Shoshana Zisk of SF MusicTech: How I Managed to Have It All
Can women have it all? Sure, says this founder, citing herself as an example. Here’s how she manages the juggle.
By Carolyn Gerin (Creator, The Anti-Bride series)
Why do you want to know Shoshana Zisk? Here are a few reasons.
She’s got game: Although wildly accomplished, she wears her fame lightly. She figured out a way to do what she loves with those she loves, hitting the work-life balance jackpot.
She’s an entrepreneur, musician, entertainment attorney, co-founder of SF MusicTech and Future of Money and Technology. She’s got mad skills: how many people do you know who can list the Musical Director of Rent on their resume as well as entertainment attorney to George Clinton, Motown, and Sony BMG? Today she’s co-running two of the world’s most successful thought leader startups in the music and money space with her husband while raising two daughters.
She’s lovable: She’s got this wide-eyed sense of wonder about her good fortune. There’s a “how did I get here?” sense of bemusement. She’s manifesting her intentions and honing in on her intuition daily.
How did she get here? She followed her passion and made difficult choices based on lifestyle and family. What follows is an interview with Shoshana, and the path that lead to a happy home and fulfilling career, (of her own design).
What brought you to create SFMT? What was the ‘aha’ moment that inspired you to create it?
I was an attorney at Island Records, Motown and Sony BMG and practiced entertainment law in New York, Florida and California. Everything I do is because of my passion for music.I have a degree in piano. I went to law school with the intent of working for musicians. I started with PFunk, and helped them put out ten records. When I put together a funk tribute concert with George Clinton and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, I achieved one of my life goals. The downside? My family was suffering.
My ‘Aha’ moment was realizing I know all these things so…instead of working for all these other people, let’s focus on us! I wanted to combine my passions into a balanced reality, and Brian needed help with SFMT. I realized that my career and my relationship are both equally important. Because we run our operation at home together, if we’re working late I can put the kids to bed, make dinner, do yoga and see everyone. I’m not locked up in some cubicle on the other side of town. Plus, I’m showing our children how entrepreneurs work at the grass roots level. My daughter Rachel even delivered an elevator pitch at the last SFMT – it’s in her blood!
How did the ‘death’ of the music industry affect SFMT?
Many saw the decline of major labels as a death knell, but we saw it as the birth of a new industry: digital music and the technologies that surround it. Music industry executives were flipping out in the beginning, saying “Who moved my cheese? Where are our customers?” We said, “Change the conversation, and stop focusing on the negative! The Internet is not bad and there is money to be made…. be optimistic!”
Where is SFMT today?
We’ve created a tribe of people who are passionate about music! We bring together visionaries in the evolving music/business/technology ecosystem, along with the best and brightest developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. In 2008 our event hosted 200 attendees, now it’s over 1,000. We have it twice a year and it’s a full-time job that I love and can get behind 1000%.
We also launched the SF Music TechFund, which invests in early-stage Internet music and technology companies discovered at the SF MusicTech Summit. Next, we plan to open a recruiting firm to help match all the talented people and startups attending our shows.
What is your role at SFMT? What is the role of your husband Brian?
I’m co-founder/co-producer, and on some level, CTO (I code HTML daily) and CFO (I keep the books). Brian is great at sales, while I take care of the inside. He does networking events, I do all the legal. I’m also the creative director: I do all the decorating of the events, placement of signage and graphics, sound and lighting tech, handle catering and direct the flow. I get in involved in the musical direction as I have a background in musical theater.
What’s the philosophy of SFMT?
We realized our philosophy when we started going to Burning Man: there are no spectators, everyone can get up, talk, and participate, and everything is curated. We like kinetic movement, connectivity, and the way groups form, break apart and reform. We make the space deal-making friendly and every one is invited to pitch, make friends and network. We try to keep it hierarchy-free and very open, a little like a Dead show.
How have you moved the needle on SFMT since it’s inception? How has it changed the industry?
We create a hub by getting people together who are creating new tech and giving them a place to do deals. By doing this, we move the ecosystem forward. It’s been amazing watching that growth.
At the first SF MusicTech Summit, Pandora sponsored. A few shows later they were a publicly traded company. It’s also amazing watching people partner up through the connections we facilitate. We featured a panel with Ben Folds and Internet sensation Pomplamoose. From that connection, they went on to record a song and tour together!
Describe a day in the life of Shoshana.
My morning routine starts with waking up, feeding the kids, getting the older one off to school, and my daily yoga. We don’t do shows in the summer, so we spend serious quality time with the kids, and have a nice long vacation. We time our shows with the school year so they’re engaged during the day while we’re working, and bond as much as we can before we get into ‘show mode.’ We have a nanny during show crunch time, which helps. We shut off at night and do family stuff: homework, dinner, and quality time. I make blueprints for everything I do: speakers/schedules/sponsors, email marketing, planning. I use Guru.com to help me fill in the gaps for extra help I need when in show mode. I trust in my systems and rely on them to help me balance my workload.
What are some wise words: lessons learned, how to be a more effective entrepreneur?
If you are doing what you love, but your loved ones are suffering, shake it up and get creative. Put your family first, spend your energy on ambitions you share, only do what you do best, and make serving the community your top mission. You’ll enjoy the journey as much as the destination!
Do you agree women can have it all? What’s the key to making it possible for you?
About the guest blogger: Carolyn Gerin is the creator and co-author of the bestselling Anti-Bride series, the first voice in the alterna-bridal pop cultural space. She also serves as Sr. Editor for Destination I Do Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @antibride.