Positive Grid's Laura B. Whitmore on the Spark MINI Speaker and She Rocks Awards
Laura B. Whitmore is SVP of marketing at music and tech company Positive Grid.
In the past decade, Positive Grid, which was a small startup, has become a major player in the MI (musical instrument) industry. With the launch of their newest product, the Spark MINI, a Bluetooth speaker and guitar amp, Positive Grid has expanded into mainstream consumer electronics. The MINI is the compact, travel-friendly version of the Spark Amp which is the No. 1 best-selling practice guitar amp.
Laura is also founder of the Women’s International Music Network, creator of the She Rocks Awards and She Rocks Podcast, and music contributor for Parade.com.
We caught up with Laura 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.
Laura, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Massachusetts, and headed to New York for college. I was in Brooklyn when Covid hit and went back to a little family-owned beach cottage in Massachusetts in March 2020. I'm still here but have started to venture out into the world!
Your earliest musical memory.
I remember my elementary music teacher, Mrs. Price. She was amazing. Taught us songs in African languages and truly kindled the love of music in me.
Your first concert.
I don't like to tell people that my first concert was a teen-bop extravaganza with Shawn Cassidy, the Bay City Rollers and more. I prefer to focus on my second concert, the Styx Paradise Theater tour. Loved that album, great theatrical show.
Your favorite bands/musicians.
I grew up loving Carly Simon, Carole King, Joan Baez. All of those singer-songwriters that strip their musical thoughts down to a direct connection to the listener. Today I listen to a ton of music and new artists. I love include LP, Susan Cattaneo, Kat Cunning. Incredible songwriting and performing talent that reaches right into your soul.
How you get your music these days.
As the music contributor for Parade.com, tons of new music comes to my inbox. It's so exciting when I hear someone who's truly talented and stands out among the hundreds of submissions I get a week. My (20something) kids also turn me on to cool music and share playlists with me that keep my perspective fresh.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
When I lived on Long Island, I loved to go to Jones Beach for shows. Right on the water. Fairly intimate. Great sound. Now I prefer smaller venues—City Winery, the Cutting Room—places where you can say hello after the show and witness a unique moment.
Your favorite music video.
I still remember watching Colbie Caillat's video for "Try" and crying every time I saw it. The lyric, the meaning, how it was expressed. So spot on. We gave her a She Rocks Award for it the year it came out.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
Aside from my own She Rocks Podcast (of course!), I don't watch or listen to much on a regular basis. I do love music-focused documentaries though, including the latest Beatles footage. And that Bee Gees documentary, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, from 2020 was stellar.
A recent project you're proud of.
I launched the She Rocks Awards in 2012, so we're celebrating our 10th anniversary this year! The event honors women in music and audio and has really blossomed into an inspiring, energizing event. For the last couple of years, I also lead the marketing for the brand Positive Grid, and launching their top-selling Spark guitar amp and app and the new Spark MINI guitar amp and Bluetooth speaker has been incredibly exciting. Bringing this fun, easy-to-use and great-sounding smart amp and app to musicians everywhere is very gratifying. I see the creative ways that musicians are using it to play, learn and have fun. I know it inspires them to create and enjoy!
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I'm always blown away by the bold spirit and creativity of Beatie Wolfe. Not only is her music beautiful, but she searches out creative connections to humanity, big ideas and a bit of magic. She's been involved with the UN Climate Change Summit with her unique piece "From Green to Red." She's performed at the Nobel Prize Summit. She collaborated with Mark Mothersbaugh for support of the U.S. Postal Service with "Postcards for Democracy." Her music has been recorded in the quietest room in the world and beamed out into space. I love how she reaches further to not only create unique scenarios but to create unique ways to delight the imagination and connect.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
I think it's all about mutual value. You use gear, share about what you do with it and tag. Brands notice. I think an authentic win-win approach is always the best. At Positive Grid we are always trying to share genuine stories to new audiences; if you can provide that, it's interesting. But always follow through with what you promise. It's easy to break a relationship if you don't, and nearly impossible to repair it.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
I think similarly to the above, brands need to really know who a musician is, what's important to them, what resonates with their fans. At Positive Grid we truly try to match our story, our content, the ideas we're trying to get across with the sincere goals and approach of the musicians we work with. It's also really fun to turn musicians on to new gear that can change the way they create in a great way—make it easier, more portable, great sounding. Advances in technology have really made a difference to creators.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Well, you can certainly say things through music that would be really hard to simply speak. Music pulls true feelings and emotions from the creator and connects us with universal truths. I also think, as a music creator, there's something special about writing a song or recording or performing and sharing your creation with the world. You made something from nothing. It's amazing. Music taps into something primal in us that really matters.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
I'd probably be planning events or running an arts center. I'm a step up and do it kind of person. I also daydream about painting things—clocks, chairs, etc.—and selling them at flea markets. I don't see that happening in real life anytime soon, though! Who has time?!
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.