Women In MusicTech #6 - Jacquelle Amankonah Horton
As founder and CEO of social platform Fave, Jacquelle Amankonah Horton is passionate about empowering superfans and helping music companies and artists tap into their potential.
She founded Fave in 2020, which is when she won Startup of the Year at the Music Tectonics conference. So far, the company has raised over $2m in funding and worked with Taylor Swift’s Swifties fanbase as well as the BTS army. Prior to Fave, Horton worked at Google for seven years, including five years at YouTube driving product development for its creators and artists. She has also spent time at Viacom, UMG, BET Networks and for various music label startups.
How did you end up working in music and tech?
When I was a young kid, I wanted to go into entertainment and it looked like the only job that was possible was to be an actress, because that’s what I saw on TV. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a music video director and then a producer. At school, my major was in entertainment business and my minor was music industry and my first gig in music was an internship at Universal Music Group. I then worked for a serial entrepreneur who was building multiple startups and later BET networks, where I was working on the music apps that were related to our music video countdown TV show and other formats where we would allow artists to connect with fans. That’s where I stuck — in technology and how it merged and empowered the music industry and how fans could connect with it. Technology was fascinating to me because you could scale it and touch millions of people with this one product that you can continue to invest in and evolve over and over again.
What are the biggest challenges that you've come up against in your career so far and how have you dealt with those?
One thing is always feeling and seeing that I need prove myself more than others. Being young, my skin color, being a female — all of these things you get automatically judged for. The first goal of mine when I walk into a room is to prove and debunk that. I know what I’m talking about, I know this space and I deserve to be in this room. I always knew that was going to be a challenge for me because it has been for others, so I go in with a solution already.
The first goal of mine when I walk into a room is to prove and debunk that. I know what I’m talking about, I know this space and I deserve to be in this room. I always knew that was going to be a challenge for me because it has been for others, so I go in with a solution already.
Your app, Fave, promises to connect superfans with each other. What observations do you have about fan behaviour in 2021?
One observation that I think is completely unseen is just how powerful these fans are. We know with superfans, there's a lot of passion — they will go out to shows and be your biggest advocates and supporters, but I don't think that we fully see how much these fans are actually doing nowadays. They will mobilize themselves and take the responsibility on their own shoulders to promote the artist’s career in ways that even the artist doesn't necessarily have to. They will say, ‘Okay, fandom, it's up to us to make this song number one, we need to go out and listen and stream’. It's not a lean back, casually listen and cross your fingers approach, it’s like they count it as their job.
They'll also go and put on events to celebrate an artist’s birthday, or whatever, and spend time outside of school or their jobs while not getting paid to do that. They’ll be organizing it, getting the catering and buying gifts for all attendees. Or they’ll gather everybody and raise money, either for a charity or a cause that they know their favorite artist believes in, or for other fans to afford to purchase merchandise or the new album that just came out. It's a much more intentional kind of fan that we're seeing now.
Is there anything that you think musicians and music companies could be doing to better capitalize on that kind of behavior?
Working with Fave is one, because we're trying to digest the activity that fans are doing in a way that will empower these things to happen. Form your communities here, meet people here, form these bonds, rally together in a shared space and a dedicated home for this thing that is fine-tuned to these goals and these needs in a way that say, Twitter or Instagram, isn't meeting.
The other thing that we spit out at the other side of this is data about fans that the artist’s teams and labels can lean into to better understand what these fans are doing. Because we have multiple different types of things happening on our platform — people can create content, buy and sell fan-made merchandise, participate in listening parties and things like this — there’s a lot of different things that you can find out about a fan and triangulate to understand how powerful one particular fan is.
It's funny when people say that ‘there isn't enough diversity in the talent pool’. and just recruit from who they know and who comes to them. But it's just about being a little bit more intentional about where you're sourcing people,
As you know, the music and tech industries are generally lacking in diversity. What changes would you like to see that would make both of those sectors more diverse and inclusive?
It starts with getting rid of the excuse, ‘there isn't enough diversity in the talent pool’. It's funny when people say that and just recruit from who they know and who comes to them. But it's just about being a little bit more intentional about where you're sourcing people, so going to the spaces where innovation is happening in diverse communities and making sure that those places have access to opportunities.
I think of Silicon Valley that just takes a bunch of Stanford University graduates and turns them into executives when you could go into other kinds of schools and neighborhoods to widen the funnel so that you have more people coming in that are just as qualified, innovative and intelligent as the people who grew up next to Google or Facebook.
Final question — do you have any advice for someone looking to enter the music and technology industry?
It circles back to what I was saying earlier about knowing that you will need to fight your way into certain rooms and certain conversations and being ready for that up front, rather than reactive to that and maybe even getting let down because it doesn't happen how you want. Make sure that if you want to push forward a certain idea or concept, have that concept down and ready to present at any given moment so that when opportunity meets preparation, as they say, you're ready to strike.
If you don't know what that is yet, get in these rooms, learn and be a sponge. It took so many different roles for me to find out what I loved to do. Get into the space and try out a bunch of different things so that you can fail fast, quickly understand what it is that you don’t like, embrace that and be grateful that you figured it out.