Earlier this month, Billboard announced the five nominees for the second annual Chip Hooper Award, honoring the memory of the beloved talent agent who helped build Paradigm's music department and served as a mentor to countless young executives in the music industry.
The 2019 nominees represent a broad cross-section of the music industry, including independent promoter and talent buyer Elena de Soto for The Masquerade in Atlanta. At age 26, de Soto has already booked over 1,000 shows for The Masquerade's 1500-cap Heaven room, 550-cap Hell, and 300-cap Purgatory, as well as nearly a dozen area venues including The Tabernacle and The 40 Watt.
Additionally, Elena serves on the board of Girls Rock Camp Atlanta, which provides young women experience in live music, and is a founding partner in The Wrecking Ball ATL music festival and an owner and partner in Deep Rest Records.
ast week Elena caught up with Billboard to talk about her time in music and answer five questions about her life in live music and her famous four-year-old corgi Milo who goes to work with her every day (and has more than 17,000 followers across his Instagram and Twitter accounts).
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always knew I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up. My grandfather was a photographer and I would take lessons with him using my little point and shoot. When I started high school, he gifted me my first Canon Rebel and I started to take it to local shows to photograph my friends, the pit, and the bands. I loved concert photography specifically and wanted to eventually be a touring photographer. I ended up going to Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta and being a photography major.
What song most impacted you as an adolescent?
It’s difficult to come up with one defining song for my youth. I will say one song that sticks out to me is “L.G. FUAD” by Motion City Soundtrack. That was my introduction to the alternative music scene. In 2005 I was in seventh grade and someone showed me the record Commit This To Memory. I loved it. That was the year I went to my first Warped Tour with my mom. When we got there, Motion City Soundtrack was the first band we saw that day and they started by singing out “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die.” My sweet, angel mother turned to me and said “EXCUSE ME?? Maybe we should go.” We didn’t end up leaving, but it’s funny to think about that being the first alternative song we heard live together. She ended up taking me to so many more concerts, festivals, and shows throughout my teen years and it absolutely helped shape who I am today.
Who was your first mentor in the music business?
Greg Green at The Masquerade. I think the most important thing he’s taught me is the importance of treating the bands that play the 300 and smaller capacity rooms just as well as we would treat the bands in the 1500-capacity room. You never know when that 300-cap band that you took a risk on will blow up and start selling out your big room!
What's one thing the music industry does really well and one thing it really needs help with?
The music industry does a great job at developing a certain percentage of artists and making those artists into huge, successful names. These artists are all able to live comfortably off of the money they make from their art. Where the industry lacks is how small that percentage is. There are so many insanely talented bands and performers that haven’t been given a real chance with industry help and are losing money and hope in their craft just trying to make it. The industry can do a better job at giving more artists attention and opportunities rather than just making the big stars even bigger.
What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I was a competitive cheerleader and gymnast up until I moved to Atlanta at age 18. I think that competitive nature translates well to being an independent promoter, but all of my muscles and bones hurt all the time.
The winner of the 2019 Chip Hooper award will be announced Nov. 5 in Los Angeles at the Billboard Live Music Awards. Click here to learn more and register today.