Hello, everyone! Welcome to the final Blogger Spotlight column of the week. We are planning to bring back our Advice series tomorrow, but at this point we are waiting on a few final components to fall into place before revealing the article’s focus. If you have a person or publication you feel deserves to be highlighted in this column, or if you have an idea for a future Advice article, please do not hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your recommendation(s). You can also find us on Twitter.
The vast majority of the sites we have features up to this point have been focused solely on promoting and discussing music. There have been slight variations in genre and approach, but for the most part everyone does the same task in their own unique way. Today is different however, because the person at the center of this story spends essentially no time whatsoever writing about music online.
Natalie Dickinson is the founder and creative mastermind behind We Are The Kids, a site dedicated to helping aspiring industry professionals get their start in the music business. Through in-depth editorials, spotlight interviews, and an on-going Q&A with readers Natalie has built a community of passionate music fans who are always on the lookout for ways to help the scene they love thrive. She makes no money for her efforts, but the work she does has proven more rewarding than even she could have imagined.
This might sound weird to say, but Natalie Dickinson is a personal hero of mine. She might not realize it yet, but through her efforts with We Are The Kids Natalie has helped craft the next generation of music industry leaders, and to be completely honest she’s doing a far better job than any book or one-off article could hope to accomplish. She’s making it easier-than-ever for people to get involved with the music they love, and through doing so has developed a worldwide digital community of progressive thinkers who will help shape the future of this business.
If you want to stay informed with everything Natalie has going on, be sure to bookmark and frequent We Are The Kids. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.
H: Please state your name, title, and the site(s) you’re associated with:
ND: Natalie Dickinson, (Founder), We Are The Kids
H: We like to start at the very beginning of everyone’s journey in this business. What are your earliest memories of music?
ND: I didn’t grow up in a family who was from a musical background per say, but my parents always had an interested in music by default of the time period when they grew up. We always had music playing in the house. My parents have a big collection of records– mostly rock and pop classics from the 70s and 80s. When CD’s came out, my Dad used to take my brothers and I along with him to Newbury Comics all the time. I remember him going through a phase when he would buy stacks of CDs at the store, and keep them in the back of his car to play.
H: Do you recall when you decided a career in the entertainment industry was one you wanted to pursue? To whom or what do you attribute the inspiration to head in that direction?
ND: I think it was probably around the ages of 15-17 when I realized that music was more than just a general interest for me. I was starting to go to more shows, and starting to meet more people. I attribute a lot of my inspiration to an organization called Earn It Yourself, and it’s founder Sarah Saturday, who has been an amazing mentor to me over the years. Along with Sarah, there were a few other people who inspired me, helped me, and pushed me from an early age.
H: Did you study something industry-centric in college?
ND: I’m still in college at Northeastern in Boston. I study Communications. Although it is not directly related to music industry, many of the concepts I’m learning apply to any industry in a broad sense. I didn’t choose to study music industry (which is a major offered at my school), because I knew that I could always get music industry experience outside of the classroom, and I wanted to invest my money in a major that was broad enough for me to fall back into if I don’t end up in the music industry at the end of the day.
H: What was your first gig in the music business (unpaid work counts)?
ND: Street teaming was definitely my first taste of experience in the music industry. I street teamed for probably about four years, and I’ll still pick up a campaign every once and a while if I have time. From street teaming, everything snowballed. I’ve always been trying to learn about every aspect of the industry I possibly can, so whatever opportunities were thrown my way, I’d give it a shot.
H: You, like many, maintain a number of roles in the music business. This interview is supposed to focus on We Are The Kids, so let’s knock the others out of the way. Can you tell us a bit about your role with Warped Tour and how it came to be?
ND: I’ve been involved with Warped since 2007 when I started going as a fan. In 2009, I volunteered for the first time, and I loved the experience. Wanting more, in 2010, I went to four different dates of the tour to volunteer. That year, I met Sarah Saturday as she was hosting Earn It Yourself panel meet-ups at each of those dates. That next year, I worked with Sarah and helped her build a street team for the EIY meet-ups in 2011. That summer, Sarah gave me a laminate in return for my hard work. I shadowed the production intern that year, volunteered, and helped out with the EIY meet-ups. In 2012, I went into the tour volunteering again. Somebody who was touring with an organization I was volunteering with left the tour, and I had the opportunity to jump on the road and take her place. Once I had those three weeks to prove myself, I was asked back out for the full tour in 2013 to be the volunteer coordinator for production. Production had never brought out a volunteer coordinator before, so it was a new job that I sort of created and organized for myself as the tour progressed.
