Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in rock and metal music, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. This month’s piece features an interview with Allison Hagendorf, the Global Head of Rock at Spotify.
For Allison Hagendorf, rock and metal is more than just music. “Rock is my religion,” she tells Heavy Consequence. “I like a lot of music, but rock and metal are definitely my safe space and happy place.”
With plenty of hard work, Hagendorf has built a career out of her love for music. She has done everything from A&R at Epic and Columbia Records to hosting music television shows on Fuse and The CW. Moreover, she’s also a fitness guru and healthy-living expert.
On top of all that, Hagendorf is currently the Global Head of Rock at Spotify. She spoke with Heavy Consequence about her passion for heavy music, her time being Lamb of God’s A&R rep, and what she thinks it takes to succeed as a woman in the industry.
On her overall experience being a woman involved with rock and metal music
It’s true that the percentage of women to men is small. and I laugh at myself, because often, I’m the only woman in a room or at a show or in workout classes, but I rarely think about that. I rarely think of myself in terms of gender. Instead, I think of myself in terms of how I can be the best possible human. I think it’s that mindset and self-respect that commands respect from others. Because it’s less common — it actually makes it more special when you find other women who are passionate for rock and metal. It’s this instant sisterhood, but I think that’s true of whatever gender you are. Having that mutual love for rock and metal makes this instant connection as a human.
On what she has seen change in the music industry because of the #MeToo movement
I think it helps to raise awareness. Anytime something makes people question, “Is this okay?” — then that’s a win. Especially in the music business, things have been considered normal which are really unacceptable, so it’s making a lot of people question and redefine what’s acceptable, and that’s a win.
On the advice she has for women looking to get into the music industry
I think it’s important to realize that nothing is more powerful than self-respect. It’s a tough business, and it is tough being a woman. At times, you end up having to prove yourself a little bit more and prove that you have the credibility, which is great, and I welcome that. It’s about having the self-respect and staying true to yourself. You have to be grateful for every opportunity and also help empower others whenever possible, I’m a diehard music fan, and that passion and fire helped me navigate the business. When people see how much you bleed for this, that is a powerful tool.
On how she developed a love for rock and metal music
It was the day I heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It was the song heard around the world that changed me forever. I literally started moshing the second I heard it. (Laughs) I just knew that I needed to immerse myself and learn everything about this music. I’ve been mental about rock and metal since that exact moment. Growing up, I would watch MTV, and I always wanted to be a VJ. Later, I would go to see shows, and even though I graduated in pre-med, I knew I wanted to work in music.
On what it was like working A&R for Lamb of God and their Sacrament album
I was a fan. I was a big fan! So, I was a little nervous to take this incredible veteran band — the best — and to A&R their record. It was a little daunting. But, I can tell you that they are the kindest, warmest, smarted and most genuine, loving guys. It was an incredible experience. I still keep in touch, and they are the greatest guys. I’m so grateful for that experience.
On appearing in Lamb of God’s music video for “Redneck”
They were shooting the video for “Redneck”, and I was like, “Cool, I’ll stop by the set.” And when I got there, they said, “You should be in this video!” I thought that would be fun, so they took a Lamb of God T-shirt and made it into a dress for me, and I was just sitting on the bus with the guys! It was a fun, bonding experience.
On how she would describe the current landscape for rock and metal music
I think rock and metal are in a very exciting place. It’s not necessarily popular, which I’m fine with. It’s alive and well, and it’s just more underground. It’s gone more underground, which it needed to do. I’m out every night at the Sunset Strip clubs — the Roxy, Troubadour, Whisky a Go-Go, Viper. So, the rock and metal scenes are really exciting right now. I think it’s going to be a major, pivotal year for rock and metal.
On what makes a great song
A great song always comes down to songwriting. A great song is something that can be stripped down, and it’s still a great song. If you have the foundation of great songwriting with great instrumentation and a powerful performance, that’s the perfect scenario.
On why metal fans are so passionate about the genre
I think metal is more than a musical genre. It’s a religion. It’s a way of life. Metal fans are special, because their passion for music is timeless, and that transcends any trend or whatever else is going on. It doesn’t matter. Metal prevails. I think that’s something special. It’s something that doesn’t get tired or played out. It’s such a pure art form, and I think that’s why metal fans are committed until the day they die.
On her fitness regime and how it keeps her inspired
I think the same way that music is a religion for me, so is my fitness. They go hand-in-hand. It’s also a way for me to experience music. Whether it’s an amazing playlist or new album from a band I love, to be able to listen while I’m working out is a unique experience. I think fitness has always been my bloodline. I’m very active, and that’s why I love going to shows and getting in the pit. I feel like it’s my balance. In order to be my best self, my fitness in the morning is my one hour in the day that nobody can get to me. Once I get that fitness in and check in with my body, I feel like I can take on anything.
On how to make time to stay fit amid a busy schedule
It’s not about duration. It’s about efficiency. I do CrossFit, and it’s really deep. My workout this morning was 15 minutes, but that 15 minutes is intense. It’s about pushing yourself to limit. The most important thing you can do is to make time for yourself, because when you’re loving yourself, you’re going to be your best self for others. It’s also important to do something that you enjoy. You have to be looking forward to doing it, and you have to do it consistently.
On how the industry has changed since streaming services such as Spotify came into play
I think what’s incredible is that you have access to an unlimited jukebox. Growing up, you were limited to whatever albums you could afford or what your older brother or sister or friends had, and now, you can access everything that ever existed, which is empowering and exciting. I love being a student, so to be able to learn every single day new music is the most invigorating feeling.
Our thanks to Allison Hagendorf for taking the time to speak with us for the Beyond the Boys’ Club column. Keep up with Hagendorf’s many interests at her Instagram page.