Charese Fruge’ Talks To Lauren Thomas

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on August 31, 2021 

Lauren Thomas is VP/National Promotion for Sony Music Nashville. “In a nutshell, I work on national strategies to achieve our label group’s airplay and artist development goals for all three imprints – Arista, Columbia and RCA Nashville,” she says. She started in the business in radio in her hometown of Phoenix. “I loved music and (full disclosure) I needed some experience for my broadcast journalism degree at Arizona State University,” she says. “After setting up 10×10 tents in 100+ degree heat at various car dealerships and outdoor concerts for KMLE-FM, I developed a few relationships with label reps who came to town with their artists, and I politely harassed Gwen Foster (Music Director at the time) if I could shadow her on her weekly label calls. Ultimately, those connections led to me moving to Nashville!”

Lauren spent five years at KMLE before she made the move to Music City and her career took a new direction. She first joined Sony Music Nashville in October 2009 as National Promotion Coordinator for Arista Nashville. Within a year, she was promoted to Regional Promotion Manager for the imprint. In 2016, Thomas was named Director of Promotion for Sony Music Nashville’s three imprints, and was most recently promoted to VP/National Promotion in July 2020.

So far, Lauren has achieved some pretty exciting accolades in her career. She’s a 2019 “Billboard 40 Under 40” honoree, and also serves on the industry advisory board of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The excitement doesn’t end there though. “The most exciting thing to experience in this job for me is watching an arena or stadium or cornfield of fans sing back a song you worked to an artist on stage,” she says. “When an act can hold that microphone out and the crowd sings back every word… it is SO fulfilling. Every time.”

The promotion business doesn’t come without its challenges. “Man… the most challenging things I have faced in my career so far, have come with great lessons. There is no growth without error or even criticism,” says Thomas. “I think the hardest part of this job is giving yourself grace. In this job it is guaranteed: You are going to hear ‘no’ more than ‘yes.’ You are going to have to make unpopular decisions – specifically in competitive situations. There will be misses and mistakes. The way to handle it is to learn from it. And maybe have a glass of wine?”

Her advice to those looking to get into the promotion business? “The #1 piece of advice I have is to keep going. No matter what, if you want it – KEEP GOING,” she says. “I also rarely turned down an opportunity to network. You just never know who will end up where. I was blessed with women like the aforementioned Gwen Foster and our fellow female radio Phoenician Lois Lewis who really helped me connect the dots to Nashville. And I am happy to pay it forward just like they did. Find a few people you trust who will endorse you. And lastly, never stop learning. You can learn something from everyone and every situation. Even if it is what NOT to do!”

Like many aspects of the industry, the pandemic changed the way Lauren and her team did things. “Content took on a much larger role in my day-to-day – interviews, live streams, liners, etc. We really wanted to be able to meet the demand of our radio partners and provide their listeners with artist experiences… but we were all stuck at home. Our in-house Content Director, Adam Davis, prioritized regular updates to our prep site, a tool that proved to be useful throughout the pandemic: https://prep.sonymusicnashville.com/. Personally, since the pandemic began, I have picked up meal prepping since I have been home more on the weekends,” she says. “Paleo casserole recipes are always welcome in my household. So maybe I am a better cook? Maybe? In my spare time, I also love being active and on the water. I recently received a paddleboard as a gift and it’s a solid combination of both!”

As for what keeps Lauren up at night: “You mean besides Mediabase/BDS Realtime?” she asks. “I think like most people I am hopeful for a future that brings some certainty and peace.” And she is working hard to achieve and maintain some of that balance. “I have become bit of a lunatic for my Peloton bike and app. Yep. I am one of ‘those.’ Let’s be lunatics together- username: LTeezee,” she says. “And I have a great group of friends in the business who keep me laughing in my personal life too – we are all in this together and have developed a blend of understanding the schedule and knowing when to NOT talk about work. CC: Marci Braun, Jackie Stevens, Kimsey Kerr, Paige Altone, Katie Dean, Chris Schuler, Ali O’ Connell, Paige Elliott, Stacy Waugh, Gwen Foster and Lois Lewis.”

As for what we have to look forward to watching with Lauren, “I am fortunate to be on the advisory board for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The challenging work they do while harnessing a message of hope is truly incredible. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude, and our format continues to show up. It makes me incredibly proud to be a part of what we have accomplished and what we are working on moving forward.”

Follow Lauren Thomas on Instagram @LTeeeZeee