As artists, our priority is our art, our music, and our creatives. We invest our time and hearts in our love for the arts, but for lack of resources, we either entrust our work to the hands of someone else or shelf it completely. But that’s about to change! Tune in as Business Strategist and Founder and CEO of Music Meets The Boardroom, Latoya Cooper, talks about their mission to provide women artists of color an avenue to be heard. She shares how having the right resources can help you build your brand and your business not only as the artist but as its CEO. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn how you can take the lead. After all, YOU are the artist, YOU are the business, and it’s YOU who will take your business to the next level!
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From Empowered Artist To CEO: Where Music Meets The Boardroom With Latoya Cooper
I am excited to be here with my friend, Latoya Cooper, from Music Meets The Boardroom. I love that name. That name is all about my heart as far as business and music combined. We’re going to get into why she started Music Meets The Boardroom, her background, her mission to help in the music industry and a cool conference that she’s doing coming up that I’ll tell you about in a bit. Let’s dive in.
Latoya, I would love to know a little bit about your background. You are also a musician. You’re very knowledgeable, have a ton of experience and even have an academic background in business. You’re also a singer-songwriter. Let us know a little bit about your journey and how you merge those two loves in your life.
First and foremost, thank you for allowing me to be here with you. I am honored, grateful and excited to share information with all the readers. I came out of the womb singing. I love music and the arts. What I find fascinating about it is that you fall in love with it before you understand it. It’s that beautiful gift. I have been performing for years for the governor growing up. I won Top Talent at Miss Oklahoma at eighteen years old. I was on a path.
Around 18 or 19 years old, my parents were like, “We love your singing. You’re doing great. You’re making a name for yourself. You’re a local celebrity around here but you’re going to college and are going to go get that 9:00 to 5:00.” When you’re 18 to 19 years old, you don’t have a choice in some aspects. I said, “Okay. Parents know best.” I went to college and found myself after one degree like, “I’m not happy. I don’t know what’s wrong. This is what I’m supposed to do.” I went back for another degree. I did that. I then went back for another one. I was searching.
You’re addicted to good academics. I know some people like that. My husband has a Doctorate so I get that.
He never stopped learning and I’m the same way but I was searching for what I was told you’re supposed to find through that experience. With life, you learn that’s not the case, depending on the situation in your journey. God brought me back to music. I had been suffering from depression for ten years because I had let go of that part of me that was the way I spiritually connected and I didn’t know that. I may have been in my early 30s and God told me to sing again. I was like, “I don’t know where this is going but okay.”
What I learned in that process was it wasn’t about, “This is your opportunity to be a star per se or what have you as an artist.” It was more of, “I need you to learn something from music for the next phase of your life.” It’s a long story. I had peace around letting go of some things because I realized that my life was evolving into something else from where I am. I’m still holding a microphone but I’m speaking more than I’m singing but I love singing. I love the fact that I have an understanding and love for the arts. I can advocate for the music community because I understand both sides of the spectrum.
I’m in such a similar place, especially for the past years. I’ve been doing a lot more teaching, holding the microphone, writing books or whatever on the educational side for musicians but I’m still a musician at heart. As of March 2022, I am working as a music director at a church, which is a little crazy to balance with what I do here because I’m not doing any less on this side. It is feeding my soul to get back into music. It’s important what you said about how you reignited your music in your 30s and needed that to come back to your true self.You fall in love with art before you really understand it. Click To Tweet
We all need that because otherwise, either music becomes a grind because it’s always chasing, “How can we make money from this thing,” or we abandon it and finally realize there are two parts of us. There’s the creative part and the thing that needs to pay the bills. Sometimes we can merge those and sometimes we can’t but our soul needs that artistic thing. When I had my first daughter, I was like, “This is what I do now. I’m a mom.” It lasted for about six weeks. I tried to give up music and it didn’t stick.
It’s part of how we survive. We need that. What I learned in my case was that I didn’t have to have music or the arts in a certain way. I just needed to touch it in some form or fashion. It still fulfilled me. That’s where I am.
