Member Spotlight #30: Anna Gruszka, Label Partnerships Manager TikTok UK

To celebrate shesaid.so’s new partnership with TikTok, this month’s member spotlight features Anna Gruszka, Label Partnerships Manager at TikTok UK. Anna’s role at TikTok is to cultivate and manage relationships with record labels and music managers in order to help artists get the most out of the app. She came to TikTok from YouTube in 2019, when TikTok was on the precipice of a major growth period and the vast opportunities for musicians on the app were just beginning to take shape. Anna spoke with us about her work on TikTok’s #WeAreHere initiative, her passion for making the music industry more inclusive, and why kindness in the workplace matters.

shesaid.so and TikTok recently partnered to launch a mentor series on shesaid.so’s TikTok. Do you have any mentors that have helped you throughout your career? What have you learned from them?

Anna: I am really glad that we have launched this mentor series together, it is so important and so valuable to learn from other people’s stories and experiences. Personally, I have definitely learnt a lot from my mentors in the past. They have inspired me with their talent, hard work, and passion for music, from across many different areas of the music industry. One thing that really stands out though when I think about them all is their kindness and fun to be around. That’s the thing I have learnt from them the most — no matter where you are and what you do, be kind to people you work with. And have fun while doing it too. You have to do your work anyway so you might as well enjoy yourself. And finally, always be open to learning not just from people on the top of the hiring structures, but also your younger colleagues. They might know more than you, especially if you think about innovation and staying on top of things.

You joined TikTok in 2019 at a pivotal moment in the company’s history, right around the time when the app truly began to explode and have a monetizable impact on the music industry. As UK Label Partnerships Manager, how has TikTok’s rapid growth affected the way you serve its label partners?

Anna: It has been an incredible journey to watch TikTok grow over the past two years. When I joined in early 2019 from my previous job at YouTube, TikTok was not considered a music app or recognised as a platform that might have an impact on the charts and artists’ careers. The app itself, especially its Sounds Page, looked very different than what it is today, and it was our role as a very small team to develop it in a way that would be engaging for the community of users, but also relevant to the music industry. I have been very fortunate to be able to help shape the app over the years together with a growing team of very talented people. We have now reached the point where we work with most labels, publishers and artist managers on a daily basis and partner with them to support their artists and releases. It’s been an amazing shift and there is so much more to come.

What do you consider some of your greatest career achievements, and why?

Anna: My greatest career achievement is turning my passion into a profession. I feel very lucky to be able to do for a living what I’m truly passionate about. Working on the crossover of music and tech has allowed me to push boundaries in today’s music promotion landscape and be part of some very exciting changes within the music industry. I am grateful to be able to do that in my day to day job. Having said that, working for a company that is at the forefront of some of these major changes carries a lot of responsibility in itself as well. I feel very proud that with my daily work I can contribute to the cause I am particularly passionate about which is making the music space more diverse and inclusive. Working on such campaigns as the most recent #WeAreHere launched around the International Women’s Day with artists such as Anne-Marie, girl in red, Nina Nesbitt, Ms Banks, Ashnikko, Christine and the Queens and many more definitely gives me a great sense of career achievement.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and how have they shaped you and your career?

Anna: Being a woman in the music industry, being non-British while working in the UK, and in the past being the youngest person in the room are definitely some of the challenges I’ve experienced on many occasions, especially while running projects, managing large budgets and being in a position of a decision-maker. What these experiences have taught me is that apart from working hard and being consistent, it is really helpful to identify the allies who will support you on your way. And there are many of them out there, sometimes it’s worth opening up to really find them. Having the experience of being ‘the other’ has also made me more sensitive to often very subtle ways of exclusion and different forms of social injustice and in my career I very much want to pay special attention to these aspects.

Tell us about the one concert you’ll never forget. What makes it stand out and why is it special to you?

Anna: Steam Down, an Afro-jazz collective from Deptford. They used to run completely jam-packed sessions every Wednesday in a tiny and steamy venue in South East London. I remember the energy of the room, experiencing music in a very physical way, not just sonically, but with all your senses, and a wonderful community feel with both the performers and the audience. This is for me a true essence of live music, and it painfully reminds me how much I miss concerts.

What do you want to see change in the music industry, and why?

Anna: I want to see the day when groups like shesaid.so and IWD campaigns will no longer need to exist because it won’t make a big and surprising headline every time a woman, especially a woman of colour, gets appointed to an exec role in music. A more balanced and diverse representation of people on all hiring levels could make our work so much more efficient and enjoyable.

Check out the official @shesaid.so TikTok account!

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