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  • Paving a Path for Indigenous Professionals in Music
  • Oct 28, 2022
Paving a Path for Indigenous Professionals in Music

This article is written by Sierra Real Bird and is part of the SMG Impact Fellows Mix Tape Series, a collection of first-person essays written by the 2022 Sony Music Group Impact Fellow cohort. Read more about the SMG Impact Fellows Program here. 

Sierra was a 2022 Impact Fellow working with Sony Music Publishing’s Copyright & Film TV team. 

Hello, my name is Sierra Real Bird, and I am from Montana. I am enrolled as a Crow (Apsaalooke) Tribal member based on the Crow Reservation of Southeastern Montana. I belong to the Piegan Clan and am a child of the Sore Lip. My Crow name (Baa-eguin-na-dush) was given to me by Agnes Pretty Weasel, and it translates to Ambitious One. I am also Gros Ventre (aaninen) from the Fort Belknap Reservation and adopted Blackfeet and my Blackfoot name is (Ee nuck see bee gun Ahki) meaning Little Piegan Woman given to me by my paternal grandmother Darnell Ridesatthedoor. This past spring, I graduated with my B.A. in Film and Photography, with an emphasis in Film, from Montana State University-Bozeman with a minor in Native American studies. I am currently working on obtaining a minor in Business Administration and pursuing film to help create content that provides correct representation of Native peoples.  

What has been one of your favorite tasks as an intern on the Copyright and Film & TV Team at Sony Music Publishing (SMP)? 
When I first started as an intern, one of my tasks was working on a cue sheet for a Media Blanket License. (A cue sheet is a list of all musical elements in an AV program, and it’s how Performing Rights Organizations know how to pay out performance income.) I could not believe I had the opportunity to work on a project related to major songs and composers I am familiar with. It is still amazing to me that some of the artists I have listened to on the radio or seen in concert were on the cue sheet! Another project I am proud to work on is registering songs for films and TV shows to the Copyright Office in Washington D.C. As an aspiring filmmaker, working with the Copyright Department has broadened my perspective and appreciation of the process films must go through even after showing in theaters.  

How does AIBL tie into your SMP Internship and do you have any advice for future interns from AIBL? 
American Indigenous Business Leaders (AIBL) is a program available to all Native American high school and college students, and members of AIBL participate in a “chapter” at a high school or college. At my school, Montana State University-Bozeman, we created a chapter in 2019 and students of any major and ethnic background can join. Every spring there is a conference that chapters can attend, with competitions to win prizes for their chapter and network with business professionals.  

I’ve used the skills I gained from AIBL’s conference, networking, and professional development sessions while interning at Sony Music Publishing. AIBL has also been very supportive and does weekly check-ins with the interns to make sure their journey is going well and to offer professional tools and advice. Some advice I’d give for future interns who come from AIBL is to make sure to write everything down, do not be afraid or shy to ask questions, and practice good time management.   

Can you share a personal takeaway from being an Impact Fellow? 
As a Native American woman, I’ve noticed that there have been very few opportunities that help Native people strive to succeed in their professional career. There is a lot of pressure to succeed with any chance given because I feel as though I am representing the entire Indigenous/Native population, even though there are many diverse tribes and cultures within my community. Since my career path is one that is very different from what people back home do, I am paving a path for others to hopefully be successful.  

I learned a lot being an SMG Impact Fellow and SMP intern from the various workshops and advice offered through both the program and from the department I worked with. Recently, I attended a resume and interview workshop where I received so many tips that I’ll be applying in the future. What I enjoy most about this opportunity is how the program thinks ahead and prepares every intern for success even if they do not continue with Sony Music Group.  

What has your daily work life looked like, while completing this Fellowship remotely? 
Working remotely has been very helpful to me this summer because I get to be with my family and kick off my professional journey on a healthy foundation of work-life balance. My remote workdays can break into two buckets: 

First, I log on in the mornings and greet my supervisor and my teammates, and foster connections. (I feel blessed in having similar interests with my team which helps make those connections.)  

Second, I tackle different tasks I’ve been assigned to work on. It’s really helpful that the team is patient with showing me the process of how to do the task at hand. Each team member makes themselves available to answer any questions I have and to support me via video calls to help.  

Overall, interning with the Copyright team has been a very joyful, professional learning experience.  

What songs are currently in your rotation and on repeat? 

  1. “Vegas” – Doja Cat
  2. “Speak To Me” – Koryn Hawthorne
  3. “Take What You Want” – Post Malone (ft. Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott)
  4. “WAVE” – ATEEZ

For more stories on the SMG Impact Fellows second cohort:

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