After a month of work behind the scenes, today SHIFTER is officially relaunching its Business section as SHIFTER Boss with the tagline “Fuel for your hustle”. Going forward, we will be bringing you resources as well as interview style and full-length profiles on entrepreneurs, decision makers, and up and coming bosses under this new banner.
Our first profile is of Rebecca Dickson, aka bbexyyy, a young boss making a name for herself in the music industry as an artist manager. We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about how she got into the industry, challenges that come with being in a male dominated industry, and what keeps her motivated and on her grind.
SHIFTER: As an artist manager, what inspired you to first get into the music industry, and how long have you been at it?
Rebecca Dickson: My inspiration came from a lot of different sources growing up. When I was very young, I explored guitar lessons, piano lessons and singing lessons, but I was an indecisive child and my family always let me explore different routes. I grew up on that soul and R&B thanks to my mom and stepfather always playing great music around me, so a lot of my inspiration comes from those genres and the artists behind them.
As I got older, somewhere around the end of my college years, I noticed myself indulging in music culture and checking for new releases on blog posts, etc. and when albums came out I was always that one music nerd checking the credits to see who contributed to what, and I think that’s when something really ignited in me. I had given up on being the star myself and noticed a behind the scenes route that would allow me to pursue my passion by way of helping others. I spent the next couple years educating myself on what specific roles were and began applying myself to the community here in Ottawa, as well Toronto, and online and through that I was able to connect with people across the world, enroll in a mentorship program and now I’m here.
I’ve been doing this full-time, full force for about two years now. What’s funny is that when I first started I had zero intent of being an artist manager specifically, and I’m still not really one for titles but the beauty of this game is that your purpose usually finds you once you start diving in full force and it all starts to make sense.
SH: Who are some of the artists you work with right now?
RD: I’m currently working with four different artists on a frequent basis. I’m managing and developing local R&B singer/songwriter Lonelyboyxxo, full-time management for Toronto DJ and producer DJ Rosegold, and I manage two producers who live here in Ottawa as well, Cino and JuneKeyz who is actually from New Jersey.
SH: What are some of the things you look for in working with a new talent? What are some of the things that stand out to you?
RD: Authenticity and understanding your vision is really big for me. I know that gets thrown around a lot, but I don’t think most people in today’s industry really understand the importance of being your true self as an artist. I can’t get you to your highest level of success if you’re not aware of who you are and what your vision is. Every little thing I do is based off what’s best for my artist in terms of features, brand collabs, marketing, branding, etc, which stems from who they are as an individual and an artist. You might have that one record that goes viral on tik tok or any major streaming platform, but if that record didn’t come from a true place of artistry, you won’t build an authentic fan base. I look for drive, coachability, raw talent, and being easily marketable helps as well. I personally prefer working with R&B/soul artists as that is a huge part of who I am and where my inspiration is drawn, giving me a better overall understanding of how to help the client.
SH: What does your job look like week to week, and what do you like most about what you do?
RD: I think most entrepreneurs, especially in music will tell you that no two weeks ever really look the same. It all depends on the climate of the world as well as whatever we’re currently working on. The most consistent thing I would say is networking, so every week it’s a lot of phone calls, Zoom meetings as of late, outreach, studying current music and content, trying to source the best tools, information and creatives to help develop my talent and it goes without saying there’s a lot of organization that comes along with my role, as well as staying on top of my artists and making sure they’re good. A lot of these management roles are really personal and you often end up being a “therapist” for your artists which is why it’s so important to have a solid foundation with my clients. As for the rest, it would vary based on projects we may be working on.
What I love most about what I do is definitely being in the studio with my artists. I absolutely love watching them create from scratch and being able to A&R their projects and contribute on a creative level is very important to me. Watching all the hard work we put in come to fruition, whether that’s big or small, as I am a firm believer in celebrating the little milestones along the way, as well as meeting so many likeminded individuals who share the same passion I do. Impact by influence, always.
SH: What keeps you motivated in times when you face challenges or things aren’t moving as fast as you’d like?
