Name: Livia Tortilla
Role Title: Founder and CEO
Headquarters: Los Angeles
How did you get started in the music business?
I answered an ad to write bios for a record label, then PolyGram Records, while I was finishing my degree in Communication Studies. I got the job after awkwardly telling my future boss why the college radio station I was Program Director of, was boycotting him (for introducing servicing fees to college radio stations). And for answering all Pixies trivia questions correctly.
Name three people whom have been critical to your career?
Lynn Adalist: My first boss in the music industry. She saw potential in a very shy, hard working, Italian-Canadian, who was first to graduate from college in her family.
John Reid: He was the best Chairman PolyGram Canada had. An Irish import, we bonded over Goldie, drum and bass and the UK club scene. He offered me a job to be a domestic marketing director in New York City when he become President of Island Records. I was excited to learn about this market head on.
Julie Greenwald: My boss and mentor in all things. She can be both tough and approachable. Not only did she give me professional opportunity after opportunity to grow with her, she thought me how to hustle with principle and ultimately, to be myself.
What does the Black Box brand stand for? Key Values?
Black Box stands for artists first, innovation and independence. Our digital first philosophy in music marketing stems from a desire to build a permanent bond between an artist and their fans. By architecting strong artist brands online, we are ensuring that our artists and clients can earn a living in the future on their terms, independent of whether or not they have a radio hit.
What milestones are you working toward at Black Box?
For our first year, our goal is to draw like-minded clients and develop more case studies to support our approach to artist development. And then from there, we would like to be able to attract funding to deliver products and financial support to small and growing music companies to develop artists and their revenue potential. I also see larger partnerships for artists with label and publishing co-ventures in the future.
What workplace values are important to you?
We believe in hard work, and supporting each other. Being nimble and quick to act is crucial to us, as well as trying new ideas. I tell everyone that we must look into the mirror every day, and imagine our demise from a business perspective. That is how we conjure real innovation.
Tell me about the last year you’ve had personally and professionally?
The last year has been the most significant of my business life. I had the most incredible opportunity to road test an idea that I have had for a long time with actual clients: how do I take a principled approach to artist development and make it a net positive and beyond value proposition.
On a personal level, as buzzy as this may sound, I was able to achieve work & life alignment.
Tell me about your involvement with The XX Project?
I have had the good fortune to hire Michelle Edgar, the founder of the XX Project, when I was the Co-President & COO of Warner Bros Records. I was asked to speak at one of her first events -- and I am happy to be part of this group ever since. In fact, it was the first time I announced and introduced Black Box publicly.
How would you describe the culture of the project?
It is a very supportive forum for professional women in Los Angeles. Culturally, it defers dramatically from a lot of existing women's networks, as it is not about what your title is. It's coming from a real and intimate place. Every woman that is part of the group wants to get to know each other and support each other on many levels. It's a special group.
Looking into the future, what excites you most about the potential of this initiative?
I see this group bringing in women from connected industries, and it evolving into a great place to do business and feel connected.
From your perspective, what are the issues facing the music business today?
As streaming starts to take hold, revenue dips will be a concern for labels, managers and the industry at large. A focus on streaming also leads to a focus on hits, and therefore, a bigger reliance on radio promotion, and less on traditional artist development. Transparency will continue to be a huge issue for the artist community, and the industry will need to deal with this head on.
*Photography by Jason Barbagelott