[INTERVIEW] Lauren Kashuk Discusses Founding Ideaison, RETROSPEKT, & Keys to Success Before RETROSPEKT DTLA
Fueled by her passion for music and events, Lauren Kashuk is helping to pioneer the future of the entertainment industry. Lauren is renowned for founding Ideaison, an innovative organization that strives to connect people together through live experiences. The brand specializes in the marketing, design, and production of these events, having collaborated with artistic visionaries such as GRiZ, Vintage Culture, Lettuce, The Knocks, SOFI TUKKER, and more. One of Ideaison's game-changing projects that Lauren has brought to life is RETROSPEKT. This immersive live series supports Lauren's mission to put talented women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ members in the spotlight. Based on Lauren's unyielding determination to achieve her goals, there is a promising road ahead for this inspiring creative.
Check out iEDM's exclusive interview with Ideaison and RETROSPEKT's founder Lauren Kashuk below.
iEDM: How did you first get involved in the music industry? At what point did you realize that working in this field was your calling?
Lauren: Funny enough, my little sister was a DJ/producer for years and then formed a band with her now husband (when they were dating), so I got into the industry “managing” her, which was really trying to help her forage through the music industry. I put that in quotes because I didn’t know what it entailed to be an artist manager nor did I really have the experience or understanding. I had such limited exposure to live event/show production and event marketing to know I wanted to do it, let alone how I might forge my own path in it. That said, I’ve always loved music, grew up singing and playing classical flute in orchestras, I was limited on seeing the inner workings aside from observing it with my sister.
After seeing that people can WORK shows and be paid to hear live music and be a part of the action, I knew I had to pursue it.
iEDM: What is some advice you would give to entrepreneurs that want to launch their own start-up but don’t know where to begin? Whether it’s business related or in your personal life, what helps you when it comes to relieving stress and staying calm in high-pressure situations?
Lauren: DON’T. Kidding. But I’d say not to quit your day job (or the way you make money, even if it’s not your passion) until your side business or start-up can financially support you. It’s normal to pursue building your business on the side and it can help in relieving some pressure financially. The other I’d say is to find some people who are where you want to be and ask them to mentor you. Ask if you can shadow or intern or work for or with them. Try to get some people in your corner who believe in you and who you can confide in.
When it comes to relieving stress and staying calm, breathing! That sounds so obvious but deep breathing techniques are massive. That, meditation, and using humor to find common ground with whoever can help.
iEDM: The two main spectrums that Ideaison works in are production and marketing. What makes these two components a good fit for each other within Ideaison’s business model?
Lauren: Well when you think about it, if you create an amazing event but don’t know how to get the word out about it or package it up well with the right branding and marketing, no one is going to know about it or care or think it’s appealing to them. I have a solid marketing background after working at large ad agencies before jumping into music so I like to apply that background and experience to market what I care about— shows. At the same time, there've been horrible events in execution that had killer branding and marketing (FYRE fest as that prime example), so I believe that the best events have honed in on both components.
iEDM: Ideaison has worked with a ton of notable names and brands in all different sectors of music and entertainment. What are a few of the most important things you have learned during your career in regard to making connections and building relationships?
Lauren: It’s simple: I try not to be an asshole and try not to work with, hire, or surround myself with assholes. Egos are real and they tend to grow the more success one achieves but I believe that entitlement is never warranted. We all have frustrations, we’re all only humans. We all have off days and great days. The more we can relate to others, the more successful we’ll be.
iEDM: What are a couple of highlights that you have accomplished through Ideaison that you are most proud of and why?
Lauren: What immediately comes to mind is pulling off funding and producing RETROSPEKT in its original iteration— which was in the heart of COVID in June 2020. It was such a dark time, and the most simple task felt daunting due to the state of the world, but it’s also what drove me, my team, and the handful of other friends and industry colleagues to push to make it happen.
I rented this seedy AIRBNB in Hollywood, which I was still relatively new to living in, and had 3 friends who are also in event production cram for like 3 weeks with me to make it happen. The lineup was constantly changing, and so were all elements of production plans. We were working on a shoestring that I was funding. It all felt so out of reach and impossible to make happen. I have this distinct memory of working on the balcony of the apartment with copters overhead due to the National Guard taking over LA because to the riots on Melrose Avenue. It was such a scary time. But this was so positive and uplifting. We felt like in our own little world we could make a positive difference at a time that was really needed.
Then we moved into a larger AIRBNB & more people flew to LA to be a part of the two week production and filming. We barely slept and poured our hearts and souls into making this virtual event. It was so inspiring and I’m so proud we made it happen. I took a chance on myself and my company in a way I never had. The cherry on top was the 2.5 million people who streamed it. As a small, independent company, I will forever be proud of that project. Which has now transformed into this quarterly event in DTLA.
iEDM: How did you come up with the name RETROSPEKT? What does the name symbolize?