H: When not on the road you currently reside in Boston where you continue to stay involved in music. What do you do in New England to stay active outside of the festival season?
ND: I’m a full time student at Northeastern, so I have classes every day of the week. Around class time, I also work a little over twenty hours a week at Tealuxe in Harvard Square (holla come visit me!!). When I’m not brewing delicious tea, or writing papers at the local coffee shop, I’m working on my website, and going to shows with friends.
H: Okay, onto the site. When did you launch We Are The Kids, and how did the idea come together in the first place?
ND: WATK launched in July of 2010. This was the summer I met Sarah on Warped, and was introduced to EIY. EIY served as a huge inspiration for my site. Also, that summer I was volunteering for one of the sponsors on the tour. That summer, I was at a point where I felt like I had learned everything I could from street teaming, and I wanted more experience, but I was too young to intern, or work at a venue. The sponsor’s TM, Luis suggested that I start something local in the industry to get experience. We talked about blogging, and he encouraged me to start a blog. He specializes in social media, so from the beginning, he taught me, and guided me to create a strong community and presence online.
H: The target demographic for WATK is one that certainly needed a hub for community building, but I am curious about how you initially got off the ground. Did you do any marketing early on, or did the audience come to you?
ND: Well, Luis really helped me in the beginning in terms of going about making content, and reaching people through social media. Tumblr was a fairly new platform when I started the site, so I used to reach out to TMs, photographers, and merch people on tumblr (contacts I had accumulated through my years of volunteering at Warped), and I would write in their ask box telling them about WATK. Since I knew these people had a bigger following than me, when my ask was published, I would get a bunch of their followers checking out my site. Tumblr has a lot more users now, so when their editorial staff started featuring my blog in their “find blogs” section, I started to get major attention.
H: In addition to offering advice through Q&A, WATK offers a number of articles intended to simplify the process of getting your start in the business. What areas of the business have you yet to cover that you would like to create materials for?
ND: There are so many things we could cover, and I’m open to everything. Right now, I’m working on putting together a feature about volunteering at big festivals. Another idea I want to cover soon is marketing events, and marketing tours, or working for sponsors. It’s an idea that I don’t think many kids know about, or think about as a way to get on the road.
H: From what I can tell, WATK has no advertising whatsoever. Have you monetized your efforts at all? If not, do you have plans to do so anytime soon?
ND: I haven’t monetized anything on WATK…yet. I post for companies for free, promote other music blogs for free, and run my site at no personal cost to me. I’m currently working with my school’s venture accelerator program to put together a business plan that I will be able to present to a board in an attempt to receive gap funding. This funding will be used to create a new website for WATK that will be built from scratch by a developer. The new site will open up different ways for me to be able to make a little money. I’m not trying to make a living off WATK, and I never want to charge my followers anything. If I can make a little money to put back into WATK to make it better, I’d be stoked.
H: Seeing as you likely make no financial gain by running this site, what do you get out of your effort? Why keep doing it?
ND: I never could have anticipated how helpful the site would be to my personal career in the music industry. I have to credit 80% of my resume to WATK. It has helped me to make connections, and get jobs within the music industry. I truly love going on my site, and connecting with other kids in the industry. There are so many talented kids on the site, and it’s really cool to hear about everything they are doing to get involved.
H: What is your ultimate career goal?
ND: I don’t have a clear answer to this question. I can see myself in a lot of different positions. Overall, I just want to be able to make a comfortable living doing something I love. Happiness is very important to me. If I’m not happy doing what I"m doing, I"ll make a change.
H: We Are The Kids seems to be in a state of constant growth over the last several months. What do you have on the horizon that you can share with us as far as content is concerned?
ND: I touched on it before, but overall, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on a business plan to get a new site up and running for my followers. There are a bunch of new features that will be rolled out on the new site. Kids will be able to contact one another through the site, and check out jobs/opportunities based on what city they live in, or what career they’re interested in. Kids and companies will also be able to make their own profiles to showcase what they are doing in the industry.
H: Okay, I think that about covers it for now. Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share with our readers?
ND: Thanks to anyone who has supported the site, or contributed to the site. We have an amazing community of people, and I can only hope that we grow stronger as we continue to make an impact in the music industry. Also, if anyone has any questions about the site, or wanted to contact me, I can be reached through email at email@example.com or on twitter @wearethekids!