Music In 2020 Interview Series: Geezer Media’s Colette Spencer Talks Career Journey, Music Discovery, Katy Perry and More!
Colette Spencer is the founder of Geezer Media, a company that produces music events in the NYC/Long Island area. She has an extensive background working behind the scenes in radio and is very passionate about supporting local artists as seen through her events. We’re excited to gain insight on the music industry through her perspective. Read on as Colette takes us through her career in music media, breaks down her playlist and much more!
You’ve had years of working your way up in the industry from internships to working in college radio to now at Apple Music and running your own entertainment company Geezer Media. For those trying to make it in radio and media what does it take to find success?
I’ve been pursuing and working in music for over 10 years now. My come-up was fast, but I really hustled. In high school, I was fortunate enough to have a music teacher who took me under his wing and taught me basic sound recording techniques, audio editing, A&R and how to program music for an online radio station. It was a great outlet, and that’s where I gained a lot of early experience. Doing so helped me get involved in college and obtain internships.
Networking is a crucial factor in obtaining an industry job. People are often intimidated by the thought and assume networking is always formal and boring. It doesn’t have to be! A good place to start is following people you admire on social media. This gives you a glimpse into their lives and interests they have. It’s a great way to see what events people go to and who they might know. Don’t overthink it. Get outside, go to events and shows. You never know who you might meet while ordering a drink at the bar or standing in the crowd. I’ve really expended my community by randomly talking to people or artists at different music events. It can be something as small as an open mic night at a local bar or venue.
If you want longevity in this industry, the most important thing I’ve observed is being genuine. There are plenty of fake people in entertainment, but the people who are real are the ones who will be around for years. They might not rise to the top, but they’ll certainly last and be respected. While the industry is massive, it can become very small. Word travels quickly if someone is awful to work with or a genuinely bad person.
Tell us about your role at Apple Music and the overall experience of being there as the platform launched. How has it grown over the years?
I work more behind the scenes. I focus on making sure our radio shows and On Demand content are functioning properly, and try to ensure a positive user experience. The platform has come a long way over the past five years. The core of everything has always been driven by music discovery, and providing artists a comfortable space to create and have a voice within streaming. Everyone is a genuine music fan. It’s what pushes us to work as hard as we do.
I remember the first time connecting with you on social media was when Beats 1 featured up-and-coming UK band Saint PHNX. I know the band was thrilled to be featured as was I. Describe the relationship Apple Music has with music acts both established and new and where you see it going in the future. Any fun interactions with artists?
I love when shows and hosts support new music but also “breaking” music as we like to call it. It’s exciting for us and the artists. Using such a massive platform to support a variety of artists is rewarding. It doesn’t matter if you have 200 followers or 200,000. If the music is good, we want to share it with the world!
Sofi Tukker is a great example of an artist that really blew up over the past few years. They started off as this duo who met at Brown University and moved to Brooklyn to pursue music. We first featured them in Fall 2015 and played their debut single “Drinkee” on repeat. They’ve been an artist who has expanded their fanbase at an alarming rate, and it’s well deserved. They’ve toured the world and created a great catalogue of music in a short amount of time. Every time I see Sofi Tukker perform, I feel so happy for them and Ultra Music.
A fun interaction? When I first started, I had been at my job for maybe two months, Diddy came up to the studio on his birthday to promote his MMM album. We were in a small space and he rolled up with a ton of guests. It was like trying to push to the front row at a concert just to walk from one end of the studio to the other. We bought him a bunch of pizza and Italian food, a white-frosted cake and sang “Happy Birthday” on-air. It was a cute moment. He left the cake behind and I was hoping to take a piece, but someone from his team came back an hour later to claim it.
You started your own entertainment company Geezer Media several years back. What was the driving factor behind it and what do you ultimate hope it becomes?