I saw someone asking you a question on TikTok, “How do you know when it’s time to leave that 9:00 to 5:00 and pursue that thing that you feel is tugging at you as an entrepreneur, whether it’s in music or not?” I know that you went through that. How did you know that it was time to do that?
Do you know what’s so crazy? I had been preparing and did not even know it. I had been managing bands in Dallas and New York. I had been performing in different parts of the country and overseas. I had been writing music, releasing music, working on the legal aspect, paperwork and all this stuff. It’s not only for myself but for other people as well, like education, and building that brand and experience.
I didn’t realize that all that experience I was building was the launching pad to jump. I didn’t know it until the moment I got clarity. It was like, “It’s time to go.” I’m like, “What I’m supposed to do? How I’m going to make money and all this stuff?” I then had a moment of clarity where I was like, “I’ve already been preparing for this and didn’t know it.”
I had such a similar thing with starting Women of Substance and building up this list of female indie artists. When my second daughter finally started going to kindergarten, I got buckled down and either go back and get a job or do something else. I interviewed for jobs and found myself hoping I wouldn’t get the job because I’d realized I didn’t want to work anymore in the mainstream and corporate.
I was like, “I’ve already been building this group of people under the Women of Substance brand. I can help those people.” Sometimes it’s that thing you’ve been doing because it’s your passion. It drives you in the background and then you’re like, “I could monetize or pursue this as an actual career.” That’s cool. When you made that jump, did you immediately start Music Meets The Boardroom? Was there an evolution?
I had started Music Meets The Boardroom a few years prior. I had already been running Music Meets The Boardroom. I had no intentions of leaving my job. It was something I was going to do on the side. The next thing you know, it became this opportunity to build out this brand that had roots and potential areas of roots. I’ve been pushing forward on that and I love it. I don’t know.
Maybe you’re subconsciously aware of what’s going on but I didn’t put the pieces together until it was tied. I was like, “I get it now.” It goes back to that conversation of putting together a list of contacts and networks. You don’t think anything of it. You just do it because you feel like it’s the right thing to do and this is what you want to do but then something happens later that connects the pieces for us. We’re like, “This is why I needed to do this.”
Was your mission with Music Meets The Boardroom always in relation to women, especially women of color?
No. When I started Music Meets The Boardroom, I just started it. The reason why is because I had been helping and supporting artists for a long period but it was because I love doing it. I had a mentor of mine who pulled me to the side one day and was like, “Latoya, you need to do something with this. Do you see the pattern here?” I’m like, “No, what are you talking about?” Once I got it in that conversation, it was two weeks later that I started Music Meets The Boardroom and started it for all artists.
I remember the first workshop that I held. It was this beautiful collage of different types of artists, from videographers to classically trained violinists and producers. It was amazing. Over the years, I started to niche down a little bit more based on the more that I learned, also watching the market and the industry and finding the areas and pockets that were not served. That’s how I ended up deciding, “I want to work with not only women or women of color but I want to make sure I focus on women such as myself that look like me who do not have anything out there.” I’m one of few, if not the only one.We can spend six months or six years trying to figure out one thing, or we could work with someone who can help you figure it out in 15 minutes. Click To Tweet
I find it interesting. I started niching to women purely because that was the platform I created. I’ve opened it up to more people but then I’ve narrowed it down a little bit more. Do you find that you’re attracting those people but then you’re attracting a lot of other people and then they come to you and are like, “Is it okay if I work with you because I’m not a woman of color? I’m a White guy,” or something like that?
I do have that. What I learned in my experience is that people are going to go where the good information is. They don’t care. That goes back to the conversation of, “I want in the room.” The most interesting thing is the conference. Music Meets The Boardroom sponsors a conference called the Indie Artist Power Conference every year. We emphasize through our marketing like, “This is a space for women of color for Black women.” Let me tell you. It’s a rainbow in that room. Everybody shows up and is welcome at the end of the day. We want to make sure that women of color or Black women are heard and we address those unique needs that we have that never get addressed. Everyone can learn from all the information shared.
What’s great about niching down is you can speak specifically to specific pain points and problems, which is why I’ve always loved to talk to women in the industry because there are very specific pain points of women that men do not experience. I did not even know that you wrote this book but when I saw it in your bio, I was like, “She wrote a book about women in the studio and the certain experiences they have that are only mostly for women.” Tell them a little bit about that book because I had no idea that you had that book. That’s a great resource.
