ACRONYM founder Amy Nicole. Photo credit Jessica Golich.
ACRONYM founder Amy Nicole. Photo credit Jessica Golich.

I’m very pleased to have recently picked the brain of one of my favorite people in the music industry and one who wears many inter-related hats, Amy Nicole, founder of ACRONYM

First of all, I really love how ACRONYM very much looks and feels like an extension of who you are. There’s such an active vibe from it because you’re so interested and involved with the music and arts scenes, with your city and beyond. Your boots are on the ground literally.

What advice would you give to our entrepreneur or influencer hopefuls out there who want to build a genuinely cool brand? 

My biggest suggestion to anyone – which a lot of other brand coaches/entrepreneur gurus say the opposite – Don’t get extremely wrapped up in one niche. I say keep yourself as well rounded as possible because it makes you more of an asset down the road. A lot of the people that are giving tips on branding are saying to drill down to the one thing you’re great at and drive it full force from there, but I’ve found in my career that the flexibility of my talents only increase the quality of what I can offer people.
Also: Build your crew. People typically call it a “tribe,” but crew is more my style. Your “crew” are the people that are invested in your story, that love to cheer when you win, and even some that will back you up when you lose.
I’ve been very fortunate to connect with so many people doing what I do, and have made some great friends in the process, but having those people behind me who truly care what’s happening in the world of ACRONYM, and by extension, my extremely caffeinated self, make it worthwhile, both in the emotional support, and on the monetary side.
Billie Eilish live. Photo credit ACRONYM-Amy Nicole
Billie Eilish live. Photo credit ACRONYM-Amy Nicole

You’ve photographed some of the music industry’s biggest names, from Billie Eilish, Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan to my personal favorite rapper, Gucci Mane. Labels and artists generally place a high priority on photography, and for good reason. Underground artists don’t always document themselves enough.

What are some of the typical pitfalls for underground artists when it comes to their photography?

The biggest thing an artist can do to push their visual value is to invest in photography, and the pitfall is that they don’t want to spend the money. I’ve seen some pretty bad press photos in my day, and it changes how people view you as an artist, or it makes them question the quality of your music. When you see a bad photo of an artist attached to, say, their social / streaming profile, it makes you question whether you’re going to listen, psychologically. It comes down to being part of your advertising.
Think of a grocery store, and everything on the shelves are music to choose from. If your labeling your container with bad design, someone’s gonna buy the Manwich over the “sloppy joe meat.” Obviously, up and coming artists don’t have a ton of cash to spend, but don’t cut corners in this avenue, search for a photographer in your area on Instagram, and PAY THEM to shoot something that will bring people in on your music / brand / etc. Also, do not underestimate the power of using those images on social. If people think you’re doing something, they will pay attention, and visuals are a great stepping stone to more.

You have your photography, special events, a biannual music festival, a clothing line, a podcast…Can you give us a rundown of your main projects planned in 2020?

Oh, I am all over the place! I’m looking to expand the ‘Found in the Underground’ showcase into something bigger. I always want to take 2 steps up in excitement every time we do one. I don’t want it to become redundant, so I’m brainstorming next steps. As far as some of the other projects, I know I’m going to be doing a lot more traveling for festivals this year, and working to expand my presence throughout those spaces. I also plan on releasing more designs for the clothing line, hopefully by Spring, and working on a ton of side projects with other collaborators. Really big on creating with others!
My current excitement for 2020 is expanding out ACRONYM Zine to include a lot more content. I’ve got a small, seasoned and well rounded group of contributors and we’re looking to start blowing it out of the water with underground and vigilante journalism, with some localized content, but mostly global topics.
In short, 2020:
“So, Brain, what are we gonna do tomorrow night?”
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!”

You’re now involved with making music videos. Matt Warren’s “Get On Up” video (Wake Up! Music) was superb. I’m sure some of the same principles apply between photography and video aesthetic. What is required for a great video?

I think because I shoot photography, a lot the principals do translate to video. Quality of lighting, gear, design/color grading. But the biggest thing for me is, deep down, I’m a storyteller. Whether it’s using a camera, a pen, verbally, visually. A good concept for a music video that’s got a thorough design of how you want the viewer to connect with your message is going to be way more enticing when it’s telling the right story. And if the story sucks, or if it’s not visually enticing, you’ll miss the mark.
Also, as with photography, don’t just use any “geek off the street.” Look for someone within budget to create the video with you, with knowledge and background in video work. I’ve seen so many artists try to “wing it,” “do it themselves,” or borrow someone’s camera and while, yes, everyone starts somewhere, you have to take these visuals as serious as your music, so don’t shortchange yourself.

What kind of people inspire you?

As a person that struggles with anxiety and depression while being high functioning through most of it, I’m always inspired by people that have seen struggle and have made something out of it. I love a good underdog, probably because I am one. So when I see someone who has committed themselves hard to what they want to build, and will kick their way through despite the trials that come with it, it literally reminds me to keep going. I don’t get wrapped up in idolizing too many people in “celebrity” status, just because real people make the world go round. We have to remember that, and remember we have power.

What do you love most about Detroit?

Oddly enough, Detroit is in this weird cultural shift. The rest of the world still thinks we are like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ when we are seeing a boom in resurgence of the city. What I’ve always found about Detroit is you can be anything. Do anything. You want it, you go get it. We grind so hard out here, and break down barriers as they’re being built, and if anything, it’s a launchpad to more, in a more accessible place. We’ve got so much creativity oozing out of the cracks, and even when it feels over-saturated when I’m here sometimes, I find when going to other places in the world, nothing else compares to the desire and drive that Detroiters have. We’ve been fighting for so long to come back, and there’s no stopping us now.

Who would be on your fantasy festival line up (active artists only)?

Ohhh, this is going to be hilarious! My music taste is all over the place.
Foo Fighters, Billie Eilish, My Chemical Romance, Eminem, Rob Zombie, Brand New, Snoop Dogg, Queens of the Stone Age, Damien Rice, Gorillaz, Green Day, Tchami, Run The Jewels, Highly Suspect, Badflower, Jack White, Vince Staples, Rage Against The Machine, Ghost, Disclosure, The Killers, Dropkick Murphys, Deftones, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, Frank Turner, The Gaslight Anthem
I am absolutely sure I forgot someone but I feel like I wouldn’t sleep for days after that lineup.

How can businesses change the world?

To me, the obligation we have to society is to be leaders. So many people are just working off their bottom line, not caring about others, post-holiday firings, working people to death (literally), and not sticking up for actual principals.
I’ve done a lot of things the “wrong way” in the eyes of professionals. I made my own path, and I want to stick to it. I hate that corporate mindset, and chasing some sort of payday in exchange for my principals and my soul doesn’t seem like the best use of my time, my energy, my knowledge.
So many people give in to things they do not want to in order to “make it big,” “take the next step,” or get to the next tier, and I think it’s a responsibility as business owners to remember not only the humanity around us, but also to lead people with our examples. People can change the world, and while most businesses (and government) honestly strive to make us hate ourselves and each other so we will not join forces and overthrow them, we are stronger together than we are apart. No more of this “OBEY” “CONSUME” ‘They Live’ shit. We just have to remember we’re not all so different and that working together is a strength and not a weakness. Then we’re solid.
Be sure to follow ACRONYM via their official website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube pages.
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