It isn’t often that a member of the Nashville music industry community is also a fellow New Yorker. Our Woman of the Month for September, Diane Monk-Harrison, is just that. She is at the forefront of promotions for Warner Music Nashville based in New York City, working closely with their roster to help cultivate radio and streaming promotion as it pertains to the North & South East region. Monk has worked with countless artists over her career spanning from BB King & Elton John to Lyle Lovett and Carrie Underwood. In a recent phone interview, Monk explained how she got into the business and how her passion has truly kept her at the top of her game.
“No two people have the same path getting where we are in this business. For me, I didn’t know the music business existed behind the scenes, I didn’t know about the business in general, I was a hairdresser out of high school before going to college,” she tells us. Growing up right outside of Boston, her brother-in-law was in a band that was signed to a major record label and it opened her eyes to a whole new world that was out there, the business behind the music industry. “I love music and live shows, and quickly realized you can work doing this as a job,” Monk explains. “Prior to that I never thought of a career in music, I don’t know how they let me in the school chorus because I seriously cannot carry a note to save my life, but I’ll tell you what, I recognize a hit song when I hear one.”
While in school full time she took the advice of an A&R representative that worked closely with her brother-in-law’s band and found an internship in the industry. With Boston being such a rich town full of music, she took a job working for a jazz promoter, then nightclub/concert venue receptionist and finally landed herself an internship at a radio station. Explaining to us that each job she took introduced her to new faces, new positions and really set her up for a career in this industry. “One bit of advice I had gotten was, take whatever job you are given, then max out at it, learn everything you can about that job and then some, make the people around you dependent on you in that position.”
Her hard work paid off, working for MCA Records in regional promotion for over a decade in all formats including Pop, Rock, R&B, Alternative and Adult Contemporary. “One week you are out working with Lyle Lovett and Mary J Blige and the next week you are at a Tom Petty or Elton John concert or the next week you are with a brand-new band (Blink 182) on the road visiting radio stations. “It’s a lot of steps and a lot going on at the same time. You have to keep your eyes open while juggling all of the other aspects of the job, the business and things that are going on around you in general,” Monk explains.
She took a National promotion, transitioned to working Adult Contemporary for Columbia Records and loved having one format that she could focus all her energy on. At the time her artists included John Mayer, Train, and Five for Fighting to name a few. From there, she was offered a job working the country music format for Sony’s sister company in Nashville. Just prior to making the move over to the country format, Monk’s husband turned her on to two albums, Kenny Chesney’s Lucky Old Sun and Eric Church’s Carolina that she listened to incessantly all summer. “I was hooked,” she said. Making the transition into the country music world was exciting and she eventually ended up at Warner Music Nashville where she has been for the past four years.
Over the years she has seen the industry and the way music is discovered and consumed change drastically. The days of going to a retail store and buying an album off a shelf has changed into purchasing music online to now streaming music through Spotify or Pandora. When we discuss the changes, she explains how streaming has changed the game for artists and for the industry but now there are just new ways to discover and promote artists. “At Warner, we’re an artist-driven company, data-driven and lean on terrestrial radio coupled with streaming and satellite to break new and established artists; you don’t lose any of the creativity of the job and promoting artists, you just have more outlets and more measurable metrics,” she says.
Although her everyday schedule changes from day to day, a typical day in the life includes attending shows, visiting radio stations and keeping tabs on her artist’s music on the airplay charts. It could mean arranging artist travel or radio interviews, waking up on a tour bus or driving around the country on radio tour. Her main roster now includes High Valley, Devin Dawson, Michael Ray, Morgan Evans and most recently Kenny Chesney. She spent this summer having the ride of a lifetime attending Chesney’s Trip Around the Sun Tour eleven times throughout her region and promoting his latest album Songs for the Saints. Her energy and passion for the music is evident when you see her attending music events, she knows every word to their songs and supports the artist in a way their biggest fans would. “I am living my dream, a dream at one time I never knew existed, but when it comes to working with the artists, I’m very passionate about them and their music because this is their livelihood and their dream,” Monk humbly tells us.
As far as advice goes for maintaining a job in the industry Monk tells us “I’m highly competitive and always striving to outperform those around me but know it’s teamwork that gets the job done. Do it with passion, integrity, heart and be prepared for some long days (often away from home) and sleepless nights. Be resilient, work hard, have fun along the way but also recognize when you need to make time for yourself and really shut it down on off days” She has excelled in this industry, always working towards a common goal and hoping to help each artist live out their dreams.
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