Known for her fearless leadership in a notoriously male-dominated industry, Beth Laird fights for gender equality in country music. She’s not just a 2019 Billboard Country Power Player and current member of Recording Academy Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, but she is also the co-founder of the independent music publishing group Creative nation.
Beth has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to tear down walls and climb the corporate ladder. With her husband, Grammy Award-winning songwriter Luc Laird, she mentors women in country music through her program, Feeding exceptional women. Please host this week’s Nashville FACE, Beth Laird.
What attracted you to the country music industry?
I grew up in Winchester, Tennessee, a small town about an hour and a half from Nashville. We didn’t come to Nashville often, so I wasn’t very familiar with the music industry, and certainly didn’t know about music business degrees. I went to the University of Alabama but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I ended up majoring in public relations. Regina Stuve, a family friend, was the publicity manager at Capitol Records Nashville. Ironically, my mother met her one day in Winchester. They decided that I would do an internship for her for free for the summer. I was skeptical because I wanted a real job that summer, but I fell in love with the music business from day one.
Realizing that there were business people working with (and for) creatives, helping them make their dreams come true, motivated me. I got another summer internship there after my first year. After I graduated, I moved to Nashville. I got a job with Nashville Bun Co. to coordinate English muffin shipments and book return transportation for refrigerated trucks, but I focused on finding an opportunity in music. A year later, Regina’s husband took over the old edition of BMG Music Publishing and the receptionist left, so Regina convinced him to give me an interview. I got the job, and I never looked back!
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The country music industry is not known for its gender equity. What are you doing to turn the tide?
The best thing you can do is treat everyone equally and contribute to the next generation of executive and creative women. Having a positive mentor can change everything. The moment I let go of what I was not and started to look into who I was and my strengths as a woman, I felt it was an advantage rather than a inconvenience. If anyone enjoys working with women, I have an advantage. If they don’t, that’s fine, and I’m not wasting my time.
Tell us about your mentorship program, Nurturing Outstanding Women.
Nurturing Outstanding Women (NOW) is a mentoring program that Abbey Adams and I started in 2016 to mutually strengthen our female network. We connect mentees and mentors in all aspects of the industry in an intimate setting to support, grow and learn together. We have 10 women per class every year, and we just finished our fifth class.
Our mission statement is, Through mentorship, we create a culture of successful businesswomen who support other exceptional women to promote personal and professional excellence.. It started out as something Abbey and I felt was missing when we joined the company. We wanted to change that and do what we could to support the next generation of women leaders.
Which phenomenal creative women should we be paying special attention to?
Oh, there are a lot! Right now a few in my orbit are Lori McKenna, Kassi Ashton, Hailey Whitters, Anna Vaus, Mackenzie Carpenter, Nathalie Hemby, Mags Duval, Towns of Tenille, Morgan wade, Lainey Wilson, Cam, Emilie West, and of course I can’t stop listening Adele! There are so many great women writers and artists out there right now; it’s exciting!
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What can we do to provide more support for creative women in the music industry?
It starts early – at home, at school, in extracurricular activities. It is crucial that one person believes in you more than you believe in yourself. It seems that most women give up on their dreams in college or after having a baby. These are tough times when it can feel hopeless if you don’t have the support or the opportunity. You have to lean on people, encourage them, and help them connect with other women at the same stage of life. Remember, this is not a competition. We all have different gifts and paths. It’s still a work in progress for me, but [it’s important to] prioritize time to fill your cup so you can support and uplift others.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It was from my boss at BMI and a great mentor of mine. He told me that no one in the music business knows what he’s doing. Art and commerce weren’t meant to go hand in hand; we are all doing our best.
Despite faith, family, and friends, what are the three things you cannot live without?
Wow, that’s tough, but the first things that come to my mind this season are Christmas carols, podcasts and “Yellowstone”.
Thanks for the interview, Beth, and thanks to Spencer combs for the pictures.
Read more interviews with our inspiring FACES in our archives!