Liberal Arts alumna leads innovative career in the music industry

Liberal Arts alumna leads innovative career in the music industry

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You can read the original story on Penn State News

By Ellie West

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Working for one of the world’s leading global entertainment companies is an opportunity that many dream of achieving, but for Penn State College of the Liberal Arts alumna Tara Bendler, this dream has become a reality.

The 2015 labor and employment relations graduate is currently leading an exciting career in live audio marketing at Spotify, the world's largest music streaming service provider. While undoubtedly an impressive step in her career, live audio marketing was not the career path that Bendler originally anticipated. 

“I initially started my career on the human resources side of the entertainment industry, since my undergraduate degree was in labor and employment relations,” said the Paterno Fellows Program alumna.

But after two years, Bendler began to reevaluate her goals and passions, and ultimately made the unconventional switch from human resources to creative marketing.

“I don't think you’ll find too many people with a shared passion for employment law and music marketing, but that just happens to be me,” she said. “I came to realize I was very creative and wanted to help better the ecosystem for artists to connect with fans, tell their stories and live off their art. ... At the end of the day, I thought about my long-term career goals and knew this was a path I needed to pursue.”

Today, Bendler is making important strides in the live audio space, driving the execution of on- and off-platform content marketing for Spotify Greenroom, which allows users to host or participate in a live audio virtual environment.

“That includes planning, executing and optimizing marketing initiatives in collaboration with external media agencies and creative partners for live audio experiences across music and sports,” she said. “I am responsible for developing the content marketing strategy around our live audio marketing efforts, uncovering insights to inform future opportunities, and working cross-functionally with stakeholders to ensure campaigns are successfully executed.”

Live audio in this format is relatively new in the entertainment industry and continues to grow and innovate every day.

“It’s exciting because there’s tremendous potential and opportunity to be a disruptor in this space,” Bendler said. “There’s a lot of testing and learning, and no day looks the same.”

Prior to Spotify, Bendler worked for Sony Music Entertainment, where she first entered the field of creative music marketing. Throughout her six years with Sony, Bendler had the opportunity to lead and develop marketing campaigns for artists like Kesha, Lil Tjay, Khalid, Madison Beer, Quinn XCII, Calvin Harris, Lil Nas X and more.

Bendler also currently serves as the global chair of digital strategy for Women in Music, a nonprofit organization working to advance, educate and empower women in the music industry across the globe.

“My role with Women in Music is to develop the organization’s digital media strategy and manage a team to execute our social media efforts,” she said. “What’s really cool is I’m part of a global team, so I have the opportunity to amplify the efforts of chapters and communities of women all around the world.”

Women in Music lies at the intersection of two of Bendler’s biggest passions: music and giving back.

“I always wanted to be able to grow to a platform where I could reach down and pull others up with me. ... There are a lot of incredible people out there that really deserve an opportunity to thrive in this industry but just may not have the resources or connections they need,” she said. “It's been my personal mantra throughout my career; I want to amplify, support and uplift other women — especially young ones.”

With myriad roles in the marketing sphere, Bendler has still found a number of ways to showcase her knowledge of labor and employment relations.

“While I have moved over to the creative side of the industry, I still use my background in HR and labor relations for a lot of other pieces in my day-to-day life and career,” she said, noting her past efforts in launching and managing various mentorship programs and panels for both Women in Music and Sony Music U.

“One of the most rewarding — albeit challenging — parts of my role at Sony Music was to manage and mentor a team of college representatives, many of which I helped land full-time roles in the music industry,” Bendler said.

According to Bendler, embodying the qualities of dedication, empathy and patience have been invaluable throughout her career.

“From day one I always worked really hard and made sure that in every conversation I had, regardless if I was speaking to an intern or a CEO, I was always learning something,” she said. “I constantly make an effort to be someone who leads with empathy, kindness and an open mind — understanding that a good idea can come from anywhere has been really important to my career growth.”

With seven years of experience in the music and entertainment field, Bendler attributes her fast-growing success to her undergraduate education and extracurricular experiences.

“The great thing about my Liberal Arts education was it gave me a lot of crucial ‘soft’ skills — critical thinking, decision-making, communication — which are transferable across many different industries,” she said. “As someone who shifted career paths, this was so helpful, especially since my background in labor relations essentially taught me the foundation of working.” 

Bendler was heavily involved on campus as a student, serving as the executive director of Movin’ On, Penn State’s annual student-run music festival, as well as the executive director of the Penn State Class Gift Campaign. She also was a Lion Ambassador and a member of the Student Conduct Board.

“Penn State was everything to me. I really credit it as a launchpad for all of my success,” she said. 

For those looking to work or make an impact in the entertainment industry, Bendler emphasized the importance of not only networking but making genuine connections with peers and classmates.

“Networking is great, but don’t forget about developing authentic, genuine relationships with the people around you,” she said. “The reality is, you will grow with these people throughout your industry and career. Make those connections now so that you can count on them later down the road.”

Finally, Bendler encouraged students to “get involved with things that give [them] meaning.”

“I knew I loved music, so I participated in Movin' On. I loved philanthropy, so I helped with Class Gift. I really felt the power of community and alumni at Penn State, so I became a Lion Ambassador,” she said. “There are endless amounts of opportunities here that can fulfill your passions, so engage with causes and take part in service that is truly important to you.”

Read Bendler's alumni profile to learn more about her postgraduate journey. Liberal Arts alumni are encouraged to submit a profile to show current students the limitless possibilities of a Liberal Arts degree.

November 24, 2021