We’re bringing you stories from women who are chasing their dreams and building a life that they love with New York Country Swag’s, “Woman of the Month”.
Each month, we highlight a different female pursuing her passions. Introducing you to women who are taking risks, working relentlessly and turning their dreams into reality. These are empowering women who serve as role models and should be celebrated.
Diving deeper to learn more about the country music industry, our next Woman of the Month is Vice President of RED Creative Group, Brooke Antonakos. Rainbow, Alabama native, she began her career in music as a performer at theme parks when she was 16 years old, continuing that each summer before college. Knowing she wanted to pursue a career in the industry, she headed to MTSU right outside of Nashville, originally looking to work on the A&R side of the business. One of her sorority sisters just happened to be Taylor Corlew, daughter of David Corlew, the longtime manager for Country Music Hall of Famer, Charlie Daniels. “I remember driving around with Taylor one night and I knew she wanted to be in the music industry too, so I asked her what she wanted to be and she told me ‘I want to be a song plugger’ and that was the first time that I had ever heard that term. She told me what it was, I was like well dang, I kind of want to be a song plugger too,” Antonakos tells us. After that conversation, her direction shifted from wanting to work on the label side of things to the publishing world.
While still in college she took an internship with GRAMMY U, a community of college students looking to work in the industry after they graduate. “I remember, the job paid 6 dollars an hour and I said ‘You can pay me 6 dollars an hour or I’ll pay you 6 dollars an hour, I want this job’,” she recalls. During her time as the Nashville recruiter for the Recording Academy, she worked closely with the who’s who in Nashville, coordinating events with artists and working behind the scenes. Once she graduated, she received a call from Carla Wallace of Big Yellow Dog, an independent music publishing and artist development company, explaining that there was a front desk job open and after nine months was promoted to Creative Director, officially starting her career and dreams of being a ‘song plugger’.
For those wondering a little bit about publishing and Antonakos’ specific job, essentially she signs songwriters to a deal where they get a salary to write music and the publishing house controls the copyright of the songs they write. She explains, “It’s our job to connect them with writers who a lot of times, do what they don’t do. If I have a lyricist or vocalist like Baker [Grissom], I would set him up with a track guy or producer to bring another element to what he does. I set up cowrites for our writers and then I take those songs and pitch them to producers, artists, and A&R people and heck sometimes someone’s hairdresser, any way you can get the song cut, you can do it,” she laughs. Eventually, when a song gets cut by an artist, the publisher gets a royalty off that song.
All of this is just a small part of the process of what goes into a song before it is released for listeners to hear across their speakers. In 2016, Antonakos joined award-winning producer/songwriter Jeremy Stover at RED Creative Group and they now have a team of eight writers/artists including Swag Spotlight alum, Travis Denning, Capitol Records Nashville recording artist, Adam Hambrick and one of our favorite new artist songwriters, Baker Grissom. She tells us how she is so proud of their team and how they get to celebrate each win together as a family. “I’m just so proud, the whole team feels the pride of the little engine that could, we always knew what we had but now the rest of the world is catching on and it’s fun,” she tells us.
When discussing her favorite parts of her job, Antonakos looks back at burning CDs when she was younger, something we laugh about, picking our favorite songs, adding them to the mixtape and writing with rainbow sharpies the titles. “I found a job that is making mixtapes and I think that is probably the most fun, putting together songs that I love, and taking them to people that have never heard them and then watching them react, it gets me high. I think sharing music is why we all got into this industry, to begin with.”
As usual, we end our conversation with her advice for anyone looking to break into the music industry. “My biggest thing that I’ve learned, over and over again, that is only more clear to me as the years go by is, leave no room for doubt, not an ounce. If you believe in something, choose that you are going to believe in that with all of your heart, don’t doubt yourself,” she says. “I’ve had confidence in rooms where I probably, shouldn’t have and at times when I was wrong, but confidence opened doors for me, even when I wasn’t 100% right. I think confidence goes so far in this business.” She also tells us: “I have had a really beautiful career because I’ve always followed the music and not the money. I can’t stress that enough, if you follow great music, I think the money will come…I have joy in my life, I love my job and I work with incredible talent and the people that I work with are going to be the ones that my kids read about in the country music history books and I am proud of that.” She helps songwriters and artists create their best work, songs that end up healing people all over the world. In encouraging others to live out their dreams, she is living out hers, their wins are her wins.
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