It is one thing to pursue your passions, but to find another one along the way is truly something. As global music executive who has developed a love and passion for photography while traveling across the world, Krystalan is someone who many would say is taking her artistic eye to new creative heights. In this episode, Krystalan lets us in on her life in the music industry—from her own share of highs to the challenges she has to go through touring and on the road. She talks about how she organizes events in different remote locations, how she managed to add digital insight into her vast amounts of talents, and how she navigates the industry as a woman. Tune in as Krystalan further shares about her love for music and photography and how it has shaped her.
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Reaching Creative Heights: Pursuing Music And Photography With Krystalan
I often have guests on the show who are incredibly well-traveled. In this episode, our guest is even more well-traveled than most. Through her international experiences, she has developed a love and a passion for photography along the way. She also happens to be very good at this, I hear. As a global music executive, she has designed multimedia productions, integrated online branding and marketing projects and major PR initiatives for some of the most influential companies in the world. Without further ado, let’s introduce Krystalan. How are you?
Thank you so much for having me on.
It’s an absolute pleasure. Tell me, where are you right now? I always ask that question because I’m here in LA, but sometimes people are all over the world.
I’m here in Los Angeles. We have tours coming up in China and I’m gearing up for a whole other tour in Saudi Arabia in 2020. You caught me in the middle ground that I’m here in Los Angeles. It’s good to be home.
Who are you going on the road with?
This tour will be with Yanni and also my dad. We’ll be touring together. We’ve been to China several times, so it will be great to be back. It’s a couple of week’s tour. It will be in Shanghai and Beijing and seeing a lot of old friends and meeting some new ones along the way.
It must be fabulous going on all of these adventures, particularly going on all of these adventures with your father because that doesn’t probably happen all that often. I know that when you go on tour, I’ve been on tour myself, it can be quite a lonely place to be. For you, you have that. That’s rather lovely.
It is. We’ve been lucky too as well with this tour. A lot of the people on this particular tour have been with him for 20, 30 years. It has become a tour family. I’ve done the bus tours. I have my specified bunk, the whole thing.
Do you actually do the tour bus?
I don’t anymore as of probably the last few of years, but I’ve been doing this now for many years, touring for eight months a year. It’s pretty intense. There have been several bus tours. I have the bottom bunk in the front, on the driver’s side. If anybody has been on a tour bus, they know exactly what that is.
Why did you choose that bunk?
I chose the bunk because I like the idea of easy access and I’m not in anyone’s way to be on the bottom. I guess I liked the driver’s side because I felt like it wasn’t rocking as much. It felt cozier to me. It’s funny because after my first tour, I didn’t want to move to any other bunks.
I actually was having a meeting with a female tour manager and she was telling me about all of her years on tour buses and how it can be quite tricky, particularly when generally you’re one of the only women on the bus and you’re dealing with men and all their different habits. How did you cope? I said to her in the same way I’m saying to you, a lot of people when they’ve toured for years literally look like they’ve toured for years. You do not look like that.
Thank you. A big obstacle when I’m touring or a challenge of touring is staying healthy. One of the things that we say is a musician’s morning is 5:00 PM. At 5:00, everybody’s rolling into the venue and they’re like, “Good morning,” but being on the management side or the production side, it starts much earlier. I could be up with the artists until the early morning hours and starting work at 9:00 AM. Getting sleep is a big challenge.
How’d you deal with such little sleep? I know I’m terribly grumpy if I haven’t slept enough.
I was younger then but now it’s making it more of a priority and making sure that if I don’t get any sleep one night, I’m doing my very best to at least sneak in a nap or something whenever you can.
What are your tips for staying healthy and youthful on tour?
Drink lots of water. That ended up being a big lifesaver for me. If you can get access to clean bottled water or filtered water of some kind, it matters because you’re going to all these different locations, different regions. Water can make a big difference for your body and getting physical exercise every day. One thing about touring is it’s easy to not even see daylight because you’re on a bus that drives in the middle of the night. You get to the hotel and you’re in the hotel all day. The bus drops you off inside the venue. You can literally not ever see the sun unless you make a point to see the sun. I also bring my own shakes on the road and try to stay nutritionally-balanced along the way too.
You’re no longer on the bus, now you’re in the hotels.
How did that change come about?
