Negotiating contracts, strategizing marketing for festivals, managing stage production, and coordinating with artists at events is all part and parcel of the role of Live Nation Urban’s Vice President of Talent & Touring, Heather Lowery
The New Castle, Delaware native has an enviable career trajectory, but it all comes at the price of hard work and trusting her own intuition. “It has guided me both professionally and personally,” Lowery told Billboard. “I don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right.”
Beginning her work in college, Lowery told Nylon that she always knew she wanted to work in entertainment, but didn’t know how that would manifest. “When I was in college, I had an internship in different areas of the entertainment business. I had an internship at LaFace Records, I had an internship at Fox Television stations in the legal department. I always had a law focus, but I wanted to know the business in general because I knew that this was the business that I wanted to be in.”
After realizing she didn’t want to go to law school in her senior year, Lowery moved back to Delaware and took a job as a receptionist— an unlikely start to what would be a fruitful career.
“I got a job as a receptionist at a recording studio in Philadelphia. It was like, here I am: college-educated from Spelman College, and I’m a receptionist. I didn’t care, I wanted to get my foot in the door,” she told Nylon. “They didn’t have a position available, so I was like, ‘I’ll answer the phones! I’ll do whatever.’ I just wanted to be there, and I knew that once I got in the door, I would work hard and work my way up to the top. By the time I left there, I was the general manager, running the whole place. That was during the height of the neo-soul movement. It was the home of The Roots, Jill Scott, and Musiq Soulchild. All of [them] recorded there.”
Upon moving to New York and working at talent agency, WME as an assistant, Lowery realized she wanted something more. She told Billboard “because there was no opportunity for promotion, I left with no plan.”
Without a blueprint for what to do next, Lowery decided to trust her instincts and launch her own boutique concert booking agency, Agency for Artists (AFA). That was in 2005 and now AFA is an international agency, working closely together with HBCUs. “It’s hard to compete with the majors on the artist level,” she told Billboard. “So I found my niche with HBCUs and other private clients.” Finding her own corner of the world to excel in led Lowery to find other places where she’d execute her unique set of skills. Today AFA’s roster boasts 2 Chainz, Ashanti, Big Sean and many more.
Her biggest achievement at AFA? Booking Prince’s last three shows. “I still ask myself, ‘How did I do that?'”, she admits to Billboard.
This role ultimately led to her position as Vice President of Talent and Touring at Live Nation Urban (LNU) in Los Angeles. Launching in May 2017, LNU is a call back to Lowery’s beginnings at AFA, bringing a voice to those who haven’t had one.
“There are still not as many live opportunities for hip-hop, R&B, and gospel artists as there are for pop, country, and rock. We want to provide more festivals, events, and platforms in that space. We’re building a lot of partnerships as well with HBCUs, giving urban artists as many touring opportunities as possible,” she told Billboard. “We’re also focused on cultivating our generation of executives of color and the next one. There may be a few of us sprinkled here and there, but there aren’t a lot of people in the building that look like us. That’s one of our biggest initiatives: giving people of color the opportunities that we didn’t have or weren’t given.”
On April 17, Lowery started another initiative, aimed at spotlighting women, called Femme it Forward. “A multi-format series of all female curated lineups spotlighting the entertainment industry’s most creative and accomplished female visionaries, both on the stage and behind the scenes,” states the Live Nation website.
Already announced to participate in the initiative are the likes of Cardi B, City Girls, Teyana Taylor, Nicole Bus, Rico Nasty, Jorja Smith, Kali Uchis, Ama Lou, Dounia, Brianna Cash, Mahalia, Jill Scott, Faith Evans, Tweet, Monica, Brandy, Ashanti, Keri Hilson, Amerie, Lil Mo and Mya, with more to be announced.
“This past year has been an exceptional one for women in music and entertainment, and with the incredible contributions of women,” says Lowery. “It is fitting that we honor the future of music and its continued steps on the path to inclusion.”
Events include a panel discussion sponsored by the Association of Black Harvard Women, a performance by Jorja Smith and Kali Uchis in Dallas, concerts with Cardi B, Teyana Taylor, City Girls and Nicole Bus across New York and much more.
All events and ticket details can be found here.