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Sydney Christensen

VP, Kill Rock Stars

Meet Sydney Christensen the VP of indie label Kill Rock Stars (KRS). Kill Rock Stars since 1991 has been a queer-positive, feminist, anti-racist, and artist-friendly label that came out of DIY punk culture and still believes in a DIY ethos. They are a small team, and all share time wearing different hats. Sydney is primarily in-charge of marketing, radio, and asset organization, as well as organizing timelines, amongst other things. When people ask what it is exactly that she does... "...I just say 'email'".

When she's not emailing for work, "I definitely have two different sides of my relationship with music - professional and purely enjoyment. Luckily, they overlap a whole lot. I love deep diving into music for personal enjoyment and I spend a lot of time exploring artists, genres, and eras". Aside from music she has an obsession with the "social studies of sound", how it affects us individually and collectively. "I'm in grad school for that topic + sound design. I wish I could spend more time creating personal works in sound design."

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

I've been obsessed with music, and especially live music, since my parents took me to my first concert (Duran Duran). Once I passed the age of wanting to be an astronaut, I knew I wanted to work in music. I got an internship with a booking agency when I was in high school. And then a job at a concert series in my hometown when I went back for a summer. I moved to Portland OR, knew KRS was based there, hit up Portia, met Portia, poked her for about a year, and long story short, she finally asked me to build some CD shelves. Here I am 6/7ish years later! Thanks Portia.

What is a day in the life like?

Make coffee. Open computer. Email. Meeting. Email. Meeting. Meeting. Email. Listen to upcoming music releases. Email. All the glam.

In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you've worked on?

This is something asked all the time, and I can never stick to one answer. I feel so fortunate to have worked on everything that's come out. We work with some of the most talented, weird, and down to earth artists. I'll keep this answer nondescript.

One of the most exciting things in the world is to see the crowd's response to an artist we so fully believe in. The way the light enters their eyes with a jaw-drop type of thing. Being in a room with that energy, with an artist/band that we work with on stage, is so rewarding and such an honor. It's all about the artists.

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

Keeping up with emails!

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

The network is wide and the world is small. One connection can open up the whole world.

Poke around the music you like - what label released it? Who books them? What venues are they playing? Does the booking agency have other artists you like? What other labels is that label connected to, in terms of larger parent company or distribution company. Explore all the company names, people names, make a wish-list of people you'd love to connect to, and dare to reach out. I still have my wish-list of names note and Portia Sabin's name is at the very top. I won't delete it ever. It's the best reminder of what reaching out randomly can do. Be nice to those you cross paths with. Always.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?

YES. I wish I could remember the one pivotal moment in my childhood that cemented vinyl being so important. Maybe it was the collection at my grandparents' house. Maybe it was going to thrift shops and flipping through piles, infatuated with the covers and dings and tears and deciding to buy a player myself to collect these things. I moved across the ocean a few years ago and getting my vinyl collection over there is one long venture. It's kind of cool to look at my "collection" in Berlin vs. the one in the States and see what's changed, what's stayed the same, and what genre's love has grown.

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 am always really excited, and honestly relieved, to see a steady interest in vinyl year after year. There will always, always be the worry that people will stop buying music from the artists they love. Everything is so easily accessible, I hope the accessibility doesn't ironically blind us. Keep buying music, everyone. Thank you.

Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry? 

In 20 years, I will definitely still be saying Portia Sabin. I need to start her fan club already. She'd.... love that. Totally.

Anything else you’d like to add; if not tell us what you're listening to: 

MR GNOME FOREVER. I love music that is world building on vibes alone. Mr Gnome have been a favorite band of mine for what feels like three lifetimes. Also, on a way different note, I've entered my pop era. Finally. I was on about an eight or so year hiatus of pop because I was insufferable indie head. Pop music saves.

Find Sydney

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