Jill Moreland has been living in Nashville, Tennessee, working in the music industry since she finished graduate school at the University of Tennessee, but she’s been dreaming about it since she was a young girl.
“When I was 12-years-old, I temporarily lost my hearing due to illness. For the better part of a year, I couldn’t really hear. They finally figured out what was going, and once I got my hearing back, all I wanted to do was listen to music and watch CMT. I was really obnoxious about it,” Jill explains.
Her obsession with Bryan White’s “Someone Else’s Star” music video caused her mom to ask a question that would forever change the course of her life: “If you love music so much, why don’t you just move to Nashville and become a publicist?”
“I was like, ‘That’s genius! That’s what I’m going to do!’ So when I was 12 years old, that’s what I decided to do. That become the life’s plan,” Jill says as if all preteens consistently make up their mind about something and follow through without fail.
Jill’s determination has been cannon ball-like ever since. She had never visited Tennessee, yet she only applied to colleges in Tennessee. When she showed up on campus, it was her first time stepping foot in the Volunteer State. And when she headed to Music City after graduate school, she didn’t yet have a job, but she says, “I knew I needed to be in Nashville to get a job.”
Everything she had done up until this point had been in preparation for this big moment.
Her tenacity paid off: Jill landed a gig in publicity with a major record label and has been making her mark in the industry ever since, most recently at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum as the Senior Marketing Services Manager.
It’s been over the years that her focus has changed from Publicity to Marketing. “I really wanted something with a little more variety,” Jill says.
Many students graduate with no true concept of the difference between marketing and publicity. Jill doesn’t skip a beat when asked to explain.
“The answer to that depends largely on what your marketing philosophy is. I come from a very behavior driven philosophy. What emotion is leading to that decision? What is their buying behaviors? I try to understand the consumer and that affects how I’m going to market to them. That’s probably the closest thing it has with Public Relations. In PR, it’s like, ‘ok, here’s my message. Now how I communicate this to an audience in a way that they understand?’ Marketing, in some sense, gives you a little bit more control in that you can buy advertising. So I can force myself in front of consumers if I feel that’s necessary. Where in publicity, a certain amount of that will always be outside your control. Depending on the company you’re working for, publicity can be very reactive, like if there’s a crisis. So for me, I want to have an end goal and a vision, and for me, marketing is a little bit more finite, which I like.”
For those considering the music industry, Jill offers some insight. “The hardest thing about the music industry specifically is that it’s so small, which is great, because it’s easy to know everyone. But it just means that the opportunities are fewer. There’s a lot of insecurity in that companies open and close, artists get signed and cut. So jobs tend to come and go in a way that not everyone can deal with.”
Typical of Nashville, some of the best advice she’s received happened over a lunch with a music industry veteran. Wendy Pearl, who is currently the Vice-President of Communications at the Country Music Association told Jill, “At some point in your life, you will get fired or laid off, probably for no reason of your own. You have to be prepared for that. Whether it’s prepared mentally, emotionally or financially. Just accept that’s the industry you’re getting into.”
“That’s really stuck with me. I made it pretty far in my career, relatively, before I was ever laid off, and it was emotionally devastating, just as she said,” Jill admits.
The industry instability might seem daunting to some, but women may have an additional challenge as they aim to advance their career. “Quite honestly, the music industry is a bit of a boys’ club, particularly at the higher levels. You look at who your Senior VPs and VPs are. So not only is it hard to get into those things just because of the limitations, it’s also a bit of a boys’ club. You frequently have to change companies in order to ascend your career. It’s a little rarer nowadays to see someone working their way through the ranks at the same company,” Jill says.
Jill’s current role at the Country Music Hall of Fame has been a new and exciting step forward in her career. In this role, she has direct reports that she’s managing, planning sessions covering yearly goals and annual budgets, staff meetings, and different initiatives for the museum, such as launching the guest experience analysis. When an exhibit closed recently, it was time to prepare a recap to be used internally and externally on all marketing and publicity efforts to promote the exhibit.
“It’s a mix of administrative stuff, high level institutional initiatives, meetings, managing staff, and approving creative jobs,” Jill sums it up.
Jill recognizes the importance of mentors herself, who have taught her the value of research. “I think everyone in their life should have one really, really tough boss, because being resilient and being able to say, ‘No, I don’t know, but I will find out,’ is probably the best skill you can have in any career. It drives me crazy when people just say, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ You need to figure it out. Someone out there knows. It isn’t the beginning of the universe. There’s information out there.”
Jill has a few tips for those wishing to break into the music industry:
- “Earn your paycheck every day. If you’re not earning your paycheck yet and you’re in college, make sure you’re earning the tuition you’re paying every day. On average, people will earn their paychecks over the course of a year, but come in every day and give it your all every hour of every day. When I was in college and paying out-of-state tuition, which is very expensive, I did the math and figured out how much every hour of class was costing me. It was like $22. I went to every class with the thought, ‘I need to get $22 worth of knowledge out of this class today. It really changes your perspective. Try to earn it everyday.”
- “I know this is cliche, but don’t put anything on social media that you don’t want out there. And if you’re interviewing for a job, know that people are looking at your social media. Hide your pictures, don’t put them up in the first place….understand that it’s out there publicly and it’s out there forever."
- “Don’t feel entitled. You have to earn everything: earn your first job, earn your first internship, earn the salary you’re asking for. Just because you want to live at a certain pay rate doesn’t mean that you’ve earned it yet. You’re going to be poor for a really long time. Cable is a privilege. Travel is a privilege. I didn’t have cable for a long time in my life. I was an adult with a respectful job in a good industry, and I was like, ‘You know what? That’s just not in my budget.’”