It was after so many years of it. I was originally touring with the band and orchestrating a lot of the physical moving and getting the band from A to B. Now, I’m touring with the actual artists’ party and they have a different schedule. It’s not easier than the bus.
I see that you’ve been setting up productions in the great pyramids, Latin America, Puerto Rican castles and Indian palaces. How do you organize something in often such remote locations? I’m guessing that the crews that you might pick up there are different from the crews you’d get if you were doing a show at Madison Square Garden, for example. How’d you make it all flow?
It’s very different. It’s actually the fun part of international touring because you have no idea what you’re going to get until you get there. We have an amazing crew. Our team is tight. We’ve done this for years and we all have our own tips and tricks that we do along the way. We travel with our own crew or at least our base crew and hire locals for a lot of the stuff that we do internationally as well. Me working on more of the marketing and PR side, a lot of it is communication and being open and honest with the other team that you’re working with and saying, “This is the challenge I’m facing. I see this is your challenge. How do we come to an agreement?” A lot of times, these are areas that maybe have never done a concert before or we’re building a stage in the middle of a place that there wasn’t a stage over before. It’s working as a team both on our side and their side and seeing the challenges and being willing to help each other out. If they win and we win, then everything does better.
Has anything ever gone drastically wrong?
There’s been a handful, of course.A lot of people get siloed into thinking that digital marketing is social media only when that's only a piece of the puzzle. Click To Tweet
Do you always manage to get those fixed before the artists find out or sometimes the artists do have to get involved?
We try our very best to make sure the artist never finds out or the audience doesn’t experience something. Sometimes you can’t help it. There’s one that comes to mind. When we were in Armenia, the show was actually happening, so everyone was involved. The Armenians are amazing. They were so excited, chanting, cheering, stomping and almost screaming chants like they were in a soccer match. They’re stomping so hard that they collapsed the stands.
Was anyone injured?
It was the longest few seconds for us to figure that out, but everyone was fine. Even more so, it made the audience even more excited. We’re trying to relocate people like, “This is a great seat over here for you.” The ladies that were there were like, “No, I bought this seat. This is where I’m going to be.”
Through all of your travels, you developed a love for photography. How and when did that passion come about and where can we all see your photographs?
That started years and years ago, especially when I started touring because we went to all these magical locations and I had special access that I wouldn’t normally have otherwise to some beautiful and remote places around the world. I was given the camera from my dad and he said, “Here’s a great camera. Go for it.” At first it was frustrating because I didn’t know how to operate or how to use it, but the camera never left my hand. It’s still hasn’t. I roam around and take pictures of some of the most beautiful areas that I can. Every morning, I start and say, “How can I serve today? How can I give back today?” One of the things that came out in that conversation with myself was I love children and their well-being and supporting children’s education. Out of that love and out of that support, I ended up finding a way to work with UNICEF and combine that with my love of photography. Now, I’m taking my photography up to another level. I have a gallery opening that’s coming up here in Los Angeles in 2020.
Give us a plug, tell us where it’s going to be and when we can get there.
All the details will be coming out here. It will be held in Glendale, probably mid-January 2020. Once the date is set, it will all be on Krystalan.com.
I’m going to be there. I’m going. You probably don’t know this, but my father was a travel photographer. He and my stepmother were world-renowned travel photographers. They traveled the world for years and their last big trip, my father was 81 and Norma was 87 and they went to Namibia. They were amazing. They became fellows of the Royal Geographical Society in the UK. They were amazing, so I’ve always had an interest in travel photography. One thing that always fascinated me was the interesting people that they would photograph. It’s not just the places but the faces. You can see so much about someone’s history by looking at their faces. I’m excited to come to your exhibition.
That’s wonderful. Thank you. I can’t wait to learn more about what they’ve done and see some of the stuff. It’s incredible to see where it’s all gone. Now we have this project with UNICEF and every time we tour in another country, I spend time and volunteer with the local branches and photograph with the kids. We’ll see where it leads.
What camera do you use?
I’m a Canon.
One of your other specialties is the digital world. I’ve been on panels with you, Don Franz and his fabulous UCLA music industry panels sitting next to you and you’ve put the author seven panelists to shame with your extensive knowledge of the digital world. How did you add digital insight into your vast amounts of talents?
