Over the last year or so, I’ve been able to catch up with a few great people from Connecticut who have told me about their struggles as well as the struggles of others from their point of view. Topics that seem to be the common theme are the lack of support from other creatives and the lack of advancement and opportunity. Journalist and creative Tia Long, co-founder of the Power of CT LLC, is working tirelessly to shift that narrative.
The Power of CT LLC is geared towards helping millennial entrepreneurs and professionals through one-of-a-kind experiences and networking events. Events such as their Power of CT Brunch which was held earlier this year where Karen Civil attended as the keynote speaker.
I had the chance to catch up with Tia to discuss why she decided to get into journalism, when she began writing for a mainstream publication, how she created the Power of CT brand and what’s to come for the brand in 2019 and beyond.
1 – What was your main inspiration behind getting into journalism?
It’s funny because I never set out to specifically be a journalist. From the beginning, I just knew I wanted to work in the music industry someway somehow. Music has always been the most consistent thing in my life. My father has been a DJ since before I was born. Our basement is full of crates of vinyl and club speakers. I watched him move from a college radio station to hosting festivals and later becoming one of the most legendary reggae DJ’s in Connecticut. Without thinking, I’d find myself in recording studios adding my two cents and really just wanting to be around the vibe from a young age. Choosing to work in music just made sense.
When I was in college I started to seek out internships and Twitter led me to my internship with Yandy Smith’s Every Thing Girls Love LLC. That opportunity was my first taste of the industry. I was writing for the entertainment and music section of the site. I spent most days listening to new releases and researching entertainment news. At the time, my inspiration came from wanting to simply connect with my idols in music and television. The dream seemed super far away but never impossible. Once I met Yandy I wanted to keep proving myself right.
2 – Who were some of your favorite journalists?
Ivie Ani (OkayPlayer)
Bianca Gracie (Billboard)
Rob Markman (Genius)
Claire Valentine (PAPER)
3 – When did you get your first shot at writing for a mainstream publication?
In 2014 – 2015 was when things really started to take off. I was the managing editor for The Rapfest and later became a writer at The Source. I literally sent a DM, sent in an application, and started working within weeks. My Instagram account was fairly new at the time but I noticed an increase of video interviews being released on various platforms. There weren’t many exclusive video interviews coming out on our site. Well, not from what I could see at least. I decided to embrace it and make visuals what I was known for. I took it upon myself to reach out to artist managers directly to get interviews while they were on press runs, backstage at concerts, and really just anywhere I could catch them.
I would travel from Hartford, CT to NYC in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity to meet my favorite artists/celebrities. With zero pay! It wasn’t about the money for me. I had a little part-time job to sustain myself. I just wanted to live my dreams. I’d listen to a new album or watch a new video and tell myself, alright I have to figure out how to meet this person. Most times I finessed my way backstage and made it happen.
I now contribute to PAPER Magazine. I’ve done some great work with them on feature stories about women in music and they’ve really allowed me to pitch passion stories. Tons of projects I plan to work on with them this year.
Most recently published – http://www.papermag.com/shavone-c-sith-instagram-2630198554.html
4 – You’ve taken your talents and assisted in creating “cultural experiences and advancement opportunities for CT creators” with your brand Power Of CT LLC. How did you and your partner come up with this?
Man, POC is truly my baby. The 21-year-old that started out in music wouldn’t even have dreamed of being apart of something so special. There was a rise in creativity in 2016 but a lack of recognition for artistic people our age. We wanted to have an event that celebrated millennial creatives and provided them with a space to network and meet like-minded people. One event turned into 5 and 5 turned into an actual organization. We’ve been able to do things in our state and get resources we had no idea were available to us.
We just had our 3rd annual Power Brunch CT where Karen Civil came out as the keynote speaker. The energy in the room was unmatched and all 150+ people left feeling inspired and ready to work.
My business partner, Ashley Lania, and I have dedicated ourselves to highlighting our peers and knocking down doors in our state for young Black people. It’s a beautiful feeling and we’re still only a few years old but have made such progress.
5 – In your opinion, did you feel like these types of opportunities and advancements were lacking in Connecticut? Why or why not?
100%. Growing up here, there was nothing or no one to look up to when wanting to learn more about creative careers. I didn’t even know there were people here who had similar interests, to be honest. To put it in perspective, when we were growing up there wasn’t an artist from Connecticut that hit mainstream fame and actually represented our state. Outside of college sports, we still don’t have a major league team here. For those few reasons alone, in my opinion, a sense of identity and culture was missing. I grew up in the Hartford area so I can really only speak on my experience.
Finally, I can proudly say we are coming into our own. There’s a list of artists like ANoyd, Snowprah, PxRRY, Kevin George, Ghetto Guitar, and others who are making a name in the music business. There are photographers like Shaun Llewellyn and Miguel Crespo shooting festivals across the country and getting published now.
