Joy Pratcher knows exactly who she is. The Queens-born attorney has used the skills that make her great at law to work her way through the music industry, starting by landing an internship with Puff Daddy through a cold call at just 17 years old. Since then, she’s worked as Senior Director for EMI Music Publishing and now has her own business. As part of that business, Pratcher runs a sound production studio, works as a consultant for small businesses, and produces her podcast, Unexpected Success.
In her interview, Pratcher discusses growing up in New York, working for Puff, and her journey through the music industry. She shares what it takes to be a young woman hoping to break into an industry like music and advises on the importance of maximizing your time management.
Please tell us your name, where you are from, and what you always wanted to be when you were growing up.
My name is Joy Pratcher, and I am from Queens, New York. Growing up, I was always advocating for people. Whenever I would have friends that would get bullied in school, I was in their corner. I always wanted to help people. My mom saw this inside of me and always pushed me to follow my passion. I wanted to be an attorney because of my amazing ability to argue and persuade people, which eventually led to me becoming an attorney.
At the age of 17, you made a phone call that sparked your journey in the entertainment industry. Tell us about what prompted you to make a call to Bad Boy Records and what you learned from working there at a young age.
Wow, I can’t believe that it’s been almost 30 years since that moment. I remember being around 16 years old and seeing an Usher feat. Puffy music video on The Box, a “street station” on cable TV that played music videos nonstop. When I saw Puffy, I said to myself, “I will work for that guy one day.” At the time, my high school extended externships for students who wanted credit to graduate, so I decided to heavily pursue Uptown Records and Bad Boys. I made a phone call one day, and I spoke with the then General Manager, Kirk Burrowes, and told him I wanted to work for free. I arrived for my interview (which lasted all of seven minutes), when Puffy comes walking in. Kirk told him, “This is our new intern.” From there, my journey started.
It was an amazing experience to be in that space as Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Faith Evans would often visit our offices. I learned so much from that job that really taught me a lot of professionalism and kickstarted my career in the entertainment industry.
What qualities do you believe young women need to have as they enter the music industry?
Honestly, Gabby, in anything you are in, you have to be strongly rooted in who you are. It is definitely tough because when you are young, you are unsure of yourself and can get tripped up by things and people along the way. I am raising two young girls, so I am a firm believer that we all serve a divine purpose, and being rooted in that will guide you.
This business is extremely misogynistic, and people will try you in all ways, but if you know who you are and what you represent, no one can change that. There will always be people that will shame you, but you have to be firm in who you are and stick by that.
What are some challenges you have faced by being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
This is something that is pretty common in my life. Coming from classes where most of my classmates were white, I had to learn how to navigate through it. I went to Hampton University, so I did have a delightful undergraduate experience being amongst other “only’s” that were also familiar with figuring out how to work through it. We worked together to learn how to leverage our “otherness.”
I think the thing that helped me the most was realizing that my differences are powerful. While some people may treat you differently, we carry a lot of knowledge and power, and as long as you are focused and strategic on learning how to leverage your otherness, there is opportunity for so much creativity in how you add yourself to spaces that typically aren’t meant for us.
Let’s talk about your position as Senior Director for EMI Music Publishing. You credit this experience as “a key to your growth as a businesswoman.” Why do you credit this experience as a key growth moment in your journey, and what were a few things that you learned along the way?
This was the first and only experience in a truly corporate environment. EMI exposed me to how this music business is really set up. As an intern, you learn to figure out where you are on the totem pole; the same thing for entertainment law. The corporate environment is different because you learn how little the artists really make in the grand scheme of things. It opened my eyes in so many ways because I learned a lot about strategy and execution. One thing I learned was that you can make anything happen when you plan how you want to meet your goals and then find the right people and activate them to help you work towards the end goal. Realizing this really empowered me to change the world, but it’s impossible to navigate without the full picture. Unless someone lets you in to see the scope of it all, you won’t know.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to young girls that are watching you and look up to you as they start their own journey?
I think it’s important to know your transferable skills. Whatever you love to do needs to be the compass. I knew that I was good at helping people, and I always wanted that to be the constant, so I learned to take the skill of helping and advocating for others and transfer it into the course of each of my careers over the years.
One piece of advice that I would give is whatever you are doing, be sure to let your passion guide you. You can change the world no matter what you do! Fulfilling your passion is important. There will be long strides of making no money, so you do have to be okay with not making any money upfront; but as long as you continue to find value in other things in life, you will eventually secure your bag.
What time management advice would you offer to maintain a healthy balance?
I think deciding the hours of the day I will actually work. I can do a lot of work between the hours of 5 a.m. and 4 p.m. You have to know when you are most productive and aim to get a lot done during those blocks of time.
I am an advocate of getting a good planner to make sure your scheduling is precise. It can be easy to get unorganized in anything you do, so ensuring you are together will help keep you on a tight schedule.
Lastly, put your phone down! Don’t spend all of your life watching other people’s lives on an app. Take time for yourself; that’s the most important thing.