When I started in the music industry, it was when digital media was starting to take a hold. I have a history in corporate event planning and of course, my love of photography. The combination of having access, my love of photography and understanding the angles of what people might be interested in, was a natural fit. I started capturing these magical moments and putting them online. The teams I was with at the time weren’t paying close attention to social media. I had a lot of leeway and flexibility and it was a fun time because we got to get into video and play around with the numbers and see what the fans were resonating with. Here we are now and you can’t have a marketing plan without online or digital marketing.
You’re so knowledgeable. How do you put together a digital marketing campaign, whether it be for Yanni or an artist who isn’t as established as him or somewhere in the middle? What’s your goal? What’s your plan? How’d you make it happen?
It depends on the artists or the thing that you’re marketing, but there are so many different areas. I think a lot of people get siloed into thinking that digital marketing is social media only. That’s only a piece of the puzzle. With audio, there are a bunch of different ways to get involved with the whole audio section of the digital campaign like you have here on the podcast. Podcasting is a huge deal now and taking hold. I always recommend to people to get involved in podcasts or other means of doing online streaming. It has been very beneficial if you understand how to use them in different areas.
Each platform has its own unique reason to do an ad or how to do one ad. To the basics, email campaigns I find are the most effective. If somebody is willing to give you an email, they’re saying, “I want to know everything, tell me everything.” Your chances of getting to them are much higher than a Facebook post, for example. That’s been proven over the years that the percentage of people who see your posts is declining. Email campaigns get right to someone’s inbox and you know what they’re getting. You can actually A/B test now and make sure they’re opening and follow up with them if they didn’t click all the way through to where you wanted them to.
You mean basically email your entire contact base and say, “Whoever’s doing whatever you’re doing, check me out here.”
If you have an email list, have them subscribe. Whenever you’re doing a social media campaign, push them back to subscribe to your email list because you never know what’s going to happen with algorithms and everything with socials. Email is yours. You’ll always have that. I value that. Now, everybody’s trying to find the quick, easy fix. For us and for things that I’ve seen online and my experience, there’s nothing that replaces a human connection. If you can establish a relationship with the other person on the other side of the camera or the other side of the computer, that will be a lifelong fan as opposed to a one-time purchaser.
I was reading one of the interviews you gave for Forbes. You were talking very much about communication and how you very much prefer the in-person rather than a phone call, a text or whatever it might be and you’re right. People are so stuck with their phones and people don’t even speak on the phone anymore. It’s all about texts, emails or whatever it might be. Actually when you do have face to face, it’s nice. It makes all the difference in the world.
It does, especially with us when we are doing international travel. The sooner I can get at least one FaceTime, an in-person meeting, the rest of the time, the rest of the years following are so much easier.
How have you found being a woman in this business that we both live in?
It’s a great question because I’m sure you have plenty of experience too. I always try to pretend it doesn’t exist or not put my mind in that space, but it is real. Also starting as a young woman in the industry, overcoming the challenges of that and being taken seriously and being heard, you have to work harder.
I found this in the past that you might go to a meeting and they see a woman walk in, but by the time you leave the room, you’ve left them a bit shell-shocked and a bit like, “She really knows her thing.” Do you know what I mean?
100%. They see you walk in and there’s immediate judgment and they’re thinking, “She doesn’t have anything to contribute,” or whatever they’re thinking. By the end, it’s more collaborative.
Actually you may even have the upper hand because you’ve taken them so by surprise that they’re like, “We need to not play catch up with this person who we didn’t believe in when she first walked in.” As my show is called For Love & Music, I always add in these couple of little love questions. It’s nothing to stress about. Has love ever guided you to make an unexpected decision in your career? I ask everyone this question.
It’s a beautiful question and then one that comes to mind that we already talked about a little bit was my love of photography and kids. I would have never gotten involved or changed the course of my career essentially to focus on photography and go down this route unless I had such a love and passion for children’s education.
That’s a lovely, beautiful answer. Is there a specific love song that has made an impact on your life?
I’m thinking Boyz II Men in high school or something. I can’t think of a song at the top of my head.
I’m going to ask you another one, which is even trickier. If you were stuck on a deserted island for eternity, what three songs would you take with you?
I feel like it should have albums or something. I only get three songs. I feel I should have some holiday, fun, cheery song.
It will be Christmas all year round on this island. I’m glad that when you were eventually discovered, if you ever are, you’re going to be pretty happy like Mother Christmas.
