Women in Audio Feature: Azu Olvera
Azu Olvera is SiriusXM and Pandora's Head of Latin, Artist & Industry Relations. She sat down with the team to talk what a typical day looks like for her, what representation and being a proud Latina means, and her musical inspirations.
Tell us about yourself—how did you get your start in the music industry? I'm from Mexico City, from a family that enjoys and celebrates music. In my mom's house, she was always listening to some cool LP on the turntable, from the Doors to Rolling Stones, from Silvio Rodriguez to Sinead O' Connor, from Leonard Cohen to Joan Manuel Serrat, from Vivaldi to Caribbean music.
We used to live outside of the city, but I went to school in town, and it was a long, hour and a half drive one way—and the same on the way back. So, songs were the best way to pass the time.
At my Dad's, he made music himself, with one of his diverse musical instruments. Fun fact: I was named after his favorite Spanish guitar, "Azucena." He always had a new album and sound to share with me—he exposed me to African music—and then we’d dance to a new Juan Luis Guerra album. So, it’s not that music was important for me...it was part of my life in an essential and intimate way.
Now, let’s cut to the chase! I started in the music industry as an indie manager, booker, A&R, "everything’er.” I used to help friends with bands to get gigs and put together their albums and promote them as a favor—just for fun.
Then I started to manage in a more serious way the Mexico City-based band, "Los Mexicans.” (They’re still around, and they are great!) Finally, that band adventure led me to the real beginning: working at Sony Music, where I found my calling! You know the clichés: "I could do this job for free," They are paying me to do what I love," "It’s not a job, it’s fun." It was all of that. I believe I found myself by being an A&R. I was living, breathing, eating music, all genres, all kinds of artists, all types of projects. I had the honor to know and work with the idols of my youth, some of whom I’m now fortunate to call friends. I also discovered the joy of finding, signing, and fighting for the music idols of the future.
What does a typical day look like for you at Pandora + SiriusXM? It depends on the day! Mondays are way different than Fridays for me, but I can say that all my days always have a good amount of catch up with labels, artists, distributors, agents on upcoming releases, and plans. Sprinkle in a listening session, add a portion of discussing topics with the internal teams like programming, editorial, data, content, licensing, brand, etc., on how to support these releases, what would be the best way, and what we can do together! Continue to mix, while slowly adding: select and tailor what kind of assets (photos, audio liners, video liners, swipe ups, stories, and so on) will need to promote a specific track, album, program, artist. By now, the email and phone should be hot and ready to request the selected asset to the artist camp. Finally, deliver and distribute it to the right internal teams. Fun, yeah? Hold on—it's not over yet.
Set that aside and let it rest for a minute. Get to work to find and book an artist for one or two of our Franchise events, Custom events, Performances, or Town Halls. While that is cooking, send some playlists’ and stations’ tiles out, along with marketing support and nice performance numbers so your artist and team can taste how good we are here at Pandora, adding value to the music industry.
What does it mean to you to be a Latina representing Latina artists? It means everything; I'm such a proud Latina. I work as passionate and hard as humanly possible to push and empower Latin music. It’s not just an honor but a responsibility for me.
What are your hopes for Latina representation in the industry? To be listened to. To blur the boundaries of language, to enhance the culture, to help the world and the music industry to understand how valuable, diverse, fierce, and terrific this music, and what it has to say, is.
Do you have any female mentors or inspirations? Yes! Lots! All women, we are an inspiration per se! Mentor and inspiration: my mom, she's the queen!
And what is a bigger inspiration than all these superwomen creating art: Nina Simone, Chavela Vargas, Ella Fitzgerald, Celia Cruz, Selena! And on the business side of the industry I’ll mention Julie Greenwald.
How will you Pass the Mic? I would love to create more spaces of exposure for female artists and their female teams; for example, an all women music festival! I'm happy to mentor and champion upcoming female talent in all the corners of the industry.
I feel like Pandora has always allowed me to Pass the Mic, and is constantly empowering women.
For more inspiring stories of women in the audio industry, follow Pass the Mic.