To celebrate Women’s History Month, I wanted to highlight some talented women who lend a hand in helping drive and push every aspect of our culture to the next level. Although there are so many women in the entertainment industry who constantly get overlooked based on their gender, I’ve come across a vast amount of knowledgeable women who not only know their craft like the back of their hand but can and have outworked any man that they’re put up against.
With so many extraordinary women in the world today, I decided to start this interview series off with one that I’ve known for a little over a year and her name is Yan. Using social media tactics as well as digital marketing strategies as her way of strong engagement, Yan has been able to build up a dedicated and loyal fan base and continues to do so by feeding her target audience what they’re relentlessly in search of. These things can range from her putting out a playlist that consists of emerging artists, visual treatments, collaborative projects with like-minded influencers, critiques and/or op-ed writing pieces and much more.
I had the chance to catch up with Yan to talk about a few things that made her the multi-talented woman she is today. Check it out below.
1 – You pursued music throughout college but how did your love for music start?
I can’t remember too much of anything earlier than 3-years-old, however, I do distinctly remember walking up to this colossal stone home on Clinton Ave., Trenton, NJ, hand in hand with my father. We walked inside and were greeted by this slender middle-aged woman with long blonde hair — now looking back on it, she very much reminded me of a hippie — along with this older woman, who I remember not being too fond of due to her habit of pressing my fingers down on keys. There I would spend my first few years learning to play the piano, the instrument I would go on to love and play for years. This home is where my love for music began, and I am forever grateful to my father for introducing us.
During that period of my life, I was also put in Watson-Johnson Dance Theater in Trenton, NJ, where I would perform ballet, tap, and jazz until I was about 10-years-old. Surprisingly, dance was ACTUALLY the love of my life for years after stopping, however, I was never re-enrolled in dance school after my father removed me from it due to the poor conditions of the studio at the time.
By 4th grade, I took up the violin, completely hated it (which is ironic now, over 15 years later, wishing I could play a string instrument). In 2007, I entered Ewing High School and joined the marching band. These are probably my best memories with music, being that I had to attend band camp during the summer so that the music and formations would be mastered in time for the upcoming football games. What most don’t know is, I did not play piano during this year in band… I played the bass and snare drums. So imagine me, 5’1, a GIRL (the only girl on the drumline) with that goofy ass uniform on with the big feathered hat, trying to march that huge drum around a hot ass field. “It’s gonna be a no from me dawg.” I ended up quitting the band. I also joined the Shiloh Baptist Church Youth Choir and the Mercer County Community College Jazz band (Senior Year) which is where I found my love for singing.
2 – At what point did you realize creating music wasn’t your passion anymore?
When I graduated high school, I moved down south to Fayetteville, North Carolina to attend Fayetteville State as a Music Major. I ended up transferring to Kean University in the Fall of 2012 after being accepted into their classical voice program.
My first and last two years spent as a music major at Kean really brought to light a few things for me that I am blessed and thankful for having realized so early on. Although performing arts instilled a sense of passion in me, a degree in music would have cost me five years of undergraduate study and over $100K of debt.
Secondly, through performing during those 2 years, I learned of my severe case of stage fright. With this in mind, I questioned my passion for performing arts and whether or not a degree was even required in order to become a famous musician. I studied the success of other mainstream artists and recognized how much dedication, work, and luck it took to actually make it as a performer, and that just was not something I could see myself being devoted. Not to mention, no one ever needed a degree to be able to sing or play the piano well. Furthermore, in 2014 I switched my major to communications with a minor in music and deaded the idea of creating music for a living.
3 – Was the music/entertainment industry something you always saw yourself being apart of?
Absolutely, although my desire to become a musician faded, that never changed my general passion for music. After all, it literally was my life for over 15 years. It’s hard to part ways with a love that deep.
4 – How did you manage to get into the on-air personality/podcast world?
In 2011 I ran an art/music submission blog, and one of the Jersey artists that submitted to me became a really good friend of mine. When I got back to Jersey, he introduced me to Jamar Dickson, who was looking for a female personality on his then radio show. We linked up and clicked really well, so everything was a go from there. We rebranded around the newer ideas we brainstormed for the show, and then boom, Podcast About Nothing.
5 – You’re a natural writer due to the fact that you wrote music. Did you ever think it would come to a point where you would be writing about and critiquing other peoples music?
When Tumblr became a popular platform in 2010 I knew I would end up writing about and critiquing other people’s music. I enjoyed blogging, so it only made sense that I combined my musical ear and background with music blogging. What I didn’t foresee was that I’d get bored with it. When you produce so many write-ups on a frequent basis, it begins to all look the same if journalism isn’t truly your forte.
However, critiquing is definitely a forte of mine; I always knew I’d be pretty solid with music critiquing. I’ve studied voice, instruments and music theory for years. It’s really second nature for me to know when something sounds off, what harmony would sound better in a specific place within a record, what type of energy you should bring to a song, what instruments would sound best with an artist’s voice… you know, things of that nature.
6 – You’re one of the women that comes to mind when it comes to advocating for independence and not relying on the major co-signs. In your opinion, why do you think rising music artists, entrepreneurs, etc constantly look for that major backing rather than making things work themselves?