Geezer Media has been a long and ever-changing passion project of mine. I started seriously supporting indie artists when I was 17 years old. My first interview and live studio performance was with Fighting The Influence, a band I met outside a Motion City Soundtrack show in Providence, RI. They were a local band handing out CDs. I took one and hit them up. From start to finish, it felt great. I was instantly hooked. In college, I helped build an internet radio station called “Required Radio.” We featured a few different types of content, but I always wanted to focus on local musicians and DJs. I would conduct interviews and meet artists on Long Island. After I graduated, I wanted to continue supporting up-and-coming music on my own.
After a few years at my current job, I was finally comfortable enough to focus on outside ventures again. I was craving an outlet to support artists on my own and connect people with great artists. One night in January 2017, after a little liquid courage, I finally pulled the trigger on Geezer Media. I made all the social media accounts public and hoped people would understand the importance of my vision.
Over the past 2 years, we’ve hosted a few live events and partnered with some great artists from multiple genres. While these shows have been super DIY, I genuinely appreciate every artist who has performed and person who has attended. The best feeling after curating an event is seeing people and artists network with each other or become friends. The main goal of Geezer is to always support local artists and businesses. I hope that Geezer Media can become a trusted source to more music fans in the future.
Having been to one of Geezer Media’s music events in Brooklyn I can honestly say the vibe is so genuine. Have these events met your expectations? What can we expect for 2020?
I’ve learned a lot from hosting events, and still have a long way to go. Any type of live event has so many variables that can positively or negatively effect the overall experience. Weather, location, other nearby events, the venue, etc can all deter people from attending. It’s a hard balance, and I’m still trying to navigate it. People are unpredictable, and all I can do is use my best judgement when booking and planning any Geezer Media events.
I love connecting people and artists together. It’s really hard to navigate the music discovery nowadays, especially with all the options we have. It can be difficult to get exposure as an up-and-coming artist. Some people are amazing at marketing themselves online, and others can benefit from the support of their local community. The point of any Geezer Media show is to get as many genuine music fans into a room as possible. We usually have 3-4 local artists perform, and in-between sets I say a few words and encourage people to talk to each other. Whether you work in music, film, finance or education, I just hope you meet someone interesting or become a new fan of the performers. I’m always grateful when someone approaches me after someone’s set and says “Wow, I loved their performance! They’re so good”! That makes all my effort worth it.
In 2020, I plan to host a few events and also find additional ways to promote artists. I’m not quite sure how that looks yet, but I’ll think of something. Maybe the occasional interview or podcast, or some type of video content. It’s tough because there are so many features out there already, so I never want to do something that seems redundant or disingenuous. I hope to collaborate with more local organizations and artists in the future.
It seems like your connection to music started way back. Describe the impact music had had on you from the early days to today.
Growing up, my parents were always listening to music. No one in my family is a true musician; we dabbled, but we all love listening to music when we’re together. I have early memories of driving in the car to specific songs from the 90s. My mom is a Disco-Queen who loves 80s Alternative and Pop music. My dad is a Classic Rock guy with a soft side. He’s a sucker for a good ballad. They both love a variety of genres, but were great about playing current hits on the radio when we were young.
I would always ask for CDs for Christmas or my birthday. I had a Sony Boombox (radio, cassette and CD) in my bedroom. I would go upstairs and listen to music for hours as a kid. When I was little, music was fun to listen to. I would dance around on my bed and pretend I was Britney Spears or the lead guitarist in a Rock band.
As I got older, the CDs became iTunes gift cards and music became an escape. I’ve always struggled with depression and certain albums really helped me take a deep breathe and get through some hard times. Music always felt so personal. It was my drug. I never left the house without my Walkman or iPod. Happy, sad, or angry, there was always something to play. That still applies today. While my relationship with music has changed because of my career, it will always be something I value.
You feature new artists at your events so we know you’re big into music discovery. What music act should be on our radar?
ÊMIA – She’s this wonderful young artist based in NYC. Her style is mainly Pop and Electronic. I met her in the crowd at one of my Geezer Media shows. The growth she’s achieved in the past year is amazing. She moved up to New York from Miami in 2018, and has built a nice community in a short amount of time. I think she’s a perfect example of how collaboration can be beneficial for some artists. It also helps that she’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. I’m excited to keep watching EMIÂ blossom as an artist.
