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One to Watch in Nashville – Music Executive Beth Laird on Following Her Passion

People

Named one of Music Row's “Rising Women on the Row" and Billboard Magazine's “30 Under 30 Power Players to Watch," Beth Laird, one-half of the power couple behind Creative Nation, Nashville's hottest music publishing company, is not only following her passion, she's creating a place for country music artists to flourish, professionally and personally.


Beth Laird

A career in the music business wasn't on her radar until an internship at Capitol Records hooked her freshman year. “I immediately fell in love and haven't looked back," says Laird.

After a series of positions with some of the biggest publishing houses in the business, Laird and her husband Luke, a country music songwriter and Grammy winning producer (he's written 22 number one singles for artists like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Sara Evens, Trace Adkins, among others) decided it was time to try publishing on their own, using their own methods.

Five years later, the couple and the company are thriving. With 10 publishing clients on their roster, they've accomplished significant feats in a short span of time. With 43 radio singles, fifteen of which have been #1 songs, their writers have won ACM, CMA, and Grammy awards, and have been named ACM and BMI songwriters of the year.

SWAAY got the lowdown on what it takes to nurture an artist and how the couple are helping others fulfill their dreams.

What is it about country music that attracted you?

I love the honest lyrics and storytelling. We both grew up listening to all genres of music, and still do, but country music has a special place in our hearts because it's authentic and relatable.

What draws you to a new artist?

I always look for songwriters or artists who have a unique voice and say something in a way I've never heard it said before. I love writers who know who they are and sit a little outside the box, but also take songwriting seriously and are willing to work as hard as we do.

As fans of the music, how does it feel to be working alongside artists that you admire professionally?

It's very surreal. I was a fan of most of the songwriters we work with before we ever even signed them so I want to do my best and help them all fulfill their dreams. It's a big responsibility and an honor.

Break down the role a music publishing company plays in the career of an artist.

It's different for songwriters and artists. For songwriters, we try and oversee the entire business side of their work so that they can put all their time and attention into being creative. For artists who are songwriters, we help them find the best co-writers for their sound and artistry and help them evolve that sound over time.

What's your approach when it comes to publishing and management?

I think the key is being strategic and making sure you know what each client's individual goals are. They all have different definitions of success, so we strive to help them achieve their personal goals (whatever those may be). Time management is key, so we always want to bring them opportunities that align with their vision and some that stretch them so they can grow and evolve.

Beth Laird and Co. at the ACM awards

What sets your company apart from the others and makes it a unique place for an artist to be a part of?

We are highly focused, have a great team, and support each other. It is truly a place where everyone can fully be themselves. We are competitive but in a way that inspires each other to be better and we celebrate everyone's successes together. Culture is extremely important to Luke and I and I think that sets us apart as well as how strategic we are with each client.

In 2012, you formed an exclusive partnership with Pulse Recording, blending together the LA and Nashville music - what does this collaboration mean for your company as well as your artists?

It allows more opportunity for us, our writers, and Pulse. The deals are flexible depending on the writer and their needs. Plus, it allows us to provide broader, more diverse opportunities outside of Nashville and get administration for our writers.

As young entrepreneurs running a successful music company, what lessons do you and your husband hope to pass along to your two young children?

We hope it shows them that they can follow their passions in life and if they work hard and treat people with respect along the way, they will be fulfilled and love what they do every day. I also hope they see how much love and respect we have for one another and that it teaches them to respect and love the women in their lives.

What advice do you share with young hopefuls looking to follow in your footsteps?

I'd say focus on what your strengths are and what makes you feel energized and happy. Relationships are key so make as many authentic ones as you can and nurture them along the way. You have to stand out and make yourself valuable to your company and clients.

What's up next for Creative Nation?

We've been working with and developing a few new writers and artists that I think will make big impacts in music, like Kassi Ashton, Steve Moakler, Muscadine Bloodline, and Mags Duval. Also, our writers have some big cuts and singles in the works that I look forward to being released.

What's your vision for the future of Creative Nation?

The music business is changing so quickly that I don't make plans that are set in stone. We dream about the future but are always open to new opportunities – that's why we expanded from publishing into artist development, management and records. We are small and flexible so we can evolve with the change and our vision can evolve as we go.

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Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.