Vydia's Elizabeth Eason on African Sub-Saharan Music and the Value of Emerging Artists

Plus, what artists can learn from Lil Nas X

Elizabeth Eason leads label and artist services at Vydia, an end-to-end music technology platform that provides labels and managers with the infrastructure and tools to power their business. Eason has led marketing strategy for artist projects across all genres of music, most recently for Joeboy, Sunday Service, Akon and Five Finger Death Punch.

We caught up with Elizabeth 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.

Elizabeth, tell us…

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Durham, North Carolina, studied violin performance at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and then moved to Los Angeles after I graduated.

Your earliest musical memory.

I really wanted to play the flute when I was younger, but my mom had this vision of my sister and I doing violin/piano duets throughout our childhood. Since I'm older, I got to choose which instrument and thought the violin was cooler. Her dream came true, we played lots of duets.

Your first concert.

The first concert I remember was Nickel Creek at an amphitheater in Raleigh. My parents are from Texas and Arkansas, so I grew up listening to a lot of country, bluegrass and folk music. I remember watching Chris Thile play mandolin and was completely in awe. When I learned that the mandolin was stringed the same as a violin, I asked for one for my birthday. 

Your favorite bands/musicians.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise and The Chicks—two bands that are unapologetically, authentically true to themselves. RKS always has this electric energy and presence at their shows that makes you want to see them again. And The Chicks' songwriting is so real and picturesque—they will always be my favorite band. 

How you get your music these days.

Music discovery is difficult when you work in music and listen to the music from your clients all day, but I tend to listen to Apple Music playlists and Beats1. I prefer manual curation over Spotify's A.I.

Your favorite place to see a concert.

I've never been to Red Rocks but I feel like that would be my favorite venue. In L.A., I love going to see shows at The Greek—the atmosphere reminds me of home.

Your favorite music video.

Right now it's Lil Nas X's "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," less so for the actual video and more for the marketing he did around the release. Feeding off the hate coming from the extreme right was both hilarious and genius. His ability to engage with fans and create virality in an authentic way is something that other artists should learn from. We've seen a ton of artists find fame throughout this pandemic, but I think those who really took advantage of growing their online presence are going to see a huge return when they can finally tour in a post-Covid world.

Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.

I was impressed with the Billie Eilish documentary on Apple TV+. It was cool to see her creative process with Finneas and the supportive role her parents play in her career.

A recent project you're proud of.

I recently moderated a panel for SXSW 2021 that spoke to the emergence of the African Sub-Saharan music market in mainstream music. At Vydia, we power several established labels from West Africa, including Empawa Africa (Mr. Eazi, Joeboy, J. Derobie) and Mavin Records (Ladipoe, Ayra Starr, Crayon), so it was an exciting opportunity to sit down and speak with key executives on their success and predictions for the future. You can watch the panel discussion below.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

Joeboy's new album Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic. Afropop is my favorite genre right now because it's honest, feel-good music. You can listen to the album to wake up, at happy hour, working out, driving, and you will be HAPPY. We all need music that brings love and light.

How musicians should approach working with brands.

Musicians and their respective teams should never hesitate to pitch for a partnership or a collaboration that they believe is a good fit. I tell my clients every day that I'm always willing to make the ask on their behalf. You would be surprised how many times I get a yes in response. Sounds cliché, but you never know until you try. 

How brands should approach working with musicians.

Go beyond collaborating with the top-charting artists and take the time to invest in developing artists. The smaller artists maybe don't have the following of a Justin Bieber or Dua Lipa, but they have the creative freedom to do more for your brand. They're eager for the opportunity and willing to collaborate in a way that's much more unique than a cameo appearance.

What music can do that nothing else can.

Transcend language. Unite people through feeling.

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

That's hard to imagine! Probably would have gone the finance route and worked in private equity. Boring, I know.

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.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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