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.
For this month we celebrate Jessica Valiyi, Associate Director, Digital Strategy for Sony Music Nashville. Growing up in Carmel, Indiana, she recalls all of her extracurricular activities outside of school revolved around music. She learned to play the drums when she was 10 years old and said she was a music fanatic in high school, although, she wasn’t a huge fan of country music until college. “I’m the oldest child, I didn’t have a big sibling or anyone to talk to but I felt like music was always there for me,” she says. While attending college at Indiana University in Bloomington, Valiyi’s friends she met on her dorm room floor freshman year introduced her to modern country and she instantly fell in love with the lyrics and storytelling. Some of her first favorite artists were Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, and the Dixie Chicks. “I remember listening to the lyrics, and that is what drew me in, they have substance and meaning compared to anyone else I was listening to at the time,” she recalls. After college, she took a job in biotech and medical device company and worked part-time at the local country radio station doing promotions and marketing and helped with their social media. “I feel like there are two types of people in this world, you are either motivated by money or you are motivated by passion and I am the passionate one,” she states. Finding herself looking forward more and more to her side gig at the radio station, she happened to meet Alex Valentine who at the time worked the Northeast promotions for Big Machine Label Group. After talking to him about how she could ‘do what he does’ in the industry, she took that information and chance meeting to heart and a year later made the move to Nashville. Valentine gave her words of advice that she carries with her today, “You have to be present to win”.
Just two months after moving, she took her dream job, a part-time gig with Big Machine Label Group, home to Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, the two artists that helped to cultivate her love for the genre. One of her mains jobs was to help the digital team and assist in keeping Swift’s music off the internet and mainly off of YouTube. She laughs talking about all of the tweets she saved from fans who would try to find her music and couldn’t without buying the actual album, something that proved she was successful in that task.
In December of 2017, she made the move over to Sony Music Nashville and during our conversation, recalls a moment that really has come full circle since moving over to her new position. “The first week I lived in Nashville I went Belcourt Taps. It was Heather Morgan, Jimmy Robbins, Laura Veltz, and Maren Morris and it was my first writers round and I remember thinking ‘Why isn’t this girl an artist?’ I went up to her after and told her how incredible her voice and songs were. Most off her EP and one other song called ‘Loose Change’” Valiyi recalls “I was following Maren’s career when I was at Big Machine and I remember being so bummed that she went to Sony but now it’s just full circle.” The moment becomes even more poignant this week that the Sony Music Nashville team gets to celebrate Morris’ second number one song, “GIRL”.
Her day to day jobs as the Associate Director of Digital Strategy for Sony Music Nashville include helping her artists on fan engagement, email marketing, websites, digital advertising, coming up with creative content, collaborating with digital partners and essentially anything directly related to helping grow the fan base. Her clients at Sony include Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, Luke Combs, Old Dominion, Mitchell Tenpenny, Pistol Annies, Tenille Townes, Jameson Rodgers, The Sisterhood Band, and Ryan Hurd. “One thing that drew me to digital is the space is constantly changing. You really have to be one step ahead of everyone, finding out what the newest, coolest, greatest thing is,” Valiyi says. “You don’t just use specific things because everyone uses it, it has to make sense for your individual clients. It’s trying to keep up with the trends and how to incorporate them with our artists.”
She passionately talks about the fans and how there would be no country music industry without them and how she loves that the digital space is the department that is closest to the fan. One artist she highlights in our interview is Luke Combs. “Luke Combs is so dialed in, everything he does is for the fans, he says ‘They are the ones who are providing me this life and this career’, that’s why I love working for him. Yes, my job is social media, yes my job is in the digital space and content but it’s also listening to fans.” An example of how Combs continues to give the fans exactly what they want by uploading unedited videos of unreleased songs.
When we talk about what advice she would give to young people in the industry she says, “Our industry is so small, networking is huge. The more you are around and people can see you and see what you do, I feel like that goes a long way, every opportunity I’ve gotten in Nashville has come from someone I’ve networked with.” She also highlights the importance of accepting that you won’t know everything and not being afraid to ask questions or to learn from others around you. She quotes Steve Jobs saying “I don’t care about being right. I care about success and doing the right thing.” as something she refers to often. She hopes to empower the people who work with her but when she is in a leadership role, she is the first one to also listen and learn from them as well.
We are so grateful for all of the women who not only take time out of their busy schedules to chat with us but also teach us their stories and share advice with us. We want to thank Jess Valiyi for her guidance and friendship to NYCountry Swag over the past few years and we look forward to continue to champion her and her incredible artists.
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