It is a super short read. I intentionally created that book for that reason. It’s called Simple Methods Smarter Decisions: Safety Resource for Female Recording Artists. Acknowledging and through watching and research, I’m seeing that there were no resources for women. There wasn’t anything out there that spoke to our unique needs as women in the industry. I felt silly about the fact that, as a woman, we get so used to maneuvering spaces and not thinking much about that. It made me take a step back and I’m like, “Some of the stuff is not okay. We need to talk about this, be more open about the experiences that we have and share more of these experiences with other women who are coming down the pipeline.”
That is what that book is about. It’s about not only providing useful information for those who are seeking a career in music or reinforcing and empowering women who are already in music but it’s also an opportunity to encourage us as women to share our stories unapologetically for those that are coming after us.
It’s a tricky subject because there are plenty of men that are super supportive of women. We don’t want them to think we’re making this blanket statement like, “Men are always doing this to women.” There are these stories and we need to talk about them.
Do you know what’s so crazy? A lot of the people who read that book and gain value from the book are men. I have a lot of men who reach out and are like, “I love this book. I’ve learned so much.” I’m like, “This is great.” They read it too.
I get it. It’s like sensitivity training for them.
A lot of them are artists. I had a realization after I wrote the book. It’s not only women who have certain types of experiences. Men deal with it too. It’s just not as often as we know socially acceptable to be more open about the experiences that men have. I believe that’s why a lot of men gravitate towards the book because they’re like, “Things happen to us too. It’s a unique experience that we need to be aware of. I’m going to read this. Maybe I’ll learn something from it.”
That’s very true with the #MeToo Movement and all that stuff. It is a lot more okay for women to share those stories and maybe men feel like, “This doesn’t happen to any other men except me because it’s not out there in public as much.” That’s cool. Here’s what I would love to know since you’ve had so much experience as an entrepreneur. What’s one of the biggest lessons you can share with people as an entrepreneur that could be helpful to all of the creatives and artists out there reading? Even if you don’t admit it, you guys are entrepreneurs. You’re running a business.
The most valuable thing that we can do as artists, especially if we’re starting or maybe stuck somewhere and don’t see the results that we want, is get clear about who we serve as artists, what outcome we desire to produce as a result of what we’re doing, getting clear about that, making sure that we’re taking the right opportunities that are aligned with the path that we’re trying to go and also figuring out who you serve or connect with. Who is your dream fan? That is so important. I speak a lot about that on TikTok because it is a huge part of our success. Everyone is not a fan.
It goes back to the question and conversation we’re having about, “Latoya, you serve women and women of color but does everyone else show up?” Yes, they do. That happens to us as artists as well. We may prefer fans who have a love for green cars. We talked to that fan, “I got this green car that rocks and rolls.” Someone else may come along like, “I don’t like green cars but I want to know what’s going on over here. This is a big connection.”Entrepreneurship requires risk, money, vulnerability, and responsibility. Click To Tweet
The next thing you know, they’re interested. That is a big thing that a lot of artists struggle with. Also, part of it is the fear of investing to get the right help in relation to those conversations. We can spend 6 months or 6 years trying to figure out this 1 thing or we could work with someone like you or me who can help you figure it out in 15 minutes. That is the most important component there.
As everyone knows, part of being an entrepreneur is taking risks and investing in yourself is a big risk. You need to do that to make any progress.
It’s also being at peace around the fact that entrepreneurship requires risk, money, vulnerability, responsibility and more. It’s a very humbling and growing process. It goes back to the conversation we were talking about entrepreneurship being this spiritual walk. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable in so many ways to even experience the returns and the highs of entrepreneurship.
I did want to ask you a little bit about TikTok because you’ve done so well on TikTok. I only started on TikTok in April 2022. My friend, Katie, dragged me kicking and screaming on TikTok because I was like, “This is not for me. I’m too old.” It doesn’t make sense to me but I am enjoying it. I was curious because I’ve been known for serving women but when I look at my TikTok analytics, most of my audience is men. I’m not sure if it’s because, in general, there is a higher percentage of men on TikTok.
