Women in Jam Part IV: Katie Fox: Passion, Positivity and Perseverance
Feature image photo credit: Dave Vann
When Katie Fox throws spaghetti on the wall, the stuff usually sticks. As co-founder of Blooming Footprint productions, entrepreneur and seasoned risk-taker Fox has made a successful business out of making dreams come true. A self-described music-loving media junkie, Fox and her team have helped some of the brightest talents in the jam and music festival worlds shine even brighter through successful branding and social media campaigns. Her long list of clients, past and present, include The Motet, BoomBox, Joe Marcinek Band, Melvin Seals & JGB, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, BIG Something, Spafford, and TAUK. Blooming Footprint is also the multi-dimensional media team behind such festivals as The Joshua Tree Music Festival, Apache Music Festival, ARISE and SONIC BLOOM.
She’s also an integral part of Positive Legacy, the 501(c)3 started by Cloud 9 Adventures, the folks behind Jam Cruise, Strings & Sol, Panic en La Playa and many more destination music events. Marketing director since 2016, Fox is responsible for getting the word out about Positive Legacy, which coordinates environmental and humanitarian service projects fueled by the power of music in destinations where Cloud 9 Adventures stages events.
Fox may not be a household name in music fandom, but she is part of a quiet army of dedicated professionals whose work behind the scenes is instrumental in making the jam world go round. She’s also the focus of our fourth installment of our “Women In Jam” series, which aims to shine a spotlight on the contributions of females to a music business, that while changing steadily, is still a male-dominated field. Click here to catch up on past articles.
Don’t aim for success if you want it. Just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally – David Frost
Sounds hokey, but that piece of advice uttered in 1985 by David Frost, the late British TV host and journalist, is as true today as it was then. Katie Fox is living proof of that. Her uncompromising belief in herself and the power of positive thinking combined with music’s power to uplift, unify, transcend and heal have been constant threads throughout her life. It’s an attitude that has seen her through some of life’s biggest challenges, including a successful battle with cancer. Through it all and after years in an industry that can be unforgiving and cutthroat, she speaks about her work with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a true fan.
Growing up in Ohio, she developed her love of live music, including the Grateful Dead, going to shows as a young person with her aunt, whom she describes as a “total hippie from the Seventies” who even now goes to as many shows as Fox does in a calendar year.
“You have to get your legs from somebody,” she said. “My dad had this extensive record collection. I keep records on the wall from my favorite places. Music puts you in a time and a place, and it reminds you of an experience, and that, at the end of the day, is what keeps me going.”
Like so many talented entrepreneurs before her, Fox got her start in corporate America, where she was following a conventional roadmap to success while she acquired and sharpened a wide-ranging skillset. Shortly after earning a degree in Exercise Physiology from The University of Kansas, she landed a job in sales and marketing in health club and spa industries. But corporate America can be an uncompromising and ungrateful place, something she soon came to realize. It wasn’t the long hours, heavy workloads or lost weekends that drove her out. It was being told she had to skip a Phish show, an event that she’d long planned for, in order to work on a project her bosses threw at her at the last minute. So she did the only thing any dedicated Phish fan would do: She quit.
“Everything comes full circle for some unknown reason. You can’t explain that to people – what drives people to quit their jobs and go on a Dead tour,” she said. “You can’t explain that to people.”
As it turns out, a friend had left the health club industry around the same time and brought her on board to help market his start-up company focused on online job boards. It would be one of four startups she would work with where she was introduced to new web-based technologies and social media platforms – knowledge she would later employ at her own company down the road. Despite the excitement of being on the cutting edge of the new social media frontier, Fox witnessed the downside of the startup world and decided she could make it on her own.
“When you work for companies like this, the board of directors are the downside of everything,” recalled Fox. “They want their money. They want to tell you how to run your company, how to run your business, run your this, run your that, and it’s very frustrating. So, I came to the realization at that exact moment that why am I making money for other people when I can make money for myself?”
“But I stayed there to learn. This was back in 2008. I was a kind of community manager for all our products before you even knew what community managers were. I was really fascinated by the technology and figured if I could wrap my head around on this stuff, there was no way I wouldn’t figure out how to make money for myself.”
And so she did. During her time with startups, Fox’s passion for music never waned, and she used her skills to mine for, as she puts it, “cool music people.” In 2007, she came across MoBoogie.net, a Denver-based video social network for people who love live music. Never one to let an opportunity pass by, she offered to help market them, an offer they accepted. This began a year-long relationship with the company that ended with an introduction to her current business partner, web designer and graphic artist Amy Kliever and the eventual start of Blooming Footprint.
