Member Spotlight #3: Michelle Edgar of ICM Partners, Music Unites & The XX Project
Interview by Tara Gardner
Michelle Edgar owns everything she does (which happens to be a lot) — I heard it in her emails, over the phone and see it in the work she does. Anyone that meets her can feel her passion and the ownership of her words along with the projects and people she represents.
Michelle began her career in media, cutting her teeth at Vanity Fair straight out of college. She’s held beauty positions with WWD and OK Magazine. She transitioned into music in 2011, focusing on strategic partnerships and artist development at several music companies (Red Light, WBR, KIDinaKORNER, FRUKT). She’s currently an agent at ICM Partners in their Branded Entertainment and Concerts department as well as working closely with the two organizations she’s founded.
Michelle knows what she wants. And I think she just might know what you need: be good to yourself and do your work. — Tara Gardner
Agent at ICM Partners, Founder/CEO of Music Unites & The XX Project
shesaid.so: How did you land your first career position?
Michelle Edgar: I was always torn between the entertainment and media industry, which linked by to my love for music, and journalism — both things that I studied in college at Northwestern. When I graduated, I realized that the thing that got me the most excited about journalism was what Vanity Fair was doing — the beautiful spread, content and quality of the work. I loved their November music issue and always wanted to work for them. I was really lucky that, I got to spend my summers throughout college interning and I ended up working for Vanity Fair in London. And then right out of college, my goal was to go into the training program at a talent agency or pursue the journalism route. But I thought — I’ve always wanted to work at Vanity Fair so I’m just going to go for it. I was lucky that my boss in London at the time introduced me to their New York office. I went in there and told them “I’ll do anything and everything. I want to work here.” I was really eager, I had done my homework. I had experience with the culture of the company which I feel is very important.
ssso: What advice or plan of attack would you give to someone just starting out in their career, that has their eye on a particular company that might seem out of reach or just intimidating?
ME: I think the right approach is to really listen to people’s stories — I did my research and I came prepared. I would research an employee’s journey and study their path and then of course also research the company; find out the things that really matter to that company. Before reaching out to someone, it’s really important to do your homework because when it’s authentic they can tell and that can really set you apart.
I think we’re very fortunate to be in the information age; having all this information at your disposal really allows you to be brave and just go for it. So put yourself out there and go for it, but have the strategy in place and be prepared to go through with it.
ME: Get clear on your passion and strengths and do your research on that area. Find out how you can create something that is different and can make a difference. It’s also about finding and learning from the right leaders in that space, asking for the right advice and utilizing your network.
As I said earlier, we’re lucky that most of the information is right out there. I remember starting Music Unites and sitting with my friend at her office at Elle Magazine — it was after hours, past midnights researching/Googling “how to start a charity 101” to just figure out where to start.
ssso: What has been your proudest career moment?
ME: It’s hard to say — my first proudest moment was getting done with school and getting that first, big job. I love working with amazing talent and musicians, and the ability to be creative every day… helping build artists’ brands and expanding their business in new areas. I also love mentoring and seeing my students grow and then come back to work for me — that makes me so proud to see their growth.
ssso: What are your thoughts on work-life balance?
ME: I think it’s essential to your success. I wish I had better balance earlier in my career. I think I sacrificed a lot and worked around the clock. Over the last few years, I’ve done a lot of inner work and found the balance between my personal and professional life that best works in my life. Starting off in my career, there was always an excuse; I wanted to be there, make myself indispensable and didn’t want to miss anything, but it’s too important to take care of yourself. It’s something you have to work at every day. You have to have your mind and body right in order to really maximize your performance. Time management is really key for this… for setting boundaries to make sure you can also focus on yourself and do what you need to be happy.
ssso: When you were in the earlier stages of your career and felt like being there was more important than taking time for yourself — was that because of the people around you or the climate?
ME: I think ambition can get the best of you, but I was never really focused on what my friends were doing… for me it wasn’t a race, for me it was about building something that moved people and contributed to the industry. That would lead me to work day and night in order to achieve certain things, but I think over the years I realized the importance of taking care of yourself because I found that I can perform better when I do that. There’s great inspiration from the quiet moments and you miss that when you don’t take the time. To be the best, you have to be the best to yourself. It’s important to be true to you and to be clear with you intentions.
ssso: Looking back on the times where you held assistant positions or internships, was there anything you took away from how your bosses worked with you or mentored you?
ME: Everyone has their own managerial style and I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of them. I’ve always been fascinated by culture in a work environment. I’ve been fortunate to have great bosses that have been great mentors to me — in that way that they really allowed me to learn.
In my journalism days, I had a boss that taught me how to edit and write and tested me out with big challenges — it was sending me out to cover a celebrity story that they knew they wanted for the cover and I had 5 hours to write it.
I’ll never forget my boss’ words of advice on my last day at WWD — “Follow the music.” Those words resonated with me as he know that was my calling.
ssso: Where do you get your fuel/drive/inspiration from?
ME: So many different places — from people, culture, music, nature, reading, being in nature, learning new things and while building community.
ssso: What personal lesson have you learned in the past year?
ME: Living in the present. Appreciating the now.
ssso: Describe your favorite, simple pleasure.
ME: Being in nature.
ssso: What’s the next big thing?
ME: I’ve picked up mountain biking, so I’d have to go with the next mountain I climb — literally.
ssso: What should we know about you or what you’re currently working on?
ME: It’s back to school season — my charity Music Unites is creating Music Academies across Compton. We’re looking for teachers and the right mentors to bring to the students. We also have programs in New York and Chicago. So we’ve been working on just getting the word out about that. [If you’re interested in getting involved, email Info@musicunites.org for opportunities and more information.]
I’m also really excited about my women’s group, The XX Project, which brings women together to network and empower one another. We just had a fabulous event here in Los Angeles focusing on the importance of that mind-body balance. [Email Michelle firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.]
Michelle is also speaking at the upcoming Worthy Women Conference on Saturday, November 5th. Tickets and information here!