Women in Music: Stefani Graf

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My name is Stefani Graf, which some of you might notice that it is similar to the famous tennis player, but instead of playing tennis, which I am terrible at, I decided to pursue a career in music. Being a pro-athlete and working in music are very similar in the sense that both require a lot of hard work and dedication to become successful, but in music you also need a bit of luck on your side. What I mean here is you need to be in the right place at the right time, and thankfully for me I was, but I also had the passion and skill to take advantage of my situation.

My love for electronic music started in college, and was solidified in 2011 after attending a music festival called Starscape, In Baltimore MD, which if you google the lineup is pretty epic for someone’s first electronic experience. After seeing Skrillex, Rabbit in the Moon, Excision, Datsik, Bassnectar, Flux Pavillion, Doctor P, Feed Me, Zeds Dead and many more live for the first time I was hooked. At first that just meant going to the shows but then after a few years I wanted to get involved, and in college I grabbed every opportunity I could to do just that.

I went to school for Visual Communications and Graphic Design, which covered a variety of subjects; journalism, marketing, design, videography, and photography mainly. While in school I had access to a Canon 5D M iii which is an amazing piece of equipment that I was able to use to take pictures of artists and at festivals and in the local clubs near my school. To all the people applying for college who want to work in music I would say my major played vital part to giving me the skills I needed to work in the industry. While in school I completed two internships that really helped me get my foot in the door. One was working for Rockstar Energy Drink and the other was interning for Campus DJ, both which helped me get the experience I needed to break into the music industry.

As the Rockstar Campus Rep it was my job to organize and throw events where I was responsible for everything. I was the promoter, the event planner, and the photographer. This really broke me out of my shell and gave me the outgoing personality you need to work in music and introduced me to a lot of the awesome people who work for Rockstar who were able to help me later in life finding other jobs. Aside from Rockstar, the job that I think did the most for my music career was working for Campus DJ also known as CAMPVS. I was the intern for the South East Campus DJ competition, so I was in charge of planning the event, handling artist relations, promotions and also the event photography. It was this event that sparked my love for event photography and planning and gave me the experience I needed to get other photography jobs in the future. I’ve been lucky enough to photograph some of the best festivals like, EDC Vegas, Ultra Miami, Holy Ship, TomorrowWorld, Imagine Festival, Mad Decent Boat party and many others.

Upon graduation I briefly worked at the nightclub Echostage in Washington D.C. but that was just a stepping stone for me that led to becoming a contributor to the Blog Raver Rafting as well as freelancing occasionally at Brobible. Both jobs were made possible by the connections I made at Echostage. Working as a blogger and a photographer gave me valuable experience and helped me build a network within the music industry that led me to my current job as an executive assistant at the booking agency GRVDNCR also known as The Gravedancer Agency.

I’ve been working at GRVDNCR for about a month now and I am handling the advancing, logistics, some A&R, social media and artist relations for the agency. It’s been an amazing experience learning this aspect of the industry. Since music is almost basically free now a lot of artists now rely on preforming live to make a living which is making agents very in demand and a very smart career choice. My goal is to one day be an agent and help artists that I am passionate about get the opportunity to play their music live to fans all over the world.

Another role I play within the company is the creative director role. I plan on using my skills to help some of our artists re-brand themselves and elevate their looks visually.  I minored in graphic design in college and have used my artistic abilities to make logos for a variety of artists, EP art, custom event flyers, social media graphics, illustrations and T-shirt designs. I make all of these designs under the moniker Stegra, which I got from taking the letter F out of Stef Graf and merging the two names together to form Stegra. My logo is a pink stegosaurus because I think it sounds similar to stegra and I really like the mysterious & powerful imagery dinosaurs portray.

Before I conclude I want to offer some advice for all those people who are curious how to break into the music industry. I have made a list 7  steps you can take to getting there that I live by.

  1. Always be kind – Being a good person will get you a lot further than you think, it’s definitely helped me get to where I am today.
  2. Try to stay positive – This goes for you personal attitude as well as how you talk to and about others, no one is going to want to work with someone who is negative and talks badly of their peers.
  3. Never be afraid to reach out to another industry professional – What’s the worst that could happen? I got a lot of my jobs by being outgoing and a go-getter.
  4. Be prepared to get knocked down sometimes – In the music industry there aren’t always people who want you to succeed and will try to make you fail, the key is to not let them get to you and make sure you surround yourself with the people who do.
  5. Be prepared to work for “experience” – Yes it’s awful but in this industry you will probably have to work for free. Sometimes this is the only way to get the experience you need to get your paying job. However, remember that once you get the experience always know your worth and charge a fair and reasonable amount for your services.
  6. Help others – Go out of your way as much as possible to help other people, even if it is something as small as liking a track on hypem, a repost on Soundcloud, or liking an awesome photo. These things take minimal effort for us but mean a lot to the people putting themselves out there, and when it comes time for them to return the favor 9 times out of 10 they will.
  7. Be yourself – I know you probably will hear this a lot in life but it is for a reason, in order to be successful you need to find what makes you unique and embrace it! Yes it’s okay to be inspired by others but to make it in a world of so much clutter you need to stand out.

I also want to talk about one of the most influential and significant groups I have been lucky enough to be a part of. That is NapGirls, a group of women who come from all walks of life from all over the world joined together by the common goal of gender equality. The NapGirls is a safe, accepting, positive space that has helped me in my career and more importantly in my personal life by giving me an amazing network of women who all want to see me succeed and a place to share my success with, and I can say I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

In conclusion, I hope my story has inspired you! Never hesitate to reach out to me, I’m always available to talk or help out, you can reach me on social media: Twitter: @stefanigraf Instagram: @stegra_media/@fanigiraffe or email me: steffigraf@comcast.net.

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