Having worked on multiple levels of radio business what advice would you give artists who want their music heard?
Be smart, be patient, be self-aware.
If you want people to take your music seriously, you have to conduct yourself in a business-like manner. After all, it’s called the music BUSINESS. Respond back to emails and messages promptly, double check you have all your facts straight, and always spellcheck (there’s nothing worse than people spelling my name wrong, especially when they’re asking for something).
If you want your music heard on the radio or supported by different media outlets, get a proper clean version engineered. Having a well done radio-edit shows industry folks that you are thinking steps ahead and it also provides the best listener experience. A poor edit really takes away from the music, so I always appreciate when an artist or label can give me a good, clean edit.
Lastly, do your research! Really understand the person you’re pitching to and where your music will end up. Does it sound just as good as artists they already feature? If you heard your song on a playlist or station, would it sound similar to the others in a technical way? Does it feel appropriate for that source? If your mixing or mastering sounds far different than others, then it might be jarring to anyone else listening. My best advice is make sure there isn’t a noticeable difference. Obviously artists should be creative and not copy each other, but your music quality should match others. It shouldn’t sound like your friend’s teenage brother mixed and mastered the song for $30 in his parent’s basement.
Following you on social media it’s safe to say you’re a “Katy Kat”. What about Katy Perry connects to you and give us your Top 5 Katy Perry songs.
Haha, yeah, I definitely am… I don’t think I’ve ever referred to myself as a Katy Kat, but would constitute as one. She’s my favorite artist.
I was 15 when Katy Perry started to emerge into the mainstream music scene. “I Kissed a Girl” took over Pop radio at the end of my freshman year of high school. I remember buying One of the Boys on iTunes and playing it quite often. Yes, the singles were good, but I loved the rest of the album as well. The now not-so politically correct “Ur So Gay” is, in my opinion, one of the most clever songs from the 2000s MySpace era. The crude wordplay and sassy delivery are outstanding. The title track “One of the Boys” hit close-to-home at the time. I was always the tomboy in school and had lots of guy friends, so sometimes, being seen in a more “datable” light was difficult. The album was everything I needed at 15, and when I revisit it 11+ years later, I still find new things to connect with while reminiscing as well.
The rest of her album releases lined up quite nicely with my age as the years progressed. The Teenage Dream cycle began in summer 2010. I was 17 and heading into my senior year of high school. I used to drive around blasting that album in my 1998 Toyota Camry. It was the best!
Prism dropped in Fall of 2013, I was 20 years old and a junior in college. I loved the writing on this project and the vulnerably she displayed. I always listened to a variety of music and genres, but if you set foot in my dorm room, it was expected that Katy Perry would play at some point.
After that, I still enjoyed all her releases and collaborations. I know her public persona can be a bit problematic at times and some people really rejected her once she cut her hair in 2017, but to me, she’s always delivered musically. I wish more people would dig a little deeper with Katy. Teenage Dream was a massive era, but she is far more than that album and image. Katy Perry has provided the soundtrack to so many phases of my life and continues to satisfy me as a longtime fan.
Picking only 5 is tough! These are songs I really cherish:
“Thinking of You” – Such a sweet song. It highlights Katy’s talent as a singer-songwriter. It was actually the first song she ever wrote.
“Teenage Dream” – Arguably one of the best pop songs from the past decade.
“Wide Awake” – The perfect bridge between the Teenage Dream and Prism eras. She’s less bubbly but still powerful.
“Spiritual” – A major deep cut, but worth the listen. The drums are dynamic on this track.
“Hackensack (Live)” – A Fountains of Wayne cover for MTV Unplugged. It’s a beautiful performance.
Lastly, hit us with your top 10 favorite new songs right now?
Sometimes I dislike the term “new” – While streaming has opened endless listening options, it’s also made us impatient and unappreciative of creative timeframes. A project that has been out a month or two is considered old. *End Rant*
I’ll do my best to keep it recent.
