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Trailblazers – a new series of Q&As with some of the industry's most inspirational figures – kicks off with United Talent's head of US operations, Natalia Nastaskin
By IQ on 29 Aug 2018
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Trailblazers – a new, regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert industry. From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music business, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries.
Kicking off the series is the former CEO of the Agency Group (TAG) USA, and now head of US music operations at United Talent Agency, Natalia Nastaskin.
Born in Soviet Russia, Nastaskin moved to the US with her family aged eight, armed with “nothing but hope and drive”. She started her career in entertainment law, founding an eponymous New York legal practice whose clients included TAG, before making the leap full time to the agency world. She is now recognised as a power player in the business, having placed multiple times on Billboard’s Women in Music and Power 100 and Variety’s Women’s Impact lists.
At UTA, Nastaskin is responsible for strategic development and expansion of the agency’s music group – home to many of the world’s touring superstars. As she said in a recent Syracuse University talk: “Music to me was how I grew up, and how I became a person, and how I learned how to exist in this country.”
How did you get your start in the industry?
I’ve always loved music but it wasn’t until I was in law school that I discovered the professional side of the music business. One of my friends in school was working at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) – a lobbying group for the recording industry based in Washington DC – and he helped me land an interview in the anti-piracy unit. From the very beginning of that job, I knew this industry was where I would blaze my trail.
Tell us about your current role.
As head of operations of UTA Music, I oversee the day-to-day management of the global music group. I work closely with a number of divisions, including corporate operations, human resources, IT, corporate communications and our global head of music, to ensure the music department is operating at the highest level in order to provide best-in-class service to our clients and colleagues.
Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
My greatest influences are the bold, unapologetic and resilient female artists who have paved the way for so many who came after them: Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and Madonna, to name a few.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It’s important to me to be a mentor to the young people making their respective ways in our business. I take time each day to talk to our agents, assistants and support staff to find out what they’re working on, where I can be of service to them and how we can achieve more by working together. The greatest reward for me is to see my colleagues continually succeed.
“I’m proud to have overcome language barriers, culture shock and gender bias to get to the executive level of my industry”
What achievements are you most proud of?
I was born in the Soviet Union and my family came to the US with nothing but hope and drive. On a macro level, I’m proud to have overcome language barriers, culture shock and gender bias to get to the executive level of my industry and do what I love to do every day.
I am also proud of the full suite of services that we are able to offer our clients at UTA. From developing artists to our well-established superstar clients, cross-agency representation is our greatest strength and that could not be achieved without the creative, dynamic and tenacious team we have built within UTA Music.
How has the business changed since you started out?
New technologies have democratised access to music and its distribution. The spread of mobile technology worldwide has opened new markets for streaming and touring, while artists’ ability to directly communicate with their fans has made the live experience more robust. Knowing where their audience is through the use of streaming data enhances tour routings and captures new markets.
[For example], artists may want to drop special merch or set up a limited-time pop-up shop, and social media enables them to market those offerings directly to their audience. Likewise, using technology to geotarget affinity fans for tour marketing purposes has been a game-changer. I think we’re just scratching the surface.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to make it in music?
I’ve picked up life lessons from different executives throughout my career, which I pass on to others. One that stands out is, “If you don’t step into traffic, nothing will ever happen”, which means in order to drive your business, you have to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone.
If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on firstname.lastname@example.org.