Alum Ashley Brown '10 on Live Events, Tour Managing, and Business Building

How staying true to a love of events led to incredible success and her own production company.

For alum, event producer, festival director, and tour manager Ashley Brown ’10, the journey to earning her BA in Music Marketing & Promotions from Columbia College Chicago started deep in her childhood. “My dad…was the general manager of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana,” Brown says. “On a few evenings he would watch me while my mom was taking night classes, we would go to his arena and I’d have the chance to sit on the side of a stage at a concert or something like that. I didn’t want to be him. But I wanted to do something similar, and I liked the fact that it was a non-traditional job.”

For Brown, who long nurtured a love for the music business, carving her own path meant exploring opportunities for education and life experiences that would put her in a community with others who shared her own aspirations. Enter Columbia College Chicago. “I loved the fact that it was a downtown urban campus,” Brown says. “And having public transportation to get around the city was exciting to me…and just living in high rises and having accessibility to all of my favorite artists on a nightly basis. Most of my favorite artists, believe it or not, ever wanted to come to Fort Wayne, Indiana on a consistent basis.” Given these perks, plus the quality of Columbia’s music business program, it only made sense for Brown to enroll.

As early as orientation, Brown found opportunities to get started in her field. “There was a TV show filming on campus called Musician’s Studio that [Associate Professor of Arts Management] Mary Felice spearheaded, and they were looking for some volunteers to assist with it…so I started putting up posters and getting involved…it wasn’t even a paid gig for the first season of the show.” Still, the experience introduced her to opportunities with the Student Programming Board (SPB). By her sophomore year, she was heavily involved. By senior year, she was the President, and booking the biggest shows on campus.

Meanwhile, Brown sought out internships and kept her focus on working on live events and meeting likeminded people. “I always hated how in orientations and stuff they’d be telling us, ‘network, network, network!’…but it’s definitely important…I still keep running into the same people over and over again.” For Brown, who used every opportunity at her disposal to engage in live events, whether or not they were music industry-related, networking and maintaining a proactive attitude proved to be key. “I’m just very driven to be busy,” she says.

That attitude prompted Brown to apply, months before graduation, to positions in her field. By thinking broadly, she was able to parlay an opportunity to work as an event coordinator with an NBC-owned organization [Dew Tour] into a full-time role in event management. By the end of her time with NBC she was managing all the concerts within the series. “There were some pretty large names,” Brown says. “We traveled to different markets, from Vegas to Boston, to San Francisco.”

Over time, Brown found opportunities to work as a festival director for React Presents, eventually leaving to start her own production company with her business partner, Chris Schroeder Productions (CSP), while also working as a tour manager for deadmau5. To current students who may want to follow in her footsteps, Brown has some advice: “Talk to your peers and learn as much as you can about every department….always challenge yourself to keep learning more.”