I think artists desire the major backing simply because of instant gratification. You hop on the internet and all you really see is people seemingly popping up and getting famous. It’s really cliche, but this is exactly what it is. The prevalence of the internet has made it extremely easy for artists to quickly garner attention and become stars, so we lose that appreciation for “the process.” Nobody wants to do the local shows, everyone wants to hit the big stages immediately because they believe that’s the quickest way to get noticed. Many artists have become extremely lazy when it comes to marketing themselves and building an audience, not realizing that those fans you build are the people that help you to see longevity in this game. Those fans are the ones that’ll show you love time and time again because they’ve become a fan of YOU, the artist. Those artists that are in and out of the game don’t last because the listeners are a fan of the song. Once the song is no longer a popular hit, the audience is looking for the next hit. You HAVE to put the work in if you really want more out of this game beyond a payoff or two.
7 – What is it about an artist that draws you in?
Overall quality and attention to detail draw me in the most. When an artist approaches me with more than just a link to their work, it displays that they care about their craft. How is the graphic work looking? How well is the social media account put together as far as content? How well are the songs engineered? Do they perform well, and do they perform well even when there’s barely an audience? Did the artist check to see if his/her record matched the vibe of my playlist before he/she submitted it to me? Details are so important. An artist that cares about minor details, is an artist that really loves this shit. THAT’s the artist that gets my attention.
8 – How do you feel when it comes to women in the entertainment industry? Not those that are necessarily in the spotlight but for the women who are behind the scenes more like yourself – do you feel they get enough credit?
Within Drake’s record, Trophies — he said: “Stay committed, fuck the credit” and as simple as it is, that line played one of the most pivotal roles in changing the way I viewed receiving credit. I can understand the frustration women feel when we don’t get the credit we deserve, however it’s a catch 22. We are behind-the-scenes… not in front of, so make moves and build your name, the credit will come. We get so caught up in wanting credit for things, that we stop working to our full potential because not receiving credit can become extremely disheartening. You just have to work so hard that you can’t be denied your credit. People see you working, believe that.
9 – What’s it like working with a rising company like Dinner Land?
Dinner Land was the greatest calculated risk I ever took. Dinner Land taught me that everything isn’t about money when you truly love it. Much like credit, the money will come eventually. There’s more value in the connections you build and solid collaborations. There’s more value in building a solid reputation, than looking just to get paid for something.
Dinner Land is the circle of friends I always needed but could never find — they motivate me, they check me when I’m wrong, they provide guidance, we laugh together, we build together and most of all they provide love. In your lifetime, most of the people you work with are not going to give a f*ck about you, just what you can do for them, so when you meet people like Shake, Blue, and Sunny who care about you as a person just as much as you as a business partner, you have to cherish that.
Dinner Land forced me to be daring with my endeavors, to stop being so insecure about releasing content. They taught me not to be intimidated by my blessings. They also taught me to recognize my value and influence, so expect to see me maximize those things going forward.
10 – How did you land the Editor-In-Chief role?
In December 2016 Shake dropped a graphic on the Dinner Land account looking for people that wanted to contribute to Dinner Land. At the time I was a media personality on a podcast and a vlog, both of which I knew didn’t fit the Dinner Land aesthetic, however, I knew I wanted to somehow become involved. I reached out to Shake, we got on a really long, insightful phone call, and I came out to link with the team in Long Island. After a few weeks of solid social media management, Shake called me one day and was like, “Dinner Land is no longer going to be Dinner-land.com, it’s going to be Dinnerland.tv and it’s going to be run like a Network. I’m emailing you the login, and it’s all yours. Do your thing.” We built trust between each other, and I delivered in the ways I promised I would. I honestly came at exactly the right time, I landed EIC by the grace of God.
11 – Why do you think Dinner Land has been able to build up such a great reputation when it comes to independent creatives?
Dinner Land has been able to build up that reputation because we place emphasis on showing love to those that don’t normally get it. If you want to find new music from celebrities and whoever’s already buzzing, you can easily hit Complex, HotNewHipHop or The Fader. What purpose does producing the same content that is already widely available across countless platforms serve? When you think of Dinner Land we want you to think of innovation, and there’s nothing innovative about building content around artists we see up and down the timeline on an everyday basis. That method is not progressive in the slightest.
12 – You’re heavily involved in the new generation of rising rappers/singers and you showcase a lot of that on your ‘Whip Sessions’ music playlist. What does it take to get a feature on that playlist and what are some general tips you give out to rising musicians on getting their music picked up or noticed by music writers?
As far as getting featured on my playlists, I go by the same things I mentioned regarding what about an artist draws me in. The most important thing for playlist selection is sound quality. I don’t care how popular an artist or song is, I really just look for sound quality that matches the vibe of the playlist.
As far as tips on getting your music noticed, #1 make sure your branding is solid. There’s nothing enticing about a social media account full of selfies and memes. Make sure your album artwork looks good because many will skip over your record because the presentation is poor. #2 BUILD YOUR FAN BASE. When you see sites like Pigeons and Planes who get thousands of submissions post their “who should we listen to?” tweets, your fans are the ones that’ll keep tweeting your name to these platforms — create a demand for your music.
13 – What should the people following Yan expect from her as we continue on with 2018?
Expect a Late Rides Mix from me and DJ Miss Milan every month, a solid #MusicMonday campaign via Dinner Land Network in collaboration with Crystal Caines and Manhattan Beach Recordings who will be providing studio sessions to artists who win weekly polls, solid playlists, a few more episodes of #RhymeClub Cypher Series, and genuine love. Honestly, that’s really all I’m here for outside of digital marketing — showing love and connecting underdogs with an audience.