I’m not quite sure if you call out your audience by name or have something that references them but I do make an effort to do that. I’m very clear. People are feisty in those comments and that’s okay because it goes back to the conversation of speaking to my target, consumer, audience and fan unapologetically. Everyone else still comes and falls in love with the content and some people don’t like it. That’s okay. That means it’s not a space for you.
I am very intentional about that. I’ve learned a few things and still learning some things. One is to stop when I need a break from TikTok. That’s a little hard for me to do. I’m having that moment and my numbers are reflecting that. I’m like, “I need a break.” Sometimes, I’ll stop and take a break for 1 week or 2. You think like, “What’s going to happen to my numbers or anything like that?” It’s usually nothing. It still grows because your old videos are still turning.
I find that I make better content when I take a break. I’m getting ready to do that maybe a week or something. Even though I’m coming up on this conference, I still think it’s a healthy thing to do. That is one valuable thing I’ve learned that people don’t talk about on TikTok that does make a difference. One other thing that I did was invest in my brand and in myself as a creator and entrepreneur to grow Music Meets The Boardroom. I hire people to help me learn how to show up on TikTok in different ways.
If I’m struggling with anything related to different areas of Tiktok, I will find a person who does that well and hire them. Not only do I apply to use it. I test it out, take it and share it with my customers and clients. It’s a double whammy there of benefits. I hired someone to help me with TikTok SEO because TikTok is focused on YouTube.
They want to dominate that space of educational content and become the number one search engine, which they’re not far away from that. Generation Z is the number one search engine in 2022. That is a great time if you have educational content to push that out and make sure that SEO content is lining up so that you can be found and be like a TikTok educational star.
How do you feel like it is for musicians? TikTok started as a music platform. It’s a fantastic way for musicians to connect with fans, break new music and stuff like that. Are you finding that with your clients?
It’s still a challenge how to tackle that. Part of it is being okay with your journey, my journey and our journeys being different. We often use the model we see from someone else versus being okay with saying, “That doesn’t work for me but this does.” It looks different but it works. That’s okay. TikTok is challenging us as artists to explore those options. Artists that take on that challenge and embrace it do very well on TikTok.
I’ve seen some creative ways of promoting music on TikTok, which is fun. I’ve always felt like all my creativity goes into music. I’m not crafty. I don’t design anything. I’m not artistic. Sometimes, all my creativity has been tapped in writing music. We feel like we don’t know what to do.We have the ability to shape what music is going to look like tomorrow. Click To Tweet
You bring up a great point with that. A humbling moment was when I realized that oftentimes we’re creative. Maybe you have explored this. Are we afraid to take that creativity out of music and apply it to other areas of our lives and businesses? Why is that? Entrepreneurship requires creativity. Why is it difficult for us not to be tunnel vision?
It’s finding the right inspiration. For me, what TikTok has done is inspired me to get creative about content in a way that I wasn’t before. That has allowed my Instagram to blow up. I’m creating much more interesting content because I’m having fun with it. It’s finding that thing that’s going to pull that creativity out of you, spark it or be the right platform or medium for you. I tried to do YouTube and I’m like, “I don’t like this format for whatever reason.”
I struggled with YouTube as well, even though I knew I should be speaking, sharing information and breaking things down, for some reason, it didn’t mesh but TikTok would work. It was short bytes.
It feels too regimented for me. You’ve got to do it in this order. I’m a person that likes to go live or do a show I’m like, “I don’t want someone to tell me that I have to do it in this order and these rules.” That’s where TikTok is freeing.
That’s the artist in us. We need all those borders off of us to thrive.
We’re coming out of the pandemic a little bit and things are coming back. Where do you think the music industry is going? What do you think the whole pandemic period has done? How has it shifted the music industry? Where do you think we’re headed?
There is still space to color and shape music. It’s a very wonderful place to be. A lot of people may be afraid or are like, “I don’t understand what’s happening.” I love that. That creates a world of opportunity because that means that you can come in and create what you want. I love it. We have the ability to shape what music is going to look like and I’m here for it. That’s what I got to say about it.