Lauren: We concepted RETROSPEKT in 2020, so the name speaks to hindsight being 20/20. No one knew what was going to happen to the world, and the music industry and events were all shut down. The notion is that you don’t know what you can’t anticipate or foresee, but you can wish for and work for a better tomorrow. Everything is in retrospect. The K is a nod to DEKMANTEL and all of other sick European underground festivals. We definitely have a bit of a warehouse IYKYK feel, which I love.
iEDM: Why do you think Ideaison and RETROSPEKT go hand-in-hand with each other? How has RETROSPEKT contributed to the mission of Ideaison and vice-versa?
Lauren: RETROSPEKT was the first big risk that I took with Ideaison. Ideaison has typically been a part of larger events or projects/activations but this was the first event that we created, funded and produced, and continue to, from soup to nuts. So in a sense they do go hand-in-hand in that this is OUR vision for how a show should be. But, Ideaison can and will serve in other capacities and as a part of other entities, in various production or marketing capacities.
iEDM: In your opinion, what type of songs or overall sound is encompassed in the RETROSPEKT Live playlist? How are songs selected for the playlist?
Lauren: We try to curate the vibe of the event into a playlist. No rhyme or reason on the amount.
iEDM: What has been the toughest obstacle that you have faced while working on the RETROSPEKT brand and events? How did you overcome it?
Lauren: So many obstacles, but that’s what makes it rewarding at the same time.Some of those are:
Limitations or lack of resources and accessibility by just being a small fry/independent entity.
Not being taken as seriously due to not having a serious track record with other events, on our own. This is really shown with agents— they haven't taken us as seriously until we got an artist manager/ promoter involved who also books talent who they knew.
Balancing the focus of what I know it can be vs the reality of what it is right now. Big dreams have to be balanced with how big my team is, and the people who are giving us their time and energy.
iEDM: Throughout RETROSPEKT’s social media accounts and event promos, an alluring vintage-looking color scheme with green and red is used. How does this consistent theme embrace RETROSPEKT’s purpose and what vibe do you hope it portrays to viewers?
Lauren: I like more muted tones, they underplay how unique the event is, which I want others to be able to discover when attending. We really want to allow for discoverability. Of art, of friends, or music and sounds.
iEDM: In terms of the live immersive experience it provides, how does RETROSPEKT stand out among other organizations in the music and entertainment space?
Lauren: There’s nothing like RETROSPEKT, that I am aware of, that exists right now. We fuse multiple genres that we are into (R&B, soul, hip hop, disco & house music), in an immersive art space, and lead with art of all sorts - from the venue to stage design. And we have activities - like flash tattoos and tarot readings. We really wanted to make this worth the fans' time and paychecks! We also have a mission, and are super open and transparent about it. That in itself makes us unique. It’s scary to put yourself out there and what you believe in. But if you are authentic, it’s worth it.
iEDM: How does RETROSPEKT effectively provide a platform for women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ to feel empowered and grow as artists?
Lauren: Well, to start, we prioritize booking them over any others. And, especially if they are underrepresented and so are their teams, it’s a win-win. We provide a safe space for artists to connect during the shows, and I think that empowers them to know that we believe in them, and are investing our time, energy and funds to their careers.
iEDM: Outside of music, what are your favorite hobbies and interests?
Lauren: I love to be active; I do hot yoga at least 3-4 a week if not more. And I love hiking all over LA with my 1 year old dog, Ralphie. I love taking him to the dog park and loving on him. I also really like to cook, and frequent the farmers markets for the freshest ingredients to cook with! I’m also newly DJing- as of last year. It’s really fun to have a creative hobby in music as an outlet, just to create.
iEDM: Can you share a little bit about the concept behind School Night, how you got involved in the company, and your current role there?
Lauren: Since its inception in 2010, School Night has become the most respected in-person live music showcase. Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Rufus Du Sol, Odesza, Hozier & over 2000 other names all got their start with us. We love finding artists years before they break, helping the industry identify superstars on the rise.
Our mission is to help undiscovered artists along their path to a successful career in the music industry. From LA to Toronto to New York to London, we feature emerging and established artists all around the globe. I’m the General Manager, so I work closely with the three partners, the venue, and the teams and all of the artists/managers/agents/labels to ensure that our weekly shows happen flawlessly. I’m kind of the hub of the wheel that keeps everything in motion and connected. I love working with the team and giving the spotlight to all of these new rising artists. It’s really fulfilling and feels so cool to be on the cutting edge of it. I am also the main contact for our monthly shows in New York, Toronto, and London.
iEDM: What goals do you have in mind for RETROSPEKT and Ideaison in 2023?
Lauren: I would love to be able to turn RETROSPEKT into a festival one day, but before that, growing the venue, growing the artists and having even larger pieces of art. Even just having a thriving, supportive community of RETROSPEKT! Or if not standalone, having it be a part of a larger festival entity, that would be a huge win! An open supportive stage made for those underrepresented by someone who is. That to me, would be the ultimate win.
For Ideaison growing our client list and projects, and more responsibility on the projects that we do work on. And more exposure, even internationally!
Check out RETROSPEKT's upcoming lineup for its Downtown LA show below.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Kashuk & RETROSPEKT
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