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Inner artist unleashed
This former accountant helped foster a new platform for digital music sharing.
Emily Richards has followed many paths to happiness and career success. She’s proven herself in starkly different worlds, from accounting to technology to the music industry. A musician, business leader, and PwC alum—one who knows more than a little about work/life balance—Richards now divides her time between studio recording and her role as co-founder and CEO of ArtisTech Media, a platform for digital music sharing and distribution.
It was an accident during her college years that pushed Richards, a talented young singer/songwriter and classically trained pianist, toward a profession outside of the performing arts. She chose accounting and, after graduation, accepted a position in PwC’s Salt Lake City office. Even so, she didn’t give up on her goal to make music, working in the wee hours to perfect her writing and signature vocals. “It was very Clark Kent,” she says of her time at PwC: “Accountant by day; artist by night.”
As technology began to impact the music business, Richards was already exploring new frontiers in music distribution offered by the mp3 format. In 1998, she became one of the first recording artists to stream her music for free and at one time was MP3.com’s most downloaded artist . That led to major breakthroughs. Her music career took off, with Richards opening for an American country music star and working with a Grammy-winning producer in Los Angeles. In 2004, Richards was offered a big career move to a major innovator in streaming music.
Richards has since pioneered new ways for recording artists to create and collaborate across the barriers of geography. One of her current ventures gives artists a free streaming platform using Creative Commons licenses that facilitate free distribution (with Attribution), which lets musicians around the world upload tracks, samples, or other short snippets of audio to a common virtual studio at ccMixter.org.
She insists that anyone with the urge to create should do it. “Technology allows you to not let go of the creative side of yourself,” she says. “You’ll be a happier employee if you meet that need.” For Richards, the ethics of sharing are at the core of her artistic and business practices and offer a clue to her future: “As long as I get to keep creating music and sharing,” she says, “That’s where I want to be.”