Our May Wimpact Member of the Month comes to us from the world of music festival operations. Meet Jessica Brown, an incredibly upbeat and hard-working festival gal who has been a jack-of-all-trades across the industry for almost a decade! Read our interview with Jess below and learn a little bit more about her and festival ops.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up loving the live music experience. I’d drive 4 hours to see a show and then drive back that night barely making it in time for homeroom morning bell in high school. Going to shows lit me up, and I loved the feeling that everyone in the room was unified, we were all experiencing the same sort of happiness, together. I feel very fortunate to be working in the industry today!
Industries I’ve worked In: Producing music festivals, high-end weddings, hospitality, yoga/wellness festivals
Hobbies: Love to snowboard & hike, hanging out with my little brothers, looking at pictures of dogs on the internet
Fun Facts: I grew up on a farm in Kansas. I have a secret love for dinosaurs. Recently traveled to India, Nepal, Indonesia & West Africa - I love connecting with people all over the world and learning about different cultures.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your work in the festival operations world.
I have worked in the festival industry for over 9 years. I actually started out on a super high note, as festival director of an incredible little festival called Roots N Blues N BBQ. I had an amazing boss lady mentor and in those first few years in the industry I grew more professionally than I ever expected. We were building this brand new festival, and there was a lot of room for experimenting with ideas, and working to figure out the best way to make parts of it work. I learned to own my shit, call the shots, and morphed into my own version of a boss lady. From there, I dove deeper into the inner workings of other music festivals and have made my living free lancing. I wanted to learn how everything operated on the front line - from production to merchandise to VIP and operations. As of recently, I’ve shifted gears and have helped produce yoga festivals all over the country!
Q: Which festivals / events have you worked at?
KAABOO, Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, Country Jam, Mountain Jam, Taste of Country, Country on the River, Summerset, Telluride Blues & Brews, Crash My Playa, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds in Mexico, Wanderlust festivals & various others.
Q: What different roles have you worked in? Any challenges or triumphs that come with any of them specifically?
I like to think I’m a swiss army knife of festival operations ;) I’ve been everything from intern to festival director. And everything in between: Artist relations & hospitality coordinator, box office manager, VIP manager, staffing coordinator, guest experience manager, credentials manager, operations admin, & project coordinator.
One of my favorite lines is "I'll need to speak with your boss". Well sir/ma'm, I AM THE BOSS. Some people don't think you belong where you are, whether your a woman or your too young. You got there for a reason, and you deserve to be EXACTLY where you are, keep workin' it.
Q: In your experience working festivals, what has your working relationship with other women in the industry been like?
I’ve been surprised by the number of badass ladies that I’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout the years. Our bonds on site get us through long days, and some of my very favorite people in the world are women I have worked with on site during festivals and events. There’s nothing like seven 16-hour days in a row to bring people together, am I right? There is always enough work to go around, so encouraging each other to continue to get involved and push further is key.
Q: Do you find the festival operations world to be inclusive and supportive of women?
I think women are consistently proving that we belong in the industry and that we are an essential piece to the festival operations pie. Production and operations teams still seem to be loaded heavily with men, but I’ve seen several women diving head first into those departments as well. Keep it up ladies!
Q: What would be your advice to other festival gals in regards to fighting for equality and championing other women?
We’re all in this together. By another woman succeeding and moving up the ladder, you succeed too. We are all paving the way for each other in this industry. It's important for us women to foster work environments that are supportive for each other.
Also, when being a boss lady….you can be kind and still get shit done. In fact, you can probably get a lot more done. I think women can feel that they need to be tough, or loud, or overly assertive to get their voice heard. Don’t feel like you need to morph into an a-hole to be taken seriously. Share well thought out plans, carefully choose your words, and always work to keep things moving in the right direction. Handle your business, and stay on top of your shit, and you’ll be taken seriously.
Q: What's next for you? Anything that members of The Wimpact can help support?
I’d love to figure out how to help women in the industry find balance. For years I’ve found myself saying, I’ll start reading that book, or start that challenge, or build that website as soon as I have a little time to spend at home. The reality of this industry is that you are on the road A LOT, and it is important to be able to still work towards your goals every day. I’d love to help develop systems for women so they can consistently have beautiful, full, accomplished days….instead of feeling ragged and in survival mode after 3 weeks on the road. I’ll keep you posted on what’s to come! ;)