Agency For Artists (AFA) was all that Heather Lowery ever dreamed of.
Always having a passion for music, Lowery exercised that passion and started out as a talent booking assistant in 2002 for well-known talent and booking agency, the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. After working there for nearly three years, Lowery called it quits and felt it was time to do things her way.
After being out of a job, Lowery didn?t know what to do next, and started doing some soul searching. In the meantime, she kept the faith and started helping out some of her industry friends, by booking some of their artists.? Now, AFA, a talent agency boutique founded and run by Lowery, is going into its 10th and is showing no signs of slowing down. She?s proud to say she?s worked with an array of celebrities from Keke Palmer and Prince to Chaka Khan and Drake.
Lowery also gives back to her alma mater, Spelman College, where she mentors students, and participates in their Women In Entertainment Summit. She?s also a member of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN) ? a coalition of women committed to supporting, defending and promoting the balanced, positive portrayal of women in the entertainment business.
Working with demanding artists, while mentoring those who want to be in the entertainment business, Lowery?s number one priority in her balancing act is her 3 year-old son, Major.
With 2015 quickly approaching, Lowery is working towards taking her one-woman army to new heights.?
TNJ.com: How was it like working with such a powerhouse agency like William Morris?
Lowery:? It was great. It was wonderful. It was exciting. Before I went to William Morris, I was a general manager at a recording studio, and I managed producers. So when I went to William Morris, I started as an assistant. But I was willing to do it because I pretty much wanted to redirect my career path. I thought I would stay within the agency and build my way up, but it kind of didn?t happen like that, and I ended up leaving after two and a half years, without a plan and I didn?t know what I was going to do next and I kind of fell into being an entrepreneur and starting it.
TNJ.com: Talk about taking that leap of faith.
Lowery: I was going into work with headaches, I was having back spasms, and I?m like ?this is not healthy,? and this is all I wanted to do. So, I left. I started working in artist management. One of the managers that I grew close to when I was at the agency was looking for some help. So what I did in helping him was handle all of the bookings that came in for his artists. Then I was like ?wait a minute, these agencies are small, and they?re doing it, but I can do it so much better.? And that?s where I got the idea to start the company so quickly.
TNJ.com: What was the biggest challenge in starting your own agency?
?Lowery: I would say it’s been challenging to grow my business, and grow my clientele, and I?ve also had difficulties being a woman. I feel like I?m treated differently in a male-dominated industry as a woman, and I?m a Black woman.? I know that I can grow and I know I have the demands for it, but finding the right people, finding the right team…that has always been my biggest challenge.
TNJ.com: How do you maintain a good relationship after a bad experience?
Lowery: I just keep it moving despite if it causes me to lose a deal, or to lose a client. I know who I am and what I stand for. I know despite the things I may encounter, I have to be myself, and I?ve been able to do other deals just being who I am.? The people that come to me are, mainly, by referrals and word of mouth, and they come to me because of my reputation. And I know that my reputation is all that I have. So I know that I have to have a standard on how I do business. I just know that regardless, I?m going to get business and it does not have to be yours.
TNJ.com: What characteristic do you think attributed to your success?
Lowery: Being a likeable, down-to-earth person and giving my clients personal attention. A lot of agents don?t do that. A lot of agents don?t oversee from start to finish. So, I give my clients all the attention they need. Also, I am available to them, and I am caring. A lot of agents don?t care about the music. I like to be motivated and passionate about the projects I?m involved in.
TNJ.com: So, break it down for me, how does the process work when booking an artist or talent?
Lowery: The manager may come to me and say, ?Listen, I need these dates filled in my calendar,? and the artist could already be successful; they?re successful on the radio and it’s just a matter of me helping them out and filling the dates. I also have a lot of venue clients; a venue may have a calendar they?re working on, and they?ll say ?listen, we?re looking to do this, what can you pick? What can you bring? What can you do? I want this person, can you help me book them?? It comes from both sides. So, pretty much I get the offer, and the artist decides whether or not he or she wants to confirm or negotiate more money, and I pretty much go back and forth. I oversee everything from start to finish, from making sure the promoter and the venue are on top of it as far as the accommodations, the travel, the promotions and everything that comes with it. And when the event happens, I try to be there, making sure everything is running smoothly.?
TNJ.com: Have you ever been discouraged?
Lowery: There been times where I?ve been dead. There?s just not a lot going on, and artists don?t get booked a lot in certain months. And so, I?ve had those dead periods. But I pushed through. During the moments that I was dead, I would try to reach out to people more. That’s when you have to be the most motivated, be the most active?when you don?t have anything going on. That?s the time for you to focus on what?s next. What can you get? What can you do? I?ve always fought through them, which I think allowed me to be in the position I?m in now, where I don?t even have those moments. I feel like all of my hard work early on has been paying off now. I feel like, you?ll get to the point where it?ll start to pay off, and you start to really see the benefits of your hard work. You may not see it immediately. You may not see if for years, but eventually it starts paying off, and I feel like I?ve reached that place.
TNJ.com: Who are some people that you look up to? Entertainment or not.
Lowery: There aren’t many in my industry who look like me so when I decided I wanted to be a talent agent, there wasn’t really anyone in my particular field that I could model my career after. I do, however, admire female executives who worked their way to the top of their industries all while being mothers. Debra Lee and Julie Greenwald are among two that I admire the most. They both helped build iconic brands in the entertainment industry (BET and Def Jam/Atlantic Records).
TNJ.com: Do you think the industry respects women? If not, what will it take for the industry to do so?
Lowery: I think the industry, in general, respects the people who demand respect. If you’re a woman, you’re definitely going to have more obstacles than a man, but the way you handle those obstacles determines how you’re regarded in the industry.
TNJ.com: What?s next for AFA?
Lowery: I want to build a full-service talent agency. Right now, I?m providing booking for artists, but a lot of artists come to me for referrals for different things. I want to be more of service-oriented and in that I?m offering talent bookings, events, publicity, marketing and brand management. I?m starting to work on that right now and figure out how to grow it and build it. I?ve been comfortable for a very long time, and that?s what I?ve always wanted to do, but I?ve stayed in my comfort zone. I’m trying to get out of that, and start building the agency that I know I can build.
TNJ.com: What is something that you would tell your younger self?
Lowery: Failure needs to happen, so you can build your strength, learn from it, and learn how not to do it again.
TNJ.com: What do you do outside of AFA?
Lowery: When I?m not working, I spend time with my son. It?s all about him. I focus on my family and my son. I?m a homebody, and like to do absolutely nothing.