Portia Sabin’s infectiously optimistic energy is the hallmark of a leader, and throughout her remarkable career she has repeatedly led by example and inspired others to get on board. From managing an obscure punk rock band to a Top 10 spot on UK radio (and a gold record) to spearheading the creation of the A2IM Libera Awards, Sabin has shown she can create opportunities for both commerce and camaraderie in the music industry.
It helps that Sabin has experienced most aspects of the music business from the inside. She started her career as a punk rock drummer in NYC band The Hissyfits, then moved into artist management, and then ran the venerable independent record label Kill Rock Stars. KRS has always been known for its punk, feminist, queer-positive ethos, and Sabin stayed true to these ideals while navigating the changing music marketplace by creating a comedy roster with alternative comedians like W. Kamau Bell, Cameron Esposito, and Hari Kondabolu.
Sabin genuinely champions every aspect of the diverse music industry. Her podcast, The Future of What, was started as a way to educate musicians to the realities of the music business and has grown into a forum where the most significant voices in the industry discuss important issues of the day.
As the new president of the Music Business Association, Sabin is ready to take this powerful organization to a new level of prominence. “The sky’s the limit. I look at what we have and what we do and I think, ‘How are we not in the headlines every day?’” says Sabin. With what she has in mind for the future of this important nonprofit, Music Biz could very well routinely find itself in the news.
Throughout her life, Sabin’s confidence has opened doors and inspired others to work together. She has extensive experience on boards, having served multiple terms on the boards of A2IM, the RIAA, and the Recording Academy. She was tapped to chair the boards of local music organizations in Portland when they needed guidance, and she sees her role at Music Biz as helping to strengthen and focus the board in particular. “Our board represents so many sectors of the industry. It’s an exciting opportunity to work together to create value for the industry as a whole,” she said.
Sabin likes to joke that her spirit animal is a golden retriever — just enthusiastically up for whatever is in front of her — and she brings that positivity to Music Biz. She sees opportunities for launching initiatives on multiple fronts, both to expand Music Biz’s reach to its membership and to firmly define its role as the face of the industry. “We can do more for our membership. We can help small music trade associations across the country find resources and expand their voices. We can help our commerce partners find new markets. We can help physical retail live on. We can be the powerful force that moves the needle forward,” she said.
“When we speak with one voice, as we did to get the Music Modernization Act passed, the music industry’s power is tremendous,” she said. “When we work together to grow the pie, everyone wins.”