RD: I’m extremely blessed to have a great circle of people around me who keep me motivated and remind me why I do what I do, so that’s first and foremost. I also stopped comparing my process to anyone else’s because in an age of social media it’s very easy to see what others are doing and question yourself, but I’m a woman of faith and I put trust in God’s timing and the timing of the universe. When it gets tough for me, I usually turn everything off for a little bit and cliché as it sounds I just breathe through it. A couple deep breaths will really do your mind good. Once you really channel your purpose and have an understanding of what you’re meant to do, the challenges will appear more as opportunities to grow and learn.
SH: Speaking of challenges, you’re based in Ottawa. What are some of the challenges you face being an entrepreneur in the music industry in a city like Ottawa?
RD: Like most smaller cities, we lack a lot of infrastructure and resources for our creatives and entrepreneurs which makes it hard to give your career that kickstart. I believe the biggest challenge here though, aside from the obvious I mentioned above is community, and I will say that I do believe that’s all been shifting over the last year and a bit with places like The Real House of Ensemble opening. I can’t stress enough how important not only having that community is, but really embracing it. If we want to make a real name for ourselves, we have to support each other from top to bottom – artists, creatives, entrepreneurs, agencies etc. Like every other major music hub in the world, you have to start small. We need to create the publications, labels, agencies and whatever other tools that we need and are pivotal to an artist’s career. They take time to grow, but as I said before, nothing starts big. It’s all a process. Myself along with some other hard working creatives in the city are working on a couple things we believe can help present artists with some of the basic tools they need to build their brand and sustain a career in music.
SH: What are you most excited about when it comes to being based in Ottawa?
RD: I’m excited about the talent that is here, my goodness! There is so much that even I didn’t know existed and every week I come across someone new. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big grassroots type of person. I get way more joy out of being able to contribute to the development and growth of someone’s journey rather than joining once it’s fairly established. There is definitely so much opportunity for that here in our nation’s capital and touching on the answer to your previous question, I love the community that is present here. A silver lining to the lack of resources and infrastructure is that people are collaborating based on a genuine interest in the other person’s art, not so much the numbers they have or where they can take you. Since I started I’ve been showered with a ton of love and support from a lot of my peers in the community here and I want to continue to watch that blossom and expand beyond me. I’ve been in the studio with artists who had never met each other and end up leaving with a bond and a great record to solidify that. That’s major for me.
SH: You wrote an Instagram post a few months ago about what it’s like to often be the only woman in the room. What advice would you give to a young woman wanting to get into the business side of the industry?
RD: Know your worth and understand your value above all. This industry is tough enough as is, but as women we’re often overlooked professionally for various different reasons and you have to be confident enough to put your foot down and establish the nature of the relationship. Don’t ever feel like you have to play along with “flirting” men because it’ll get you somewhere faster. Men are often intimidating, but don’t for a second think that you can’t hold your ground no matter how new you are or whatever the case may be. Just make sure you know your stuff – I can’t emphasize that enough. They can try to downplay who we are, but they can never downplay the work. Make sure you have tough skin too, because you’ll constantly be tested. Build a community of women you can trust in your network. If you can find a mentor, which I was lucky enough to be able to do, I highly recommend that.
Lastly, don’t let society tell you who to be. If you want to go to that studio with six inch heels and a cute dress, do it – your aura is what demands respect, not your attire or looks. If you want to dress in oversized clothing and kicks, do that too. Don’t ever let anyone in this industry take you out of your character. My DM’s and emails are also always open to women who want any advice or just a companion in the industry. I don’t know everything, but I’m happy to share what I do. I want women to succeed. This world and specifically this industry would be nothing without women.
SH: Lastly, one of the reasons why we wanted to profile you is because you give off this “boss” vibe. What does being a “boss” mean to you?
RD: To me, being a boss is never making excuses for why you can’t take the steps necessary to achieve your goals. Being a boss is being a leader and knowing who you are and what you bring to the table and exerting that into every little thing you do. Being a boss is being patient in the process and not skipping any steps you need to get where you’re going. Being a boss is taking ownership of your shortcomings and instead of dwelling on them, taking accountability and pplying necessary changes as you go. Being able to see beyond challenging times when times get tough in order to stay on track. You need to be able to do every job, not just the one main one in your job description, so you really can’t operate out of ego as that would be your quickest downfall. You need discipline and you often need to find that within yourself, and that in itself is a job. Lastly, taking care of your mental health. Being a “boss” will take a lot of energy out of you so I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself because if you crumble, it’ll have a domino effect on your work and those around you.