At the time, Kliever was working as web designer for BLVD, a San Francisco-based livetronica band that Fox had interviewed on video for MoBoogie.net. “We met each other and had an absolute love affair immediately,” said Fox. “She was like, ‘Who are you? Where did you come from?’ She built their website, and then it was like, ‘Now what do we do?’”
“We had this band that people were interested in, and we have this new singer that people are interested in, but we don’t know what to do. So, Amy and I at that moment said, ‘We can do this!’ We just met each other, but we’re going to take this band to the next level. She was vested because her husband was the drummer, and I was vested because I knew that this was something that could potentially get me into that space that I wanted to be in. So, BLVD had a guy who was an investor, and he paid Amy and I basically to do our jobs.”
“Amy came out of the banking world, and she was a graphic designer at a financial institution ready to hang herself every day. When our worlds collided we were both, ‘Let’s quit our jobs and jump out the window the same day!’ We literally quit our jobs the exact same day.”
“Her mom came up with the name of the company after we told her what we were gonna do. She said, ‘Okay. So you’re going to take people’s footprints, and you’re going to bloom them.’ And we were like, ‘YEAH! That’s exactly what we’re gonna do!’”
The partnership would eventually lead to the two founding Blooming Footprint and a move for Fox from Phoenix to Denver, one of the country’s epicenters for creative industries and music. The company is about to celebrate a decade in business as content creators for touring bands and music festivals.
“When we start working with a new client, the first thing we do is kind of geek out on them,” said Fox. “We stalk them. We figure out what their voice currently is and how to stay true to that voice through everything that we’re going to be providing for them. We work with their booking agent and or management how to work on tours, which is really where we’ve shifted to in the last ten years. If you’re not on tour, we’re really not interested in working with you.”
“So, from coast to coast, we’ve been working with these venues for all these years, and what we do is leave no stone unturned. That is literally what our job is when bands are on tour and when they’re working with us. We call it tour campaign management. We literally — from the day a show is booked until showtime — we work with the venues, work with any support bands, with the promoters and just literally make sure that anybody who is a potential fan in a certain market knows about this show. So we do what I call traditional PR making sure we’re talking to the papers, to the local rags and the blogs. But we do social media marketing, which has also changed dramatically over the years. We’re working with the venues more and more to make sure that we’re using all the technology that we can to get shows out there. The other piece is making sure that on the band side, the shows are everywhere where they need to be so that the fans of the bands know where to look to see if their favorite band is coming.
I would say that what we do is not brain surgery. We’re just really organized and really annoying (laughs), because if you don’t get back to us, we’re going to stalk you until you do; that’s just the way it is.”
Over the years, Blooming Footprint has developed PR strategies for all sorts of businesses including restaurants, chefs, dentists and more. But when it’s all said and done, Fox’s passion remains music and its related creative fields, which are her company’s main focus. Blooming Footprint’s current stable of clients includes some of the most recognizable names on the jam and festival scene today — Bill Kreutzmann, Dave Mason, Pink Talking Fish, Haley Jane, Melvin Seals & JGB, Kung Fu, and Steve Kimock, just to name a few.
Ironically, successful PR campaigns are often marked clients moving on to large management agency. While Blooming Footprint may not hold on to a client for the long haul, Fox takes great satisfaction knowing that it was her company that grew the popularity of bands or festivals to such huge proportions that the big guys take notice.
“This is something I talk about with every first introduction I have with someone,” she said. “If I do a really good job, all I ask from you is that you give me a kick-ass testimonial for my website.”
Fox has a lot to be proud of. Blooming Footprint’s past and present client list takes a while to digest and is peppered with success stories, including some that have brought her life full circle. One of those is BoomBox, the psychedelic/rock/funk/soul duo, who, back in 2011, was made up of Zion Rock Godchaux and Russ Randolph (Randolph departed in 2017 and was replaced by Kinsman MacKay). Zion Godchaux’s mother is Donna Jean Godchaux, the legendary soul vocalist who sang with The Grateful Dead, a fact that did not escape Fox, who has followed The Dead since she was a kid.
“At the time, I was like, ‘Wow! This was amazing,’” recalled Fox. “I’m working for Donna Jean’s kid!”
“They were the first jam band on the scene that we had the pleasure of working with on a daily basis. That was one piece of the puzzle. But the second piece of the puzzle was in the soap opera of band life; they left their management, and you get that call, ‘Hey, We’re leaving our managers.’ And I’m like, oh my God, I’m going to get fired. But they were like, ‘No, but we’re going to keep you.’”
