Collective Entertainment's Emily White on Using Music to Get Out the Vote

Plus, Beyoncé's Lemonade, Oasis, and Fiona Apple and more

Emily White is a Brooklyn-based entrepreneur and founding partner at Collective Entertainment in New York City. White is the author of the No. 1 Amazon best-selling How to Build a Sustainable Music Career and Collect All Revenue Streams.

She hosts a podcast of the same name; it's the No. 1 music business podcast in America and has charted on six continents with listeners in more than 120 countries. White is the founder of #iVoted Festival, which activates venues and creates webcasts to let fans in on election nights who show a selfie from outside their polling place. #iVoted Festival's 2020 webcast was the largest digital concert in history and she is currently building #iVoted Festival 2022.

We caught up with Emily for our Liner Notes series to learn more about her musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work she's proud of and admired.

Emily, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Hartland, Wisconsin, and live in Brooklyn, New York.

Your earliest musical memory.

My earliest musical memory is loving the Beach Boys as a preschooler.

Your first concert.

My first concert was The Steve Miller Band in Milwaukee when I was 5. Despite my parents' awesome seats, I fell asleep. Either way, I remember thinking it was so cool that Steve was from Wisconsin and I was fascinated by the concept of a "Space Cowboy."

Your favorite bands/musicians.

I've always said that the best band is the Beatles, but my favorite is Noel Gallagher and Oasis. Though I probably listen to more Damon Albarn projects at this point. Regardless, Noel's songwriting had me hooked from the first time I heard "Live Forever" and that band and all things Britpop undoubtedly had a large impact on inspiring me to work in music. I also love all things Fiona Apple and Stevie Wonder.

How you get your music these days.

I try to practice what I preach and buy music directly from artists' websites. If that's not available, I try to purchase it on Bandcamp. Generally these methods are the highest profit margins for artists and they also score my email address so they can communicate directly with me about their future work forever. Though I keep my Spotify account handy as when folks share music with me, it's often via Spotify link.

Your favorite place to see a concert.

The Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee. It's beautiful, historic, and the view is great from any seat in the room. They also have the best in-house catering, and I used to tour manage all over the globe. You can just tell the food is made with so much care and love and it makes such a difference when you're on the road. The Pabst also has a backstage barista who's always a hit!

Your favorite music video.

Beyoncé's Lemonade. I know it's technically a "visual" album and not a video. But I truly feel that Lemonade is the greatest release since Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The music transcends genres and the videos are ultimately a film that in many ways created a new art form. All hail the queen!

Beyoncé | Hold Up (Lemonade)
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.

Behind the Music, even if it's mostly available in YouTube form. For better or for worse, that show taught me a lot about the inter-workings of artists and their teams, more-so than the music history classes or books I devoured while growing up. I spend way too much time listening to my own podcast while making clips of it, lol. But otherwise I'm really excited about Dr. Matthew Walker's new podcast. He's the author of Why We Sleep and I can't wait to hear the latest on the power, science, and importance of sleep.

A recent project you're proud of.

Hands down creating #iVoted Festival 2020. Due to the pandemic, we pivoted from our in-person model of fans getting into shows on election night with a selfie from outside their polling place. What resulted was the largest digital concert in history with 450+ artists like Billie Eilish, Living Colour, and Trey Anastasio of Phish participating. I was originally holding arenas in swing states whose voting margins are often decided by the size of a concert venue.

By going virtual we could activate even more artists and fans to get out and vote, and then tune in to our stream by RSVP-ing with a selfie at home with their blank and unmarked ballot. We pulled all of this off without funding and quickly followed up by doing it again with #iVoted Festival Georgia for the special election that determined control of the U.S. Senate in January. I'm forever in awe of our volunteers who made this happen and I'm working every day to secure funding. If this is what we could do on a volunteer basis, think of the impact we can have on voter turnout with funding for the 2022 election and beyond.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

I love Imogen Heap's Creative Passport. I know it feels like a pain for artists to upload their information to yet another platform. But Imogen is putting the power of data back into the hands of the artists who create the music that we love so much and who deserve to own it in the first place.

How musicians should approach working with brands.

Musicians should have a realistic approach to working with brands. I see too many artists who are just getting going spending time pitching brands. I consider such relationships to truly be partnerships. If artists want to work with brands they need to build up their social following and engagement numbers as well as their email lists and text message clubs so there's an audience that the brand can tap into.

At the same time, think local! There are plenty of incredible local brands that I've seen artists partner with that is mutually beneficial in so many ways. And of course, authenticity is ultimately what's most important here in anything an artist is putting out. Whether it's a brand partnership or a song, the audience can feel if it's authentic and real or forced.

How brands should approach working with musicians.

Brands need to listen to artists and their teams as they know the best methods to communicate effectively with their audiences. I had a top music gear brand reach out about one of our artists who has incredibly high engagement numbers. The brand was adamant about dictating and editing posts instead of letting the artist / influencer share the gear in the authentic manner that built her strong following and engagement numbers in the first place.

It's the same in all brand partnerships. We also work with athletes, and I remember explaining to a brand that having the athlete post three times a week on all socials for months at a time was going to turn the audience off to the product. Generally, brands and agencies are open to this feedback. At the end of the day I truly want to see these partnerships to succeed for all involved.

What music can do that nothing else can.

Music is a medium and art form that transcends age, class, borders and inspires those that it touches for the long term. We love our favorite music and artists and will do almost anything to support and align with their art. The platforms it's delivered on will always change but our love for music in its purest form remains the same.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.

I would have studied and pursued political science in some form or another. Though as my parents and grandfather are all competitive swimming coaches, I used to wonder as a kid if that's what I'd be, too.

Music changed my life and opened me up to experiences I never could have imagined while growing up in a village in Wisconsin. But ultimately I've combined all three of these passions into my entrepreneurial work. I never in a million years considered that my skills in the music industry could drive people to vote. And I've extended my family's legacy of supporting competitive swimmers by representing talent in the Olympic swimming space. It's never a dull moment over here!

Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.

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