Growing up in Florida, Deborah Fairchild loved music and everything that went with it, but she didn’t know how she would make her way in the industry without a musical talent.
“I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do. I can’t sing, I’m not a great guitar player, I do have guitars, I’m not amazing in that way,” the VEVA Sound president said.
But then she learned about a production technology program at Middle Tennessee State University, located outside of Nashville, and it clicked.
“This whole door opened up in terms of the recording studio and how music is made,” Fairchild said. “And the whole back end of of the music industry is something I didn’t know about, and something I went to school for. So that’s kind of how I got into it was understanding, like, ‘Oh, a recording studio. What’s that?’”
Now Fairchild, who grew up near Lakeland, is the president of music technology company VEVA Sound. She oversees teams of engineers and has lived in New York, Los Angeles and London, working to make sure all the right pieces of audio make it to the final cut of a track. She’s worked her way up, starting as an archival engineer in 2004 to becoming the head of the company with offices in two countries.
“We work with record labels, handling producer delivery from the studio. So all of those assets that come out of the studio, we work with the mixers and the engineers to get that content verified,” Fairchild explained.
The Nashville music executive said there are plenty of careers in the music industry that don’t involve having a musical ability you typically think of in your favorite artists, including songwriting and sound engineering.
“Becoming a writer for TV and film is a huge thing now. So maybe you never release your music. And it’s not something that you’re not trying to be an artist in your own right, with your face being recognized, but your songwriting becomes recognized,” Fairchild said. “Writing for Netflix or Disney or doing things like that, I think that’s a huge thing that people don’t realize, I think they think it has to be an artist. You can never leave your house and be writing songs that end up on commercials.”
This year, the company released VEVA Collect, a file-sharing tool to help artists share their music without compressing the quality of the file. It’s perfect for collaborations amid lockdowns and the global coronavirus pandemic. The platform keeps sound credits, metadata and audio all in one place for whenever the time comes.
“Something may take off two years later, where it’s like, ‘Oh, who played on that, or where were we?’” Fairchild explained. “You think in the moment you’re going to remember everything, but you’re most likely not because you’re constantly working and creating new content.”
Despite the pandemic, new music continued to come out this past year as artists collaborated without ever being in the same recording studio and adapted to online streaming of shows.
“One of the biggest changes has been the shift to the online shows ... I think everyone’s kind of wondering how how live music is is going to come back,” said Fairchild, adding that it’s possible the future of live shows could be a hybrid of always having the option to stream from home or attending a person.
“Our clients are putting out tons of content. So 2020, like the streaming and Spotify, that it was not a year that people didn’t get new music, a lot of new music has been able to come out because people can record in Europe and in L.A. and be online together and make music.”
Fairchild said this year a strings group recorded pieces for Taylor Swift’s new album, “Folklore,” in Lakeland at Sound House Studios.
“I think, with COVID and everything going on, it’s kind of put people on a level playing field of knowing, ‘I don’t have to be in Nashville, for example, I don’t have to be in a city,’” Fairchild said. “If you’re talented and you have the right setup and can record, then you can really be anywhere and have an opportunity to contribute on big albums, which is really cool.”
Fairchild has now been in the music industry for about 16 years and says she has seen more women taking on executive leadership. Part of that has been through fellow women uplifting each other.
“I have noticed that there are more women engaged and involved, and a lot of it is women colleagues helping each other to in terms of making intros, opening doors, getting to taking the time to get to know VEVA and what we do, and then in their own meetings, kind of knowing, ‘Oh, we don’t do that, but you should meet Deborah from VEVA and she could really help you all with this,’” Fairchild said of industry collaboration.
Having mentors also helped Fairchild see a career in management for herself. One of those was Maureen Droney, the head of the Producers and Engineers Wing for the Recording Academy, the Grammys.
“She was someone I really looked up to because she started out as an engineer and she really opened a lot of doors for me in terms of introducing me to people and being really encouraging. And so she’s someone I still talk to a lot and and look up to,” Fairchild said.
There is always room to carve a path in the music industry for any up and coming professionals. Fairchild recommends diving head first and learning about all the aspects you can.
“There’s so many different ways in terms of publishing, management, live sound booking agencies. working at a venue -- it’s a really large industry. It’s not only the path of an artist,” said Fairchild, adding, “The cool part is there is room for creativity to, you know, take something that nobody knows about and really exploding it and making a big impact.”