Along with meeting Natalie who brought me on as an intern once upon a time at Hopeless Record, I also came into contact with Erin Choi. Always nice, she resided in a desk not too far from the back room that was full of all your favorite bands’ merchandise. A mecca for anyone with an undying devotion to the label. Oh yeah, that’s the thing – all this month we’re going to be focusing on women who do their thing and do it best working at record labels. And again, first up is Erin who is the director of licensing and operations at Hopeless Records, and has been for the past 11 years.
Below we’ll learn more about what the director of licensing and operations does on a day to day basis, where she got her start and much more.
Kendra: What do you exactly do on a day to day basis over at Hopeless?
Erin Choi: I oversee production, recording and art/packaging for all of our releases and work with our artists and team on creating a product that matches their artistic/commercial vision. I also handle strategy and pitching for our licensing and synch department, as well as day-to-day operations for our publishing company.
Kendra: Has that always been your position?
Erin: I started out as an intern, and when a part time webstore/mailorder fulfillment position opened up, I jumped at the chance to join the team. After I graduated from college, I came on full time as an operations coordinator. Over the years, I’ve worked in digital operations, merchandise and webstore strategy, started our synch/licensing department, and eventually moved into production. It’s been really great seeing the label grow over the years, and to be a part of building Hopeless into the label it is now.
Kendra: Was music always the industry you wanted to be a part of?
Erin: I actually never thought I would actually work in music. I was a political science/public affairs major in college, and I thought that I was going to work at a non-profit or in government. However, I was always deeply involved in music. I decided to apply for an internship at Hopeless because my favorite band, Thrice, had put out their record Illusion of Safety on the label. I loved that there was a charity/non-profit component to the label, and thought that this would be the perfect place to intersect both of my passions. Once I started interning at the label, I realized that I wanted to work in music.
Kendra: When I was interning at Hopeless, I noticed that it was pretty evenly split between men and women. I say that because I reached out to another label that’d be considered a peer of Hopeless and they had zero women on their staff. Has it always been pretty even over there?
Erin: When I first started at Hopeless, the staff skewed more male, but throughout the years, we’ve definitely become more evenly split between men and women.
Kendra: Do you think it’s important to have a variety of people working at a label?
Erin: Yes, I think it’s incredibly important to have a diverse group of people make up the staff, because having different perspectives is vital in making decisions, planning, and strategy. One of the unique things about Hopeless is that people aren’t tied to their job description; every person has a voice, and it’s expected and encouraged to have opinions, introduce new ideas, and push for honest discussions. I think it’s one of the main reasons why our label has been able to grow and succeed over the years.
Kendra: Now, Hopeless has pretty much went and gotten a lot of the top bands in its scene. Why do you think artists gravitate towards you guys? Other than obviously having a great team behind them.
Erin: I’m really excited about our roster and the great artists we get to work with. I believe that we have an extremely talented team that works incredibly hard and we have a great track record, not only for selling albums, but for working closely with artists on communicating their vision to current fans and new audiences alike. I think there’s a lot of camaraderie between the artists on our label, and it really is a family.
Kendra: I have a few friends who work in the music industry and they’re always tweeting about their #workperks. What’s been the biggest one for you so far?
Erin: The biggest one for me is that I get to work day-to-day with really smart, talented people on projects that I really care about. I love seeing our bands when they come to town, especially at smaller events. One of our bands, The Wonder Years, played an acoustic in-store last year, right when their record came out, and it was probably one of the most visceral/poignant performances I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely a perk to be a part of something like that.
Kendra: Hopeless isn’t only a label, like you said – they are also very charitable. How much has working at a label that gives back affected your life personally?
Erin: I’ve been profoundly affected by Sub City (Hopeless’ non-profit) and our mission to make a positive impact in everything we do. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have made the leap into music without knowing that Hopeless was also socially-conscious and a label that valued non-profit work. I think that it’s a really important part of our label culture, and I think that working on campaigns like the Take Action Tour and compilations have allowed me to take a step back from the day to day and recognize that we are a part of a community, and that there are tangible ways we can make a difference in the world.
Kendra: What’s a release coming up from Hopeless that you’re particularly excited for?
Erin: It’s hard to choose one, but I’m really excited to release All Time Low’s Straight To DVD II: Past, Present and Future Hearts CD/DVD on August 26th. I think fans are going to be really happy with the documentary and the live show. I think it’s a really great, honest, look at the band and everything that makes them special. I remember when we first signed the band out of high school, and to see them grow into the artists that they are today, while staying humble and kind, is really amazing.
Kendra: I don’t want to make you pick favorites from your roster. So instead, if you had to make a mixtape of when you were feeling your most hopeless, what five songs would have to be on it?