Olivia Records is paving a new path for the future of country music
Sometimes if you want to do it right, you have to do it yourself. It’s no secret that Nashville’s country music scene is hampered by sexism, but Erin Olivia Anderson of Olivia’s Management has an answer to that: be creative.
Anderson launched the female-led business in 2012, initially working with artists like Jill Andrews, Smooth Hound Smith, Amanda Shires, The Secret Sisters, Matthew Perryman Jones and Hush Kids. In March 2022, Anderson launched a spin-off label: Olivia Records.
Fans of LGBTQ+ music history may have an itch in the back of their brains: 70s Olivia Records is famous as the first lesbian-owned record label, featuring artists active in the women’s music movement . The name is coincidental – Anderson used “Olivia” in homage to her grandmother, a Michigan businesswoman and landlord in the 1930s, when it was rare for a woman to have her own property.
“The first Olivia Records included a strong group of women who weren’t afraid to work against the grain and release unique records. I love the idea of continuing this tradition of strong, independent women through my own record label,” Anderson told The Boot. “In fact, our first two releases from the new label are both brilliant queer artists. [CJ Temple and Madeleine Kelson]even though the choice to direct their releases was solely based on the quality of their music.
The pursuit of quality is at the heart of Anderson’s mission. She cut her teeth working in a record store in high school, learning from the store buyer why some records fly off the shelves.
“Even though the music moved me and I realized how important it was,” Anderson recalls. “I was not particularly good at music. So working in the music industry seemed like the perfect way to stay close to music while using my more business-oriented skills. I think my passion for the business started then, and eventually I found my way to Belmont [University].”
After earning a music business degree, Anderson got a job at UMG Nashville in the mid-2000s, as an assistant to the chief financial officer. Anderson has peeked into the books of major recording stars – and says she’s glad it’s not like it used to be.
“A lot has been written since then about the pros and cons of the advent of digital and streaming, but from my perspective, digital and streaming have been great for musicians,” she explains. “Removing the barriers to entry surrounding physical distribution has diverted some of the power away from the big labels, creating this incredible middle class of musicians who can make a living making music. My current job as an indie artist manager wasn’t possible in 2005, but it is now. It’s exciting to work in that in-between space, helping artists progress and elevate.
Anderson’s positivity towards change helped her roster at Olivia Management adjust to the first pandemic lockdown. The team helped its artists launch Patreons, come up with creative product ideas, book socially distanced backyard tours, and set up live streams. Of course, Anderson is thrilled that her clients can start shooting and “doing what they do best.” With eight releases to come this year between Olivia Management and Olivia Records, it will be a busy 2022, with no guarantees that the tour can continue.
“Despite what happens next, I plan to continue finding new ways to support and uplift independent artists,” she says. “And to help them earn money, because their work is so valuable to our society and to our mental health.”
Anderson is committed to preserving the sanity of artists in other ways, including by committing to diversity within the American world. Olivia Management has offered consulting scholarships to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students in the past, and continues to emphasize leadership for women on either side of the mic.
“I’ve been very intentional about the growth and promotion of women in the music industry since Olivia Management began, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon,” Anderson says. “That being said, I know the music industry, and the folk/Americana genre in particular, has a long way to go. If you’re an artist from a marginalized group making music in that space and would like to tell us about your experience in this industry, please contact us!”
Anderson has some free advice for everyone:
“Be nice to everyone. I’m serious. My mother (and your mother, probably) used to say, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” She’s not wrong at all.
Passion and instinct, of course, will take you this far.
“I would like to remind all beginners – artists and future managers – that you have to be ready to take risks,” she notes. “You have to trust yourself and keep going. It might not work out the way you want it to, at first. It’s part of the whole process. You have to keep going and trust your instincts. You’ll get there.”
Every winner of the Grammy Awards for the best American album of all time
This list focuses on the winners of the Grammys’ Best American Album category since its inception in 2010. The Grammys are known for their eclectic pickings of nominees, and this list rightly includes a mix of well-known names, lesser-known artists. well-known and cross-genre icons.