Industry Spotlight: Emily Hakes (Lame-O Records)

Hello, everyone! We have been waiting to released this interview for a few days, but transcriptions sometimes take longer than expected. We finished today and thought it best to go ahead and push it out right away. Double post Tuesday, anyone?

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It’s been a while since we featured an up and coming industry talent who is somehow managing to juggle multiple high profile projects while maintaining an impressive GPA. Emily Hakes hails from the thriving city of Philadelphia with a passion for music that has been developing since her early teens. The world probably should have known she would be an industry lifer when her first show was Van’s Warped Tour 2007, but here we are seven years later and she’s just now starting to get the notoriety she deserves. From her work at Bad Timing and Lame-O records, to her fast developing skills as a publicist, Emily is quickly ascending to the heights of young music professionals everyone aspires to reach.

Last week, I was able to connect with Emily over the phone for a half hour conversation about her life and experiences up to this point. I knew next to nothing about her going in, aside from the various project I knew her to be connected with, and walked away feeling as if I made a very important new friend. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Emily will be able to accomplish anything she sets her mind to in this industry, and I am incredibly excited to see her achieve her various goals in the years to come.

If you would like to learn more about Emily’s adventures in the industry, make sure you follow her on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: Hello, Emily. How are you this afternoon?

E: I’m doing well. Just started my day a few hours ago. So far, so good.

H: I know we’ve tried to schedule this a couple time now, so I am happy we finally able to connect. How is the weather in Philadelphia today?

E: It’s actually great today. It’s been bad this week. It’s been rainy and humid a lot, but today it’s sunny.

H: To be honest, I’m fairly excited about this interview. We have covered the people you work with in the past, but you’re someone who has been making moves in this industry under the radar for a while at this point and I think it’s high time you get credit for all you do. Tell me, when do you think you first fell in love with music?

E: I think I started listening to music of my choosing around 14 or 15. I started with a few records I got from a friend’s older sibling that I listened to a lot, as well as Paramore and Fall Out Boy type stuff because I was young. The records that stuck with me were Motion City Soundtrack, Brand New, and Death Cab For Cutie, who are still some of my favorite bands today. I would say I got my start in pop punk music, but those bands carried my interest over to other things.

H: Falling for music is something most people do at one point or another in life, but taking that passion and attempting to transition it into a career is fare more rare. I don’t want to jump too far ahead in your story, but can you recall a time when you first started considering the possibilities of a career in entertainment?

E: It’s kind of a funny story. I go to Drexel University now, but before that I was in high school. I went to a college fair and they had pamphlets for the Music Industry program at Drexel, which happened to have a summer program with it. That was something I had never heard of before. I loved music, but I lived in the suburbs and had never considered it as something people did for a living. Reading that set me on the path to pursue the industry.

H: Interesting. We usually do some basic music history questions and I’m realizing now we skipped right over them. Let’s fit one in: Do you remember the first concert you attended?

E: I think my first concert was Warped Tour 2007. I don’t think I went to any events before that with my parents, and if I did I do not remember them. I saw All Time Low, Hawthorne Heights, and a few others. I don’t know that there was a band I really wanted to see. My friend was going and there were a few bands I knew who were there. I wasn’t completely into the world of punk yet, so it was something I did mostly just because I thought it would be fun. It was definitely a weird first concert.

H: You mentioned Drexel University. You’re still enrolled now, correct? I believe you’ve only got a short while left to go.

E: I’m in my senior year now. I graduate in March.

H: As someone who has already accomplished a lot in their young career, would you encourage aspiring industry professionals to attend college?

E: I’ve got a weird relationship with that kind of question. I know that I probably wouldn’t be doing a lot of the things I’m doing today without going to this school, but it’s not necessarily because of the program. It’s more the people I met here and the environment we’re in. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going to school for something like this due to the cost of higher education, but at the same time – if you’re in the suburbs and need a way into the city it’s not a bad way to go. So I don’t hate the idea of going to college, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for everyone. It’s more about the relationships.

H: Okay, so you enter school and then about a year ago two big things happen: You have an internship with SideOneDummy and you launch your own label, Lame-O Records, with Eric Osman. Which came first?