Maybe Mariah Carey, All I Want For Christmas Is You. The second one, maybe Fly Me To The Moon by Frank Sinatra, get me off the island.
That’s another classic.
Maybe I’ll completely switch it up and do Nelly, Where The Party At, because I want my friends to come by.
Nelly, Where The Party At, is when you’re feeling good and enjoying the solitude because you can party on your own. Sinatra is when you’re desperate to escape because you’re a bit depressed and the Christmas thing because it’s got to be Christmas all year round to keep you going. Those are good answers. Going back to the music, how have you seen the industry change since you first got into it or do you think it hasn’t?
I started when the internet, the socials and everything were starting to take hold in music. I’ve gotten to experience the sudden change that way. In some ways, it’s changed drastically and, in some ways, we’re just now starting to understand it. YouTube is amazing for music. We’ve sold out concert events, massive events because of YouTube. That was never available to us before. Social media has been good or bad for music. We just have to figure out how to use it for our benefit.
What does your average day look like when you’re not on tour?
What I love about the music industry is there is not an average day. When I’m not on tour, it’s a bit more flexible and I do get some more leeway. Depending on what projects we’re working on or tours, we might be setting up various TV shoots or video shoots or preparing for the next tour. When we’re on tour, that’s a 24 hour a day event you are on and that can go on to 5:00 AM or 6:00 AM.
Do you go to bed then or do you have to keep going?
I go to bed, take a solid nap and then get going.
You’re so hardcore. I’m impressed. I’m pathetic. I definitely wouldn’t keep the pace.
It’s pretty intense when you’re on the road. It’s nice when you’re not on the road to have more flexibility.
Are there any parts of the business that you were like, “I don’t enjoy this part of it?” Are there any bits that you dislike?
It’s hard to say because it all goes together and I love what I do. For me personally, it’s when you get down to the details of things and making sure that everything is very well-organized. I actually love most of the aspects of it because of the people I get to work with people from all over the world. It adds layers to it.
That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? We’re all lucky to be in this business where we do have access to the most extraordinary experiences, unbelievable people. Even when there’s a bit of negativity out there, you have to pinch yourself and think, “Most people don’t live the lives that we’re leading. Therefore, grin and get on with it. You are lucky.”
It is true.Social media has been good or bad for music. We just have to figure out how to use it for our benefit. Click To Tweet
You have to put it back into perspective. What does the future hold for Krystalan? When you think about the next five years, what would you love to see for yourself?
I think life is so fluid and things can change on a dime. I love the music industry. I love what I’m doing here. I hope to continue that. My photography is definitely taking a whole new direction and I’ve been working on a musical children’s program. Hopefully, it will come out in the near future. Stay tuned for that.
Are you able to tell us a little more about that or is that secret?
It’s still in the works. There’s not a whole lot to share yet. It is essentially based on what I’ve been doing all around the world, but in a format that kids can understand.
It has been so lovely speaking to you. It’s an absolute joy. I’m so impressed by your touring capabilities and that you still look as fabulous as you look. I know how grueling it can be when you’re on the road like that. I hope you have a fabulous tour that’s coming up. Are there any websites or links that you want to shout-out to the audience so that they can find you?
- Instagram – Krystalan
- Facebook– Krystalan
- Twitter– Krystalan
- Instagram- @LaLaLandedPodcast
- Facebook – La La Landed
Krystalán began her photojournalistic photography through her work as a global music executive touring across more than 60 countries over 15 years. Passionate about photography as a form of storytelling, Krystalán uses her camera as a passport into the hidden and untold lives of people and cultures around the world. Her works seek to remind viewers of the interconnectivity of our lives and the common threads that connects us all, transcending language, culture, and geography.
As a global music executive, Krystalán has developed artists and managed productions around the globe. She has designed multimedia productions, integrated online branding and marketing projects and PR initiatives in partnership with major multinational companies and organizations, including Disney, NASA, and the World Wildlife Fund, in addition to the Governments of China, Egypt, Tunisia, and Brazil, among others. She has led communications and marketing for the artist Yanni (Sony Masterworks), ensuring the ongoing success of a global icon who has sold over 30 million albums, hundreds of millions of music streams and video plays, and 8 global television specials seen by over 500 million people.
Krystalán is a Panda Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund, a partner with UNICEF, and a writer who contributes to Forbes and Thrive Global. You can find Krystalán embracing life in Los Angeles when she is not touring.