Boss Vixen: A&R Executive Erica Grayson Urges Women To Find Inner Strength + Corporate Style
Erica Grayson's got moxie! It's clear from her hard-working journey climbing the record label ranks to become an executive A&R that she embodies the fearlessness (or chutzpa) it takes be a well-respected, intelligent boss! She has rubbed elbows with the who's who of the biz, especially Interscope head Jimmy Iovine, and has now taken on her own entertainment management and consultant company. She's MADE it--literally--and VIBE Vixen caught up with the humble, modern-day hippie to talk about her newest venture with music's hottest producers and songwriters, her experiences working with other women in entertainment and how corporate style can be fly and exclusive. -Niki McGloster
How did you come up with Moxieworld?
It’s sort of like a sub-brand of MADE. It’s a part of the company that really has the angle of women empowerment. It’s not from a typical feminist perspective; it’s more from a personal background of the things I went through, and how I feel like it’s our responsibility to stand up and offer some advice or help. I think we get too much of a bad rep of not being able to work together or not helping each other, and I don’t think that’s true.
What do you mean by "moxie," in reference to the message you want to come across?
Moxie is a Yiddish term, and it means guts or fearlessness or chutzpa. I think that’s what I represent. I like to lead the world; that's what I want women to embrace. Not that we’re aggressive like men or that we contribute in the world [like men], we contribute in our own unique ways. We’re fearless in the ways and things we go after, whether it’s business or in the way we raise our families. We, as women, make those decisions every day, and a lot of times, it’s like we’re doing it on our own. I think it’s important we embrace that and find that inner strength.
Do you find it hard for women to speak up in a male-dominated industry?
I think that it’s intimidating for anyone in a high-pressure gig. You’re dealing with hundred thousand dollar, multi-million dollar projects and to raise your hand will set you up to either be rewarded because you’re right or put on the chopping block because you’re right. What I do think is that any woman who has pursued a high-power career or her own business probably has the strength to raise her hand and be counted, so it doesn’t make it more difficult because they're men, at least that’s not the way I thought of it.
Now, with everything that you’ve done especially with working with Interscope and Jimmy Iovine, what would you say you’ve learned in your entire career?
On the record side, specifically, I learned music is valuable beyond measure. Despite what people think in terms of the traditional ways of how people get their music and how that changed, people still value music. It’s still the soundtrack to everything that we do. We’re just in a position to have to figure out how we utilize that fact to benefit financially. Personally, I learned you have to have a set of internal morals or goals, things that you will and won’t do. That’s really because there has to be some level of quality control on your life. I don’t know if I was taught that at my time at Interscope; I think that’s been through experience of being next to highly successful people. I want to do that, but I want to know that I have a rich life as well, rich in character, rich in love and rich in fun.
What do you say to people who believe record labels have no purpose outside of being just a piggy bank for artists?
What has to happen is the dynamic of the traditional record label doing things the way they're doing it since inception has to change. It’s an obvious fact. We’re watching the digital space become increasingly important; we’re watching the market dictate what they want, and the corporate side is trying to catch up. The record business isn’t that old, so when you think about it, a lot of people who are still in place have been there since inception. I don’t think [the record labels are] unnecessary; we’re just in a big transition. We already are seeing a lot of amazing situations come into fruition, i.e. deals like Odd Future, artists like Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller [and] The Weeknd. And record labels are fighting to figure out how to get into business with them. So, I think there’s truth to the fact that record labels are at a weakness with how they distribute and sell music because they’re trying to figure it out. I think they’re in a transition to understand and are trying to get in business with the right people to make a difference.
So with all the experiences you've had in the biz, what made you jump ship and put your all into your company MADE?
I started to feel very different changes with the record business as a whole. When you work somewhere for five years, and you go there every day and you do the same thing, it’s like it’s getting way too hard doing the same things. It’s just about the way the market shifts, and the way the market has you do things, you have to adjust to. It’s simple; it’s like when you have an old system on your computer and there’s a new technology, it’s not going to run as fast or not at all. Personally, I was expanding too much energy in the wrong places, so I started to build my contacts and build my relationships and figure out what’s next. The best thing Jimmy could have ever taught me was that it’s not a career to work for someone else; it’s not a career unless you’re running the show yourself.
Did you see there was a strict fashion code at any of your jobs or was it just casual?
When I went to college, I studied something about corporate climate, and it really stuck in my head. I found it interesting that employee’s style is reflected through their leader. If you look at L.A. Reid who's fly and who dresses a certain way and has a certain expectation, Shakir Stewart wore ascots. They have this whole level of sexy, fly thing that I know L.A. really was about. I never worked for L.A., but his crew always seemed to be a reflected his style. When you go to Clive Davis events, everyone is in expensive suits and tailored suits, that was a reflection of that man. I worked for Jimmy Iovine who was rock-n-roll, so he might be in a very expensive, exclusive pair of Converses, which worked very well with my personality because we were all about living the rock life. It was very casual, but I think it was reflective of the environment we were in.
Do you find you have personal style now that you run your own business?
I think it’s funny because people say that I do, but when you’re just you, you’re like, well that’s just me. I am a sneaker fanatic. My essence is not red bottoms like most of my girl friends, God Bless them. But, yeah you find me a crazy pair of Converse that nobody has, yeah I might be your friend for life.