When you listen to your favorite artists, it is easy to forget that there is a team working behind the scenes driving their success. Nikisha Bailey is one of those people making her mark on the industry and the culture.
The St. Louis native kicked off her career as an intern at Atlantic Records before maneuvering through the ranks to become Head of A&R Admin, Artist Partners with the company. She has worked on key records for talent such as Kehlani, Charlie Puth, Bazzi, and many others. She currently serves as VP of A & R Administration and Operations for the Los Angeles-based Artist Partner Group (APG).
In addition to being a rising music industry executive, she also organizes OurTable Dinners, which spotlights and celebrates music business thought leaders, and she also serves on the Diversity & Inclusion Council for Women In Music since becoming its New York Chapter Chair in 2019. She has expanded her brand and expertise to entrepreneurship. In addition to making major industry moves, she has also expanded her brand to be co-owner of the newly revamped W/N W/N Coffee Bar in Philadelphia.
Mogul Millennial had the opportunity to speak with the rising music executive and entrepreneur to learn more about her professional journey and mission to make her mark.
How did you develop an interest in working in the music industry? Was it always your intended career goal or did your interest change over time?
I originally wanted to be an audio-engineer. I moved to NY 10 years ago and switched my trajectory to what I’m doing now. I started applying to internships and had friends in NYC who were working in the industry.
What have been the most relevant skills and experiences that have contributed to your success?
Being a connector. I think the most important part is maybe not even the connection but being able to call someone and they'll pick up the phone. In my career I've probably connected hundreds of producers, managers, artists, studios, etc. The most recent, interesting connection I've done was something related to the music industry and someone that works in A.I (Artificial Intelligence). It's all about the strength in your name and leaving a positive experience with people when paths cross. Also, trying to be pleasant and courteous. I learned that something as simple as saying good morning could make a difference. You never know a connection might turn into something bigger!
From your perspective, what are some of the biggest misconceptions about working in the music industry?
That it’s all about parties and hanging out with celebrities and that there’s no actual work involved. The reality is that you can be at the beck and call of the artist. It’s also important to remember professionalism—knowing who’s going to be in the room and never forget your goals. You want people to know who you are as a person and as a brand!
In addition to your professional work, you are also holding a leadership role with Women in Music NYC. What led you to take on this role and what would be your advice to other professionals who are interested in taking on mentorship roles?
Recently I joined the Global Diversity and Inclusion council, where we highlight disparities working in the industry. We focus on mentorship, hold panel discussions, and provide one-on-one mentorship. Our panels engage Black, brown women, and transgender women. For mentorship, we have internal mentees where we offer advice and foster engagement. I wanted to be a part of the change.
In addition to being a successful music industry executive, I read an article in Philadelphia Magazine about you being a co-owner of W/N W/N Coffee Bar in Philly. What sparked your interest within diversifying your portfolio into small business ownership?
For me, coffee brings people together. I have a good friend who had an interest in giving back to the community. The process of opening the business was very much learn as you go along. You take the good with the not so good and learn from your wins and your losses. Both my partner and I are both first-time business owners so it has all been a learning process.
To the readers I would say don't be afraid to make a mistake or mess up, that's really how you learn. And don't be afraid to call on people around you that you trust for help or advice. Thinking that you have to know everything or have all of the answers is a misnomer that we put on ourselves. Also, consultants and friends helped us along the way. For instance, Chef Damon Daye and Chef RJ both helped us develop a menu, tweak the menu, and roll it out. Friends would travel to help us check on construction when my partner and I physically couldn't be there and we even had friends travel from NY to Philly to help us with photos (now that’s love lol!).
As someone who’s been able to diversify in different professional ventures, what would be your advice to professionals and entrepreneurs that are looking to expand their brand/portfolio?.
I've been in the music industry for a decade so I've had the time to learn myself, learn how I work best with a team, and to learn that the role I have at my industry job doesn't make me who I am. Coffee and community are two things that I have a strong passion for, so when my partner approached me with the opportunity to own something that combines all of these interests, I couldn’t pass it up. I had to at least try to say that I gave myself the benefit of the doubt. The truth is that we make time for things that we deem important, whether it's family, work, traveling, partying, we make the decision each day of what we want to put energy into and I had finally decided it was time to put that energy directly into myself. Also, be passionate about what you’re venturing into and don’t take an opportunity just to take an opportunity.
What makes you a Mogul Millennial?
I think it's a mindset and knowing I can set the bar high for myself. I want to have multiple ventures and that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s also important to layout plans and set goals to meet those objectives.