E: Technically, SideOne came first. Lame-O was started by Eric, who is one of my best friends, and he started it on his own to help Modern Baseball put out their album. When he was doing this, I was giving him advice and helping, but I wasn’t technically working at Lame-O because it wasn’t really a business. Then right before I left for LA to do the SideOne internship he asked me to really be a part of it. I said yes, entered the partnership, went to LA, and then when i came back I really dug deep into the Lame-O stuff.

H: Let’s start there. What inspired you to apply for SideOneDummy?

E: That is one of my favorite record labels. It’s one of the first labels that I knew of because they had The Gaslight Anthem, and they continue to be one of my favorite bands. I wanted to know more about the label and people who put it out, so I dug into their artists and discovered people like Chuck Ragan, Fake Problems, and so on. They were one of the first labels I connected with like that, and from then on I kept up with them. For a while I was going to work with Zack on Bad Timing’s first release, but then I saw S1D put up something and I decided to apply. When they called, I talked to Zack and he supported me. He put me in contact with Jamie Coletta, who is amazing, and things came together from there.

H: What do you think was the biggest lesson you learned while doing your internship?

E: I learned a lot. Jamie is incredibly good at her job, and she taught me the basics of how things are done. On top of that, she taught me one of the most important things that I needed to know about email, and that is that it is your job to follow-up with people. There’s nothing wrong with sending a couple of emails, people get it, and that’s something she taught me.

H: Do you have any advice for others thinking of starting a label?

E: It’s a stupid and cliche answer, but you just have to do it. Everyone has reservations when it comes to starting something new, but it’s important that you get past that and just do it. It’s not as hard as it seems, and you will understand that once you just do it. Everything I have been a part of, both Lame-O and Bad Timing, came from people just doing something they wanted to do.

Whatever you think your idea is, trust that it is a good one and try it.

H: I want to fit in a little discussion about the other label you work with, Bad Timing Records. They’re a bit newer than Lame-O, and right now they have a lot of stuff going on. How did you initially get involved with the label?

E: Zack went to school with me. I kind of mentioned it earlier, but before the SideOneDummy internship I had spoken to him about working for Bad Timing. I was going to do that until S1D came along, and then when I got back they told me their horror stories from trying to pack their first release. We talked and that’s where things started. As the business grew I began taking on more things.

H: Is working with Bad Timing that different than Lame-O?

E: I think it’s pretty different. It’s similar in that they’re both starting up and we encounter similar issues at times, but Thomas and Zack have more industry experience and know a bit more about the music business. Lame-O is a bit more relaxed, and we are figuring things out as we go along. I do similar jobs for both, even though I do have more control at Lame-O. We both have a lot of ambition.

H: After all you have accomplished, what are your current career goals?

E: I still want to do a lot. On a professional level, I want to have another big record with Lame-O to help make us a powerhouse. I want us to be a real label and not the kind of local thing it is now. I’m also really focusing on trying to make PR my career, as Lame-O doesn’t pay me anything. I’m hoping to get involved with agencies after graduation, and overall I want to improve at everything I do. I think I still have a long way to go.

H: Out of curiosity, do you have any free time left? It seems that between two labels and school you keep fairly busy.

E: I have more now than I did before. The last few years I was also working a food service job in addition to the labels, so that was pretty crazy. I make just enough, or close to enough now through our efforts to cover my rent and needs.

H: Do you still believe music is the industry you want to work in for the foreseeable future?

E: Yea, that’s definitely the goal. I like working in it. I know some people get worn out in the music industry, but that hasn’t happened to me. If anything, I listen to more music now and get more excited than ever before. I haven’t gotten jaded yet or anything, but then again I’m still young.

H: I know we’ve talked a bit about advice already, but I’d like to tap into your well of knowledge once more. Do you have any additional insight to offer aspiring music professionals about making their way in this industry?

E: To get started, go somewhere cool. Go where something is happening and start to make friends. Don’t make it about business up front, just network and meet people who are doing cool things. Develop ideas, work together, and act on the best material. There’s not much more to it.

H: That’s all I have for right now. Before I let you go, are there any final thoughts or ideas that you would like to share with our readers?

E: Bad Timing just released a new 7” with Kevin Devine, which I think is really awesome. They also have a Knuckle Puck EP, which is doing incredibly well. Lame-O doesn’t have anything this month, so nothing for that. On the PR side, I’ve been working with a band called Hurry and they’re great. Everyone should check that out.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.