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For many musicians, an invitation to attend the Grammys is the most coveted symbol of approval.
Over the past 60 years, the Recording Academy has cultivated a high-class evening for music industry elitists and dubbed it as music’s biggest night. Dapper tuxedos and elegant dresses gracefully migrate across a plush red carpet. Loyal fans tune in with the anticipation that their favorite musician will finally receive the recognition they deserve. Creatives without an invite look on with envious aspiration and pen their acceptance speeches with the hopes of reciting it one day.
Sierra Lever yearned to contribute to the grandeur, too.
“People would look at me crazy when I told them I wanted to produce the Grammy Awards,” she said.
It was more than just a dream for her. The skills she developed at Oregon State University would have served her well in such a position. She led the charge in facilitating the school’s first hip-hop-centric music festival and opted to book Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as the headliner.
But she was torn between pursuing a career in music or sports. After graduating in 2012, she made a tough decision to leave a promising role at Nike to enroll in graduate school at Syracuse University.
Her choice eventually led her to accept an internship with the Recording Academy. The vision she established for her career seemingly unfolded effortlessly. She moved to Los Angeles to work in the Academy’s main office.
On the surface, the internship meant she was getting closer to her goal. However, it left her unfulfilled and disappointed when she was unable to secure a full-time position. She was willing to take on a series of temp positions with the organization, but would often have to commute from a friend’s house in Los Angeles to her parent’s home in Phoenix in between gigs. Discouragement and self-doubt about her choice to remain in the music industry crept in.
“I had great friends who believed in me,” she said. “They kept recommending me for jobs and helped me stay positive.”
A new passion for marketing was also swelling up. She accepted a role with the Los Angeles Philharmonic but truly found her stride when she applied for and landed a marketing coordinator position at Capitol Records.
She supported the rollouts and promotional tactics for artists such as Sam Smith, Niall Horan, and 5 Seconds of Summer before breaking into the urban space when artists like Migos and Lil Yachty were brought under the label’s umbrella. The number of responsibilities she took on manifested into a title as Global Product Marketing Manager. She also helped lead campaigns for Stefflon Don, Icewear Vezzo, and Zaytoven. Still, she itched for a new challenge.
She found a new role as Associate Marketing Director at Columbia Records, home to artists such as Beyonce, Tyler, The Creator, Lil Nas X, and Adele.
Sierra defines marketing as “product management lead by creativity.” She and her team are at the center of the conversations between managers and A&Rs when figuring out the best rollout strategies for upcoming releases.
“When you’re in marketing, you’re involved with everything,” she explained. “There’s nothing that you don’t touch.”
Her work is fueled by fresh perspectives, unorthodox ideas, and out-of-the-box thinking. She is constantly finding innovative ways to attract more attention to the label’s releases. Even if she’s technically off the clock when she’s attending an event, she catches herself trying to learn more about who the audience is, why they decided to come out, and how they found out about it.
Though her initial dream of producing the Grammys hasn’t materialized yet, she refuses to believe she’s come short. Her journey has allowed her to see the importance of having faith, family, friends, and flexibility, especially when it comes to pursuing a career in the music industry.
The advice she would give to her younger self is simple.
“Don’t doubt yourself. Know your worth. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Go after the things you’ve always wanted to do.”