There’s so much that’s affecting it but it’s almost like we were coming out of the pandemic. It’s like walking into a recession. Here’s the crazy part. When I heard opportunity, I didn’t hear anything bad. I was like, “We got another chance to go in here and shape it up again.” I think so. We have to get a little more creative about what that looks like for ourselves, show up and get it done.
That’s one thing that I embraced during the pandemic. It was this opportunity. This is a kick in the butt to get out of my comfort zone and do something different. I saw that in a lot of musicians as well. We can go back to doing some performances but we also don’t have to put up with things we don’t want anymore because we’ve seen alternative ways of doing things during the pandemic.
The space for independent artists is going to improve and get bigger. There’s going to be more opportunity around it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I started to see more major artists go independent. That’s coming. This is the season. If you’re an independent artist, you can create any opportunity for yourself that you want to create.
The pandemic also reminded us how valuable art is and the connection of creativeness instead of us sitting alone in our homes, those experiences of music, how we need those for our mental health and things like that. Musicians, remember that the world has remembered again how valuable you are. This is our time to take advantage of that.
We need even more music now. This is the time to flood the airways and the internet with music. As we know, music heals, softens our hearts and allows us to cry and get all that out that we need. People are experiencing so much. That’s so heavy on all of us. We need the arts as much as possible, for sure.
On that note, I’d love to have you tell everybody about your upcoming conference. I am a huge fan of conferences. I’ve done the Profitable Musician Summit 2018, 2019 and 2020. I’m looking at doing something probably at the beginning of 2023. They’re so valuable. You can learn so many different things at these conferences and get exposed to many perspectives. What I love about yours is I see people there that I don’t see at every single summit that people put on. Give us an idea of what people are going to experience at your conference.As an independent artist, you can create any type of opportunity that you want to create for yourself. Click To Tweet
Part of my mission with the conference is to bring in people we don’t see in other places. I even like to bring in people who are not necessarily in music but have particular expertise that we can use as artists. Our particular conference is focused on building a brand and business and helping artists shift, not only as being confident as artists but as being confident as business owners. I like to take the artists a little bit step further. It’s not only seeing ourselves as entrepreneurs but I want to see more artists see themselves as CEOs.
We have very few artists that move in that realm. It is reflected within our industry. Artists who see themselves as entrepreneurs and treat and build their brand around their art tend to be extremely successful. This is where we see the Jessica Simpsons and the Rihannas. We don’t see enough of those. There’s so much opportunity around that, yet we hear these stories of how so many artists work so hard. They get older. They’re having to sell their catalogs and do these other things because they did not build more around that opportunity of music.
It’s so interesting because I have had this experience too, where I have this deep desire for artists to be CEOs. I was playing with my mission statement one time. I put the word CEO in there and put it out in my Facebook group. I’m like, “What do you think of this mission?” They’re like, “I don’t resonate with being a CEO.” I got so much of that response. I was like, “We got a little more education. We got to move them toward this a little bit more before we can tell them that this is my mission because they’re not there yet.” What do you think it is about the term CEO that freaks artists out?
The concept of it takes away the opportunity to be creative. It’s the opposite of what we want to be. I agree with you. At one point, I was like, “Be an artist to CEO.” I decided to bury it slightly but still have it there. That’s the best way I can describe it. The information we share and the method that I teach and share are still very much in line with that but I don’t necessarily lead with those words anymore. You tested. Instead, I focused on the skillsets of building that. People don’t even know that’s what they’re building but that’s what it is so it will come together later.
It’s the whole thing where you’ve got the delicious-looking pizza but under the cheese layer, there are some veggies that you’re hiding in there.Give people what they need but sell them what they want. Click To Tweet
It goes back to entrepreneurship. This is a great point and probably very valuable to your readers. You give them what they need but sell them what they want.
They’ll get there. When I started the show in 2015, people weren’t resonating with being entrepreneurs as musicians back then. In 2022, I truly believe that they are. That evolution has happened. Enough artists, especially getting out there on TikTok, are talking about things more around being the CEO and the holistic business approach and stuff. We may have this conversation again in another couple of years and be like, “Artists are CEOs.” It’s an evolution.
