Stephanie Guerrero wants to end gatekeeping in the music industry. The Miami native spent the past 12 years of her career working for Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, where she produced marketing campaigns for global pop stars with roots across Latin America, including Karol G, J Balvin, Luis Fonsi, Sebastian Yatra, Mariah Angeliq, and more. Through that experience, she saw that the number of people with access to an artist and their creative process is limited to an exclusive inner circle who determine everything from how a song is made to how it’s distributed and marketed. The future of a collaborative and inclusive music industry, Guerrero says, lies in Web3.
“When you’re working for a traditional big corporation, there’s not a lot of room to try things and fail. It’s hard for you to innovate and reinvent yourself when things are expected to run a certain way because that’s how it’s always been done,” Guerrero tells Remezcla. “This mentality doesn’t exist in the Web3 world where everything’s more open source accessible.”
Web3 is a new version of the world wide web built on blockchains that, in theory, are decentralized and offer a transparent way to store information. Blockchain networks are used to create non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which can create a “digital deed” proving ownership records of unique digital objects. Guerrero is the chief marketing officer at Legato Labs, an NFT licensing platform that allows artists to monetize their music by selling NFTs and licenses to their music on Web3. Collecting music NFTs, Guerrero says, is akin to collecting unique vinyl records. Using a new feature from Meta, Guerrero can show her support for independent artists through a display of her verified collection of music NFTs on her Instagram feed.
Before stepping into the Web3 space, Guerrero’s foray into the music industry — one that includes a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music Business and competitive internship experiences at Universal Music Latin Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment — provided fruitful mentorships and the opportunity to create a digital marketing position that didn’t exist back then. It also revealed the barriers plaguing the traditional music industry, such as nepotism, racism, and misogyny. In the Web3 music space, Guerrero doesn’t see these challenges come up as often but notes there’s still a disparity in start-ups that receive venture capitalist funds, which tends to disproportionately go to those run by White men.
Today, Guerrero’s working to democratize the music space by creating new opportunities for independent artists to have more creative liberty in their business. Through her Web3 music consulting company Goat From Mars, Guerrero works with musicians and companies that want to support these artists. In a world where women’s work is often threatened, Guerrero’s goal is to ensure women are involved in every decision-making opportunity.
“I do a lot of things out of principle: I’ll stay in a meeting full of men, even if it doesn’t concern me out of the principle that there should be a woman,” Guerrero says. “This is a big motivator for me. Especially in the Web3 space, there are fewer women and fewer women business leaders, so it is important to be here and hold the door open for other women to enter.”
As a part of our Major Mujeres list, Remezcla spoke with Guerrero to learn more about her fuel as an entrepreneur in the Web3 music world.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
When was that one moment or turning point in which you felt you were in the right space?
I started working independently in the web3 space while I was pregnant with my second baby. We were in quarantine, and nobody could tell that I was actually pregnant because all the Zoom meetings were from my chest up. I was so afraid that I would no longer feel included at work. At least, that’s how I was treated when I had my first baby and still worked at a major record label.
When I told the people I worked with that I was pregnant, I was swarmed with love and support. I had never felt so welcome. It was this [support] that is part of the culture of the web3 community and the greater NFT space.
So often, we see people advancing in their careers or making “big moves” on social media, but it’s rare we hear or see those introspective moments in which a person considers quitting or transitioning — did you ever have a moment like that, and how did you overcome it?
I left Universal when they shut down the label I was working at. Though I definitely wanted to quit and was ready to leave, it still doesn’t feel nice to be told there’s no longer space for you, that you’re no longer needed or wanted. Though difficult, losing the job at Universal was a blessing because it forced me to connect with my grandfather, who I was losing to cancer at the time. Sure, I had a moment of panic: I no longer had my job to provide benefits and a safety net. At the same time, I didn’t care.
After months of grieving, I invested my time researching web3 and cold-calling people in the field to learn more. I launched the next chapter of my career, now set my own hours, and I love being available for my children when they need me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Were there any mentors or other women that inspired or helped you get to where you are now?
I met Mary Nuñez while she was at Sony, and whether she knows it or not, she was always an inspiration and mentor to me. I also worked with Paula Kaminsky at Sony, and I didn’t realize how much I appreciated working with her until we were both at Universal. In the Web3 space, I admire Cherie Hu, the founder of Water & Music and someone who has cranked out all the best investigative and educational materials on emerging music and tech trends.
What’s one of the biggest hardships you’ve faced as a woman — or even as a Latina — in the music industry?
Whenever I tried to veer off of working with non-Latin music on the traditional music label side, I wasn’t allowed. I was pigeonholed into just working on the Latin side of things. In Web3, that’s not the case. I’m able to work with artists from all genres and all over the world, so that’s been truly inspiring to me. Another hardship is finding funding for projects, which is a challenge unless you’re part of the boys club – aka White males who all connect each other to venture capital firms – and are more likely to get funded. There have been more opportunities for women in recent years, but arriving at those without connections is challenging.
What’s one of your favorite parts of where you are now in your journey?
I can fully be myself. I’m a very proud feminist and anti-racist, but being outspoken about these things while working at a music label was seen as controversial, and I know it shut doors for me. Now, I am unapologetically me. I’m a mom who’s messy a lot of times and a scrappy individual who can come up with amazing marketing campaigns.
We’re seeing more and more women artists and music creatives speak out about how their work went unprotected or their trust was abused in the industry — what has been your perspective on this, if any? Is this something you’ve seen happen?
Society conditions women to be nice, weak, and bubbly, so we often have a hard time reconciling the need to fulfill that expectation while also fulfilling the need to speak up. I’ve also seen men continuously get credit for the work that women do. There were many times while working in the corporate world when I spoke up for myself, and not only were the men taken aback, but the women as well because they felt like it wasn’t my place to say something as a woman. This will change with more women in the studios, more women producers, and women musicians. There can never be enough women in the music industry.
What do you feel can be done to make the music industry feel more safe and collective for women?
We need to hold the men accountable. We need more male allies who also hold themselves and other men accountable. As an artist, if you’re working on an album, you need to look at who your collaborators are and check how many women participated in creating it. If it’s not representative of society, which is 50 percent female or gender-expansive individuals, you need to ask why that is and what you can do to make that better. You need to have an inclusive hiring process and search process when producing an album.
As an artist, if you’re working on an album, you need to look at who your collaborators are and check how many women participated in creating it.
But it’s not just men, women can also affect each other’s journey or success. Can you explain why a crabs in a barrel mentality — “If I can’t have it, neither can you” — is harmful to women?
While working in the traditional music industry, I noticed that men in upper ranks would roil women colleagues to create competitiveness. In the Web3 music space, I don’t feel like I’m competing with anybody because we’re all building our own products. Hopefully, more women are willing to recognize that it really is not a competition because the music industry is not a zero-sum game; we can all gain from this.
What do you hope to personally change about the music industry, especially for the next generation of women in this space?
Right now, if an artist signs a label deal, they have to give away a lot of their freedom and accept whatever marketing is decided for them. My main goal is to empower women with information, the tools, and networks to be able to move forward independently. Much of my work is sometimes just connecting women with the right people to get the resources they need to bring their projects to fruition. So many pressures push people to join a larger corporation or sign with a big music label. I want musicians to have more choices rather than have to bind themselves to a corporate entity or the traditional industry. I would love a world where an artist doesn’t necessarily have to sign one of those deals to succeed.