Rising Star Brittney Spencer and Top Music Execs Talk About How They’ve Survived, and Even Thrived, During the Pandemic

Brittney Spencer
Nicki Fletcher

There’s little question that the past 20 months of the pandemic have been devastating. But for all that has been lost, musicians and the industry around them have found countless innovative and inspiring ways to survive, cope, adapt and even thrive. It has been monumentally difficult, but there’s a lot to learn and take inspiration from in their stories.

For last month’s Mondo NYC conference, Variety deputy music editor Jem Aswad was asked to assemble a discussion panel on “The State of the Music Industry” 20 months in, and recruited four people from different sectors of the business — an artist, agent, manager and music-publishing exec — to talk about their experiences.

The results were so remarkable that Mondo and the participants kindly allowed Variety to post an edited version of the conversation as this week’s “Strictly Business.” The panelists include:

*Brittney Spencer, a fast-rising country singer-songwriter — CBS This Morning called her “Nashville’s Newest Star” — who has seen her career rise almost entirely during the pandemic. She talks about the intimate connections she has made with her fans, and how strange and bittersweet it has felt to see so many of her dreams come true during lockdown. She released her critically praised “Compassion” EP late last year, is currently on tour with Jason Isbell and will launch her own “In a Perfect World” tour in December.

*Lucy Dickins, the London-based co-head of music for William Morris Endeavor talent agency — who works with Adele, Mumford & Sons and many others — talks about how she and her company found new ways not only to keep their artists and clients working, but also how the staff and company adjusted and found new opportunities for themselves and the business.

*Binta Niambi Brown — artist manager, attorney, GM of RCA-distributed Keep Cool Receords and founder of Omalilley Projects — speaks about how her artists not only kept motivated but have managed to thrive through the pandemic — and also how she and they embraced the Black Lives Matter protests of the spring and summer of 2020.

*Kristina Hedrick, Sony Music Publishing VP of business development, talked about how that business has actually managed to soar during the pandemic as the shutdown of touring led not only to a boom of songwriting, but a boom in the value of songs and song catalogs.

Variety thanks all four of them and Mondo NYC for allowing us to reproduce this remarkable and inspiring conversation. Head here for more on Mondo NYC.

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