important to stay fluid in all things. Weigh the things that are important to you, and always say yes to the things that top that list. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and will always respond with, “Yes, and…” when you bring them ideas.

I had ten years of retail management experience before I even thought of working in music, so I understand that life is a mixture of hard work and lucky breaks; I’m not blind to that. I am still working towards becoming a full time artist manager, but I am so grateful for the time I’ve had to immerse myself in the music business. I often compare becoming something to being stuck in traffic. There’s always one person zipping in and out of traffic, cutting people off to try and get ahead, but we all have the same destination. There are no short-cuts when you are trying to gain experience. You have to listen, take in your surroundings, and learn from your mistakes. Eventually you will one day wake up and find you are what you wanted to be — and if you’re not, start over.