I love it when I see artists asking questions, talking about their experiences with their music and songs, protecting their art and being okay with the process of that. I love it so much.
Tell them how they can get some information about the conference, sign up and what subjects they are going to see at the conference.
Artists and entrepreneurs in general, anyone can attend. Go to MusicMeetsTheBoardroom.com or you can go to IndieArtistsPowerConference.com. It all routes to the same place. It’s a two-day conference. We have four speakers on the first day, which is the 17th of September 2022. You are going to hear from a music monetization expert. You’re going to hear the story of stolen art and the methods that this particular artist took to attempt to get her music back and credit for her music.
You’re also going to hear from an artist who is a very big popular artist and was super famous back in the mid or late ’90s. She’s going to talk about her experience with fame, what that is and what to expect. Oftentimes, a lot of artists won’t be famous and become famous and be like, “I want out of this,” but they never break it down. She’s going to come in and break that down for us.
We also have someone who’s on day two going to come in and teach us how to have a more balanced life as artists. We don’t necessarily sometimes until we get to the point where we realize this, that our health is our wealth and we need to keep ourselves healthy. I decided to bring someone in after I had a relapse. I didn’t know that but I was working so hard that I had a relapse.
I said, “I do not want to promote this. I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem so we’re going to bring someone else to do that.” There’s publishing as well, someone who is very knowledgeable about music publishing, pitching shows to different TV networks and sync licensing. We have a lot of events that talk about sync licensing but what I learned throughout my research is that there are not enough people from communities of color in general who submit their music for consideration. A lot of sync licensing supervisors are begging for people of color to submit their music. They want to consider them for whatever reason.
Let’s say, for example, you have a movie that has a special scene representing the indigenous community. You may want some music that represents the indigenous community but if you don’t have anything, you’re searching. That is part of the conversation we’re going to have and encouraging more women and communities of different colors to submit their music, how that works, what that process looks like and how they can win in that process.
That’s probably true that there aren’t enough people submitting the music they are truly looking for. This is a vicious cycle because it would be too hard for us to find it so we find it from stuff we have that we want to feature. That’s good. Music Meets The Boardroom, go to that website and grab your ticket to the conference. How can they connect with you on all the socials?
My primary social is TikTok. I am @LatoyaTheSongstress over on TikTok. My secondary is YouTube shorts. It’s Music Meets The Boardroom on there. I don’t spend a lot of time on Instagram anymore. I maintain the business page there but nothing personal on Instagram at this moment.
She’s very active on TikTok so check her out on TikTok. Thank you so much, Latoya. This has been so great. I’ve loved getting to know your journey and all the experience that you have. We have so much in common in the way that we look at music and entrepreneurship.
You are very wise. Thank you for this opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with you in the future.
- Music Meets The Boardroom
- Women of Substance
- Simple Methods Smarter Decisions: Safety Resource for Female Recording Artists
- @LatoyaTheSongstress – TikTok
- Music Meets The Boardroom – YouTube
About Latoya Cooper
Latoya Cooper, also known as “The Songstress”, is the founder of MUSIC MEETS THE BOARDROOM, the #1 Platform For Black Women In Music. Latoya is a successful self sustained business woman sought after by music industry channels for her expertise and fresh direct approach. She has spent the past decade in the project management space and holds a Master’s of Business Administration.
Latoya has a special love for supporting the unique experiences and needs women in music face throughout their music career – especially, women of color. Latoya became a best-selling author after releasing – Simple Methods Smarter Decisions: Safety Resource for Female Recording Artists. The first and only safety resource to hit the market for women in music.
Latoya is a born VISIONARY, an accomplished Recording and Touring Artist, Entrepreneuress and has been featured on Essence.com, DallasObserver and Good Morning Texas, just to name a few”! She has spoken and been a part of the largest music business conferences in the world including “CD Baby” and South By Southwest (SXSW)”.
When Latoya is not performing, she uses her “Gift of Vision” and extensive know-how to help Artists shift their business model from surviving to thriving, by leading with their Superpower, nurturing their entrepreneurial traits and building a clear custom plan of action toward achieving their BIGGEST CAREER GOALS.