How can you help LGBTQ people succeed in the music industry? One easy step: Share your networks and make introductions. So for Pride Month, Billboard is connecting queer artists with some of their musical heroes — who also happen to be major allies to the community — to get career advice.
Here, songwriter-producer Bronze Avery — who’s spent the year releasing dreamy dancefloor-ready tracks like “Only You” and “Boys!” — gets insider insight from pop superstar and The Masked Singer judge Nicole Scherzinger, who recently reunited with The Pussycat Dolls and released the group’s first single in over a decade, “React.”
Throughout your career, who were the most beneficial people in getting you to where you wanted to be? Was it management, assistants, A&Rs? How did they help?
First and foremost, everything has to come from you: the vision, the energy and the drive, especially when starting out. You are the CEO of your own brand. In my opinion, a good lawyer is the first essential hire. Then, as things progress and there are more things to manage, you will want to hire a manager and a business manager. It’s important to slowly and strategically build out your team. A tight unit is invaluable. This team helps steer your career and keeps you moving forward. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, from management to business management, lawyers, publicists, stylists, hair and makeup, your label, your agent. Some of them will remain on your team for decades, and some of the more creative roles may switch up every now and then. I’ve found that for me, a great assistant is invaluable — someone to act as the other half of my brain, someone that’s trustworthy, loyal and helps maintain the pace you want to move at.
What was a mistake you made in your career, and how did it teach you to be stronger in the industry?
It’s wasn’t really a mistake, but rather a realization: It took me a while to learn that there is no point in trying to prove yourself to everyone all the time. People are either going to see your talents or they won’t, and the ones that do will support your craft, lift you up and drive you forward. There’s always going to be the people that don’t get it, don’t get you and have an opinion of your talent and character. I found strength and peace in coming to terms with what I bring to the table, and it’s really helped my process of creating.
What’s the process like of being found and signed by a label, and what part of that process do you wish you could change?
I think the process now is completely different from when I first experienced it. With The Pussycat Dolls, Interscope was invited to see us perform, and that ultimately led to us signing with Universal Music. Eventually my solo projects came off the back of that. Nowadays there’s a lot less reliance on the major labels in order to release your music. You’re now able to put music out yourself and retain your rights and decision-making abilities. Financial backing isn’t the key to launching a career anymore. Authentic artists with great music connect with their fans in a real way that can’t be bought. Once that connection is made, you’re really onto something.
What’s something you feel like the music industry is currently lacking?
I find that representation continues to be an issue in the industry. It was really challenging to convince people that we could bring back The Pussycat Dolls. There were reservations about whether there was even a market or interest in five women of our age coming back and doing what we do. Executives were reluctant to get behind the reunion project and invest in it, and a lot of doors were closed in our faces. For me, that shows that even though our industry is rapidly evolving and a new generation of leaders is redefining the norm, there are still outdated biases which limit representation. I’m talking about women over a certain age, but it can also be said for artists in the LGBTQ+ community too. The industry is lacking sufficient entry points for these artists and the support to sustain their careers. Thankfully I’m surrounded by amazing women who knew what we were capable of, and as a result, we came back stronger than ever. However, there’s a lot of work to be done here by the major players.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Some really helpful advice I got was to make sure I kept a grounded inner circle and to work hard to maintain those relationships with the people who know where I come from. Being my true self wasn’t always easy in this industry, and having my best friends around me helped me keep that intact.