Shelly Westerhausen is the head of North American physical marketing and sales at Secretly Distribution. Her role is to oversee a small team of marketing and sales reps that handle selling and marketing of all Secretly’s records to indie stores, big box chains, and online retailers in North America. They currently work with over 40 independent labels with genres ranging from indie rock to R&B to electronic and more.
Shelly was recommended to me by Pamela, head project manager of Omnian Music Group; I love to see the shared support of women in the industry.
Not only is Shelly passionate about music but her talent continues into her other passions for vegetarian cooking and food photography.
I have a vegetarian food side hustle which consists of freelance food photography, blogging, and two cookbooks.
Read more below about her day to day and how she found herself working for Secretly.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I’ve always had a fierce passion for music but I also never thought about ‘distribution’ when first wanting to get into the industry. When I was young, I took vocal, guitar, piano, saxophone, and clarinet lessons but also struggled with really bad stage fright. In high school, I had a very frank conversation with one of my lesson instructors where he basically said it was obvious that I have a passion for music but I didn’t necessarily have the talent it would take to pursue music professionally and suggested I check out the business side of the industry. I was intrigued and this conversation led to me flying out to LA at 15 to attend a two week long Music Business camp that I absolutely fell in love with. I then hopped around from Belmont University in Nashville, TN and Indiana University in Bloomington, IN to get a degree in Art Administration with minors in music and music business. During my college years, I interned in several different areas of the business – with Vector Management, Spirit of 68 booking, and Secretly Distribution. I ended up really falling in love with the indie side of the industry and hooked a job with Secretly before even finishing college. Since then, I’ve worked my way up from intern to Shipping Assistant to Resources Coordinator to US Physical Direct Sales to US Marketing Manager to Head of North American Physical Sales & Marketing.
What is a day in the life like?
SO. MUCH. EMAIL. I would say that I spend about 70% of my time in my inbox and/or on slack communicating with my team and the labels we work with. I’m constantly communicating with my team to make sure their day to day is running smoothly and that everything is being covered. I also spend a good amount of my day talking to labels upcoming campaigns for records – whether it’s the timeline of the campaign, marketing ideas, sales expectations, or inventory logistics. The day to day isn’t super glamorous but we do take sales trips every quarter (visiting and shopping at record stores as a work assignment? Yes, please!) and get to go to a ton of shows. I love that no matter what city I’m in, I know what the record store is there and most likely know the owner or buyer as well.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
I’ve had the pleasure of working on and pitching some of my favorite records which never gets old – The Coathangers ‘Suck My Shirt’, Mac Demarco ‘Salad Days’, Amen Dunes ‘Love’, Angel Olsen ‘MY WOMAN’, Phoebe Bridgers ‘Stranger In The Alps’ and so many others!
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
The music industry is a crowded place and it’s always a bummer to work on a really fantastic album and have it not meet sales expectations – whether that’s because the press just wasn’t there or the touring fell through or stores just didn’t dig it as much as we thought they would. We work with so many records (usually 10-30 a week) so they can’t all be hits but on the flip side, it’s always so rewarding to work on a record and have it totally take off in ways you hadn’t even anticipating.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
I’d suggest trying to network as much as possible and absorb anything you can. And when I say networking, that means going to shows and finding other people within the music community to learn from. I also learned a ton from interning and highly suggest that as a way to get your foot in the door.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Yes! In high school, my friends and I would take the train from our little Northern Indiana town to Chicago to hang out and see shows on the weekends. We’d hang around Reckless Records before going to shows and I really fell in love with the vibe at that record shop. It was before streaming services so I’d just read the review sticker that the Reckless crew would put on the record and found so many great bands that way!
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I know a lot of people are worried about streaming taking over physical but I personally am of the belief that there is room for both. I really like how streaming is pushing physical to constantly be more creative – it’s pushing labels and artists to make product that is unique (whether that means cooler packaging, colored vinyl, etc) so the fan feels like they need it.
Anything else you want to share or are really into right now?
I basically love most any music with female vocals – Angel Olsen, Hole, Jenny Lewis, Sleater Kinney, Grimes, Phoebe Bridgers, The Coathangers, Ariana Grande, Veruca Salt, Beyonce, etc etc! As for recent releases, I’ve been on Jenny Lewis and Lizzo kicks lately!