Reddit's Maria Gironas on the Fan-Designed BTS Billboards and Letting Artists Do Their Thing
Maria Gironas has followed two north stars throughout her career: elevating marginalized communities and empowering creatives to embrace technology.
Over the past 10+ years, these pillars have guided her career through companies that span the entertainment and tech industries such as Reybee, Fender, YouTube, Q&A, Human Re-Sources and now Reddit. Through her own company—Cool Shit, Cool People—she continues these missions by working on artist development, talent relations, and integrated marketing with clients like Wide Eyed Entertainment, Casper, Downtown Records, VLVT Tree and more.
As an entertainment and technology executive, she values driving positive change through empowering creators and building community. Currently, as the senior media partnerships manager for talent at Reddit, she's developing the talent program to generate community and belonging among them. Maria helps talent and their teams use the platform to start important conversations and connect with people, fans, and thought leaders.
In her time at the company, she has worked with top artists like BTS, Post Malone, The Black Keys, and internet favorites like T-Pain,Therapy Gecko, and Rick Astley. Outside of her work, she is the Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Women In Music where she is working to create sustainable change for women in music at all stages of their careers.
We caught up with Maria 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.
Maria, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up between Ontario and Corona, California. Both are about an hour east of Los Angeles, better known as the Inland Empire. Now, I live in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles, which I love.
Your earliest musical memory.
I've been trying so hard to trace this in my mind, and I feel like at some point something else will come to mind, but the farthest back I could go is my elementary school talent show. Avril Lavigne was all the rage and I sang "Losing Grip." If you can imagine: I, a smol latina child, singing arguably the most grungy song off Let Go, while all the preppy, white girls sang "Sk8ter Boi." I felt like a legend.
Your first concert and what you remember about it.
This is one of my favorite stories. My first concert was Shania Twain at the Staples Center during the Up! Tour, peak Shania. My dad bought the tickets as a gift for my mother, and also took my sister and I. They made us wear jeans with jean jackets that had bedazzled American flags on them. We also wore cowboy boots, against our will. We got to the show and our tickets were literal nose bleeds, I remember feeling scared because our seats were so steep. Shania came on and I was dazzled. She wore this yellow shirt and her endurance to run around this stage in the round, on top of singing at full capacity, was so impressive to me. The other thing I remember about this show was in the middle of it a woman proposed to her husband and I thought that was SO COOL.
Your favorite band/musician and what you love about them.
My favorites will always be: Taylor Swift, Dashboard Confessional, and Explosions In the Sky. With EITS, I have never been more dazzled by a band. They opened up for Death Cab for Cutie at the Santa Barbara Bowl when I was in high school and when the first notes of "Your Hand In Mine'' started playing, tears welled up in my eyes. It felt like being kissed for the first time: a deep, sensory experience that just overwhelms and curls up your toes. The impact of that made me fall in love with instrumental music and I've been a fan ever since.
For Dashboard Confessional, you would have to pry his songs out of my cold dead hands. I fell in LOVE with songwriting because of him. I couldn't believe someone could pen modern sonnets about love, heartbreak, grief, faith, etc., even before I could truly swallow what some of those feelings were. Throughout my life I have found myself in moments where I'll dig back through his catalog trying to find the exact song he wrote that captured the feeling I had in that moment. This might be a poor metaphor, but it's kind of like this Benjamin Button feeling: like I finally caught up to what he had presented to me so long ago, and I understand it now.
Lastly, Taylor Swift. I am truly so grateful to be a Taylor Swift fan. I firmly believe the best marketers are the biggest fans, and I hope to spend the rest of my life going to Taylor Swift shows with friends and not be afraid to cry when I hear "Clean," dress up to the album theme of the moment, and dance in my bedroom singing into a hairbrush.
How you get your music these days.
I'm a mixed bag on this one. I still go to my local record store and ask what they are excited about, I browse through the playlists from DSPs, read a lot, but I think my favorite way of finding music is just going to shows with friends and discovery nights (School Night, We Found New Music, Jesse & Friends, amongst others). The only other thing I want to add here is I love driving in a car with a friend when they play their music, and finding new gems through their own taste. I don't think there is a mutually greater feeling in music than someone liking a song or artist you shared with them. I always remember who showed me certain pivotal artists for me and it's nice to have that piece of history with a person throughout your life.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
The Ace Hotel Theater in DTLA is such a special space to watch a show. Hollywood Forever is also amazing. I'll honestly go anywhere to see music I like, especially if it's a weird/unique spot.
Your favorite music video.
"Mo Money Mo Problems" is one of the greatest music videos of all time, probably right next to "Flashing Lights." In the first, I just felt like they had so much fun making that video, and I also love how well paced all the different scenes felt throughout. For "Flashing Lights," the whole video was done in three shots. It's just true art and I would feel embarrassed to try to examine my love for it further because I don't think I have the proper words.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
I was CRUSHED when High Fidelity on Hulu was canceled, and I still recommend people watch that first season, as they do a great job of reminding you of formative artists in music and overall the show's appreciation for music as a consumer is just delightful to watch. Lately for me too, Bel Air is putting me on to so much more regional hip hop and R&B, so excited to hear more as that show grows.
A recent project you're proud of.
Most recently I worked on an activation with BTS fans where Reddit bought billboards in NYC and L.A. for fans to design themselves. It's a common practice in southeast Asia for fans to pull their money together to buy billboards for their favorite groups, and it seldom happens in the U.S., so we wanted to give BTS fans on Reddit the chance to show their support for ARMY.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I'm a person who loves watching game tape so I love this question. In Moses Sumney's most recent album cycle for Græ, it was amazing to see him direct music videos, short films, ad campaigns, etc. and just take the reins on using all these different opportunities to exercise himself as a creative. Charm La'Donna's work on Dua Lipa Future Nostalgia is a master class in how you can treat every surface on this earth as a canvas for your art. I get really excited from talent that is open to hearing about how new tech, apps, etc. work and I like helping them figure out how to make it their own.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
Understand your value proposition. Some people interpret this as making a nice deck or knowing your data, but I think it more deeply comes down to the fact that the best creators or artists I've worked with who have been really successful in the brand space knew themselves and/or had teams that knew their worth. It takes a while to develop that confidence for some, and that is totally OK, but your life in this industry can really change from being a little more confident in every little thing you do as you grow.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
Let them do their thing! I have seen campaigns crumble before my eyes because the brand wanted more creative control. Totally understand abiding by brand guidelines and such, but if you're approaching talent for their creativity, you have to give them the canvas to do their thing, otherwise you're underutilizing the talent.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Offer community without or with minimal identification. Oftentimes when you are beginning your journey through social groups in society, it could be based on your choice of clothing, ethnicity, class status, etc. With music, two extremely different people could like the exact same song, and that's all they could have in common, and I think that's beautiful.
What would you be doing if you weren't in the music world.
To be honest, I have no clue! I'm interested in a ton of things, and dabble in everything from talent, management, creators, tech, music, art and culture. I imagine without music, I'd be working creatively in partnerships or marketing within other creative fields.
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.