Diversity in STEAM Magazine (DISM) recently had the pleasure to speak with Elizabeth Vargas, founder and CEO of Edge Music Network.
DISM: Let’s start with the obvious question first: What’s your take on the lack of female leaders in the tech space?
EV: I could give a dozen reasons and even more excuses for our gender’s absence in the C-suite—not only in tech but in nearly every industry—but I won’t. The truth is that no one cares about why you haven’t succeeded; they’re only interested in how you’ve succeeded. That’s where I want to go. I want to focus on the future, and prove that with vision, hustle and commitment that you can break through and achieve your dreams. That’s how I think I can help young and mature female entrepreneurs achieve their goals and dreams.
DISM: Okay. Let’s go there… tell us your story.
EV: As a child, I always loved music and theory but wasn’t allowed to watch TV until I was 13. My dad was a preacher and I think he thought that delaying my exposure would protect me from the outside world. So, it’s kind of funny that, of all programs, I got hooked on MTV. I remember thinking I would own it one day! That was my big dream– which eventually evolved into what is now Edge Music Network.
DISM: A lot must have happened between “one day” and now…
EV: In between, I gravitated to all things music, first studying jazz vocals at the Cornish College of the Arts and then creating the Vargas Girls Jazz Cabaret in Seattle–where we played in nightclubs. My experience in the music industry paved the way for Edge Music Network to acquire the content libraries of some of the largest music publishers in the world.
DISM: Has there been anyone who has helped you along the way to achieve your big dream?
EV: I get asked that question often. People assume since I’m a successful female CEO and entrepreneur, I have a powerful man or group backing me. It was the exact opposite. I had everyone around me including those closest to me telling me to quit while I was ahead and it couldn’t be done and to give up on a regular basis. But I can tell you, everything I’ve achieved has been of my own sheer will, passion and desire to work hard– beginning with the Vargas Girls. I had a day job testing software, which came naturally to me. Being tech-savvy helped me launch our first website and later, my own digital channels like YouTube live video, where I live-streamed and interviewed bands and rock legends—all while keeping focus on becoming the next MTV. The only thing that changed for me was the platform. Television wasn’t the only game in town.
DISM: Speaking of the only game in town, explain Edge Music Network and how it diverges from other music video platforms like Spotify and Vevo.
EV: Edge Music Network (EMN) globally streams premium music video content from top-tier distribution partners and independent artists. But it’s more than a free platform for fans to watch their favorite music videos and entertainment programming. EMN offers fans access—from phones, tablets, computers and TVs—to the music and artists they love while providing artists and record labels with the royalties they deserve. We’ve completely flipped the compensation structure of platforms like Spotify and Vevo that give artists 10 percent or less of the profit share. We ensure a 90/10 split in the artists’ favor. On top of that, because EMN believes in the transformative power of music, we dedicate 10 percent of ad revenue to charitable causes such as those that feed the hungry, house the homeless and help victims of natural disasters.
DISM: Sounds like you found a straight path to your dream. Was it really so simple?
EV: It has been anything but simple. I spent years learning how to navigate application development, digital rights agreements, content licensing and distribution and how to acquire the content libraries of some of the largest music publishers in the world to bring EMN to life. But it’s the decades of relationship-building with my partners, advisors, record labels and artists that serve as the foundation of EMN.
DISM: What’s your advice for women today who want to pursue a career or start-up in tech?
EV: Today, every business is tied to technology, whether you work behind a desk, with your hands, your voice or your heart. So, to say there are few women in tech will eventually become a thing of the past. What may remain unchanged is the lack of female LEADERS in tech and that’s a personal choice. It’s up to each one of us to find our passion, find a mentor, find a way to achieve our goals, whatever the odds or the required education. Learn it. Do it. Fail. Get back up and do it again. And again. And that’s never easy. But it’s certainly fulfilling.
About Elizabeth Vargas:
Elizabeth Vargas is the founder and CEO of Edge Music Network, a music video streaming service providing live and on-demand content through a video syndication platform. After studying jazz vocal and music theory at Cornish College of the Arts and attending Bellevue University to study international business and media technology, Vargas combined her passions and pursued a career in the music industry. Over several years, Vargas was able to learn the ins and outs of application development, which allowed her to effectively lead the development and engineering of EMN’s platform. She has decades of experience architecting and brokering digital rights agreements between content creators and publishers to ensure equitable revenue share and royalty distribution and has worked with industry leaders to fight for fair compensation structures to keep the music alive—all of which paved the way for Edge Music Network. With deep working knowledge in content licensing and distribution, application development, as well as strong industry partnerships, Vargas acquired the content libraries of some of the largest music publishers in the world to bring to life the Edge Music Network app that gives artists the royalties and respect they deserve while giving fans access to the music they love—anytime, anywhere, from any device.
With philanthropy at the core of Edge Music Network, Vargas has built one of the most technologically advanced platforms to bring people together with the power of music while providing support to charitable organizations that feed the hungry, aid victims of natural disasters and support homeless veterans. For more information, visit edgemusic.com. Download the app at Apple ITunes Store and Google Play.