King Princess “Hit the Back”
This is easily one of the best songs over the past year. I think it didn’t receive enough praise. The intimate, piano driven introduction captivates you. You listen and wonder where King Princess will take you. Slowly, the additional elements build, and about 50 seconds in, BAM, things are about to get fun. I spent a few weeks in London, and I had “Hit the Back” on repeat. It’s a great some that keeps you engaged.
Charli XCX “White Mercedes”
“White Mercedes” is SUCH a good ballad. It’s an unexpected standout on Charli XCX’s 2019 album, Charli. While the project consists of excellent features and collaborations, this solo track is perfect with just Charli and her vulnerability.
*The whole album is fantastic. There’s really something for everyone. Any type of Charli fan can find something to love on this album. My best friend and I took a small road trip in October, and we listened to Charli on loop. Her favorite track is “Silver Cross.”
Harry Styles “Lights Up”
I’m really pleased with the progression of Harry’s sound and image. His second album Fine Line is a wonderful collection of tracks. For me, “Lights Up” is a treat. While the hook takes about 1:30 to come into full swing, it’s worth the wait! This song gets stuck in my head so easily.
Nasty Cherry “What Do You Like In Me”
From day one, part of Nasty Cherry’s charm was that you half-expected them to not be good. Many people discovered them through Charli XCX’s social media early in 2019. No one knew who they were as a group. Some recognized Chloe from her other band Kitten and others might have known Debbie as Charli’s drummer during her Sucker era, but nobody knew what to expect. Nasty Cherry have proved they’re here to stay! “What Do You Like In Me” reminds me as a slick 80s track. Gabi’s voice is dark and mysterious in a dreamy way.
Des Rocs “Dead Ringer”
You want anthemic, arena rock in 2020? Look no further than Des Rocs! The chorus on “Dead Ringer” is reminiscent of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N Roll.” It makes you want to chant along and strap on the nearest guitar. It’s one of those songs you’d dance on your bed to as a kid, pretending you ruled the world while performing for a stadium of fans.
Miley Cyrus “Mother’s Daughter”
Say what you want about Miley, but you can’t deny she’s talented. Miley can adapt musically and “Mother’s Daughter” was a welcomed change-up. I like hearing a confident, more aggressive delivery from Miley. The past few years have been a time for women to stand up, and this song provides the soundtrack to push back against the patriarchy.
LPX “Might Not Make It Home”
This song is a NYC nightlife anthem. It’s for those nights when you end up all over the city and are having a great time with your friends. You don’t have a care in the world besides having fun and living in the moment. You shamelessly eat a slice of pizza at 2am and longingly wait for the Subway to actually come. LPX is one of the best Alternative acts to emerge over the past few years and more people need to know that!
Conrad Clifton “Magic Chapstick”
Magic Chapstick is just a fun, sassy, dance song. The line “I can do magic, let me use your chapstick” is hilariously forward. I love everything about the song. Conrad Clifton’s recent album Get Your Whole Life experiments with different electronic sounds and production elements. It’s one of my favorite releases from 2019. Clifton is an artist who puts on a great live show, and he’s definitely worth supporting.
Rosalia “A Palé”
When the beat kicks in, the low end really grabs your attention. A Palé is a subtle banger. Rosalia is so dynamic and different. Everything she does is interesting. All the praise she’s received is well-deserved. It’s refreshing to see a Spanish artist connect to so many different audiences. Her music, performances and fashion are all fantastic. I think she’ll continue to have a great career.
Big Sean “Bezerk (feat. A$AP Ferg & Hit-Boy)”
Is this a ground breaking Hip-Hop song? No. Is it fun as hell to hear Big Sean and Ferg spit side-by-side in their traditional flows? Absolutely! Bezerk is a solid release from these two MCs. A quick delivery, solid beat, switch-ups in flow, and plenty of confidence.
*Honorable Mention* Kim Petras “There Will Be Blood”
The entire TURN OFF THE LIGHT project was a delightful surprise this Halloween season. The best part? It’s good enough to play year-round. Each song flows really well into the next. It’s punchy, theatrical and creative (conceptually and sonically).