We don’t have it as big cities like NYC, ATL, MIA, or LA. Easy as in, it takes a bit more to just make a connection and network with individuals who can potentially put you in position. We have to travel and hustle a bit harder to be taken seriously in any creative industry. The climate here is changing and anyone who is someone from CT can feel it!
6 – Outside of POC, how involved have you been in creating this space where talents from Connecticut are finally starting to get the opportunities they deserve?
I don’t have all of the answers but I surely do what I can. Last year I started a playlist highlight CT talent in all genres. The playlist had over 100 songs solely from Connecticut artists. I’d like to get back into it before the summer for sure! My team also presents an Unplugged event. A live music experience that we just recently started. So far we’ve featured 4 CT artists and plan to grow as the year goes on.
Outside of that, I just try to make any connections I can for artists I believe in. Most importantly, I share their content without thinking twice. I think it’s really just as simple as that.
7 – You’re also into music management right now. How did you get into that and talk a little about the artist that you’re currently managing?
I manage one of the most promising R&B artists I’ve ever met. At this point, it’s not about his potential, it’s inevitable that he’s going to make it. I’ve known PxRRY for 5+ years and as friends, we’ve always encouraged each other to follow our dreams. He started as a songwriter back in 2015. He has over 30+ registered placements as a writer for artists like K Michelle, Jaheim, Angie Stone and more. He decided to transition into solo artistry in 2017 and I naturally just started to do the management job. It wasn’t official or anything but I used my contacts to get his music to circulate, I raved about him every chance I had and did all I could to put him out there.
January 2018 I became his manager. We released a couple singles, a 4 song EP, and then in August we went to LA and shot a video that would change the conversation around PxRRY completely. His single “So Badd” was picked up by our radio station at home Hot 93.7. It was played in the mix show and ended up in the rotation. This recognition is rare for an independent artist, as I’m sure you know. After that, we started getting booked for shows and things really started moving for him. A few DJs in NYC started playing PxRRY’s music, and he’s now being played on Atlanta radio as well which is where he lives. We’re doing the groundwork every day.
Like I mentioned, he started out as a writer so the execution of his records is undeniable. That in combination with his performance as a dancer is pure entertainment. He takes pride in actually putting a show together. PxRRY is easily the best-kept secret in R&B but this year the secret is out.
Newest video “Losing Ya Clothes” – https://youtu.be/qdTjC5IIH5c
Links to his music: http://smarturl.it/lnh349
8 – As someone who has their hands in a lot of different things, how to find the time to make sure everything you want or need to do gets done efficiently?
So, I have two large whiteboards at home! I write everything down. My to-do list for the week and I cross things off as I go. I utilize the hell out of my google calendar and I prioritize tasks based on immediate importance. It also helps that I’m a full-time entrepreneur and have no other major responsibilities besides PxRRY, Power of CT, and ByTiaLong.
I’m 26 and I’ve been working for myself since for 2 years. There have been times when I’ve overbooked myself, there were times when I felt overwhelmed and like things were getting out of control. Those moments really taught me how to be organized and have respect for every project I’m working on. I’m also very big on quarterly planning. I have goals for each quarter which hold me accountable and keep me on my toes.
9 – What advice was given to you early on based on your career path? Secondly, what advice can you give to the aspiring journalist, music manager or the person just looking to get themselves into certain circles?
When I first started out an old friend told me “You’re not aspiring to be in the music industry, you’re already in it. Now, what are you going to do with it?” I was an intern at the time. That taught me to embrace every level in this journey. There’s always going to be something greater to work towards but don’t take for granted where you are right now.
My advice is to go to events alone and meet at least 3 people every time. I remember Devin Cobbs told me that during a panel discussion (he probably doesn’t remember me) but it definitely stuck with me. If you’re in a room you’re there for a reason and you belong there. That shy shit gets you nowhere.
10 – What’s next for Tia in 2019? Anything exciting happening with POC? Any big news in regards to the music management role?
My first event of the year was the City Girls show in CT. Shout out to the promoters who brought me on as the coordinator. I plan to bring more artists out in 2019 and really just keep working hard to bring the vibes I want to see. Actually executing a live concert has always been a dream of mine! I lowkey just locked my second one. God is good. I’ve also been speaking to a lot of students about what I do so I want to keep doing more conversations and mentorship for young women.
Power of CT’s number one short term goal was to have an office space. Anyone reading this interview is hearing it first that we have secured a partnership with a huge co-working space for us to operate out of. We’ll be announcing this partnership on April 1st. It’s a huge step in the right direction and the Mayor of Hartford, CT plugged us for the opportunity. Shout out to Mayor Luke Bronin for supporting us time and time again! This just means more elite creative events on the way. Panel discussions, keynote speakers, ted talks and all for Connecticut on the way.
By the end of 2019, I want to be known as one of the most innovative artists managers of this generation. I’m going to make it happen for my artist and my team by any means because we deserve to win. I think I had too much pride last year and at times I was discouraged by some of the politics in music. That’s behind me now. I’m learning how to navigate, really utilize my relationships, and no longer seeking approval from people who don’t get it yet. They will soon.