“In the spirit of what we do, that is the biggest compliment when a band chooses to change and they keep you, which doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it feels really good.”
A small dedicated staff of women works with Fox and Kliever, including Marketing Technologists Erin Dvorachek, Sheree Miller, Sarah Krakoff, Samantha Lien, Michelle Voeller, and Mikala Lugen. Fox did not set out to build a company comprised entirely of women, but the most talented people she could find just so happened to be women.
“It wasn’t purposeful,” she said. “But long story short, women know how to multi-task. And if you’re in the music industry and you cannot do 15 things at one time, you have no business working for me.”
“I didn’t mean to have women, but women can keep up. I’m not sexist by any means. It was just the people that were introduced to me, and the timing of these people being introduced, it’s always women. I like it this way, and I trust it this way.”
Fortunately, the jam scene is more welcoming than many genres. While still a minority, women are growing in numbers on influence on the scene, a trend that Fox believes is vital to the survival and success of the music industry.
“I personally think that you are doing yourself a great disservice by not having a female influence on any band team solely because, if your fans are women, how the hell are you talking to them correctly?” she said. “How do you know how to market to them?
I think from a very top-of-the-food-chain world, this is a very cut-throat business. I believe that some people, male and female, just can’t handle it. You get fired for doing nothing wrong. You get fired because someone is in a place you should have been, but you can’t be everywhere, and they talk to your band, and all of a sudden they have visions of grandeur and they’re like, ‘Oh, this person is going to do so much more for us.’ A lot of what we deal with is ego, and I do believe women can leave all of that at the table.”
“I’m only true to myself at the end of the day. If you can look at your work even as a reflection of your relationships, which it really is, I prefer to insert myself and my staff onto super strong teams of men. We just blow them all away time after time, because our brains are just adding to the mix stiff that they just don’t think about or think to do. We’re bringing it to the table and, at the end of the day, making them more successful.”
“I do believe that if you don’t have the influence of a female on your team somewhere, whether you have this person as a tour manager or your PR squad — somewhere insert a female, because you’re not going to have the capability to keep up with the ever-changing landscape that you just smashed into. It’s always changing.”
The job is a joy, but it’s also hard work, as Fox admits. But the rewards are plentiful, and, once in a while, they open the door to an opportunity that combines not one but several passions, as it did with Positive Legacy. Her dedication to music runs neck and neck with her desire to do good in the world — a mission shared by Positive Legacy, which integrates music and the environment. Positive Legacy coordinates actionable service projects for communities where Cloud 9 Adventures has a presence and creates sustainable support from actions by musicians and fans.
“Over the years, what I like to align myself with are festivals that are greening and are giving back and are doing good for the world,” explained Fox. “Over the years, I’ve made it a point to align our company with the people that are doing good. Over the years of doing this, I crossed paths with people who are doing this, and Positive Legacy got put on my plate. I became basically their first official marketing director.
“As you know, Positive Legacy is Cloud 9’s official nonprofit. It is our job to do good wherever we end up at these Cloud 9 events. So, we take people off property and we go do service in mostly third world countries. We have a needs assessment committee that works all year round to figure out where we are going and what we can do that will have the biggest impact in the place that we are walking into.”
“I think if I wasn’t doing this, I would be in the non-profit sector trying to figure out how to make the world a better place. The world needs more of that. The world definitely needs more people being conscientious and giving back. The reward side is so high, that even in my music world, I feel good at the end of the day for all the work that I’ve done for the bands that I work for or the agents that I work for. That’s what the return is for me now. But if I wasn’t doing this, I would still need to feel that. I think the only place I could feel that is in the non-profit world. Hopefully, it would be mixed with music (laughs), but who knows.”
Undoubtedly, Fox is a hard charger not prone to navel-gazing or focusing on herself. But a bout with breast cancer last year forced her to turn inward and take care of herself. During her successful treatment, she never missed a day of work and remained positive while living in the moment. Her battle with the disease only intensified the joy she feels every day for the path that she’s chosen.
“I really like the trajectory we’re on, and I’m just amazed at the people we get to work for,” she said. “The people that I get to work for are the people that I’ve paid money to see for years. That’s what I keep happening, that we get to keep working for people who make us appreciate our jobs. Because you never know. I think that’s the bonus of not putting pressure on yourself and trying to make things happen. Because when you’re not looking and not trying to make things happen, that’s when the best things happen.”
For more information on Blooming Footprint click on the links below.