Shannon Herber, Assistant to Musician and DJ Moby

If you’ve ever seen a Bourne movie you’ve heard some Moby. Or maybe you’ve seen him on 30 Rock, walking around SXSW or maybe you’re the proud owner of one of the 20,000,000 records he’s sold. You probably haven’t heard of Shannon! She’s Moby’s assistant. I got the chance to talk to her a few weeks ago and chat everything from first jobs to the best star treatments. Check it out!

How did you start working for Moby?

Shannon: I’ve been working here for just over two years and I got the job the same way anybody in the entertainment industry gets their job: it’s who you know. When I moved back to L.A. from Miami, I was looking for a full time job in the music industry. A friend of mine knew someone who worked at Moby’s management company who said they were looking for someone to work with him and my friend thought I’d be perfect for it. I sent in my resume and then a few months later I heard back. I went through an extensive two month interviewing process and then was hired in January after the holidays.

What was your first job out of undergrad?

Shannon: It was just a job. I worked as the general departmental assistant for the interior design branch of a home building company. My parents moved there while I was in college and I lived with them for a year to save up money to go grad school and move out to L.A. At the time, Phoenix was a booming housing market, and there were new housing developments spouting up all over, so I worked in the interior design branch of one of those companies, where people would come to pick out their carpet, interior paint colors, etc.

I remember walking in every day and thinking, “I do not want to be here.” That propelled me to make sure that I got out. I kept telling myself that mundane paperwork is going to exist everywhere, but at least when the mundane paperwork is about music, you’ll like it so much more. And it was true! When I got to Universal, sure, I still went into the cubicle every day and I still had to do mundane paperwork and file other reports, but then it would be a report from me going to SXSW. It was stuff I didn’t mind doing as opposed to, “Oh, let’s talk about the new carpet options for basic homes in the new development down the street.” So I would just say, use those desires to do something different. Use them to make sure you don’t get stuck in a rut because it’s a “good job.”

What did you go to school for? Did you study anything specific to what you’re doing now?

Shannon: Not particularly. I went to Smith College in western Massachusetts for my undergrad and earned a B.A. in English. I originally moved out to Los Angeles to go to graduate school at USC. I earned my M.A. in Communication Management, but that was more along the lines of what I did originally as a publicist at Universal Music for a few years, and I had worked in independent publicity before that, so my degree was more specialized for that.

I can’t really speak much to film or television, but the music industry is definitely more based on on-the-job training and the work you’ve previously done. They don’t necessarily go in too much for degrees unless what you do is very specific, like legal or business management, or anything having to with royalties, that kind of thing.

Did you learn more in school or on the job? Either at your previous job, as you were saying, at Universal, or now working with Moby? If there was something specifically in school that really benefitted you, what was that and how did it help you?

Shannon: I personally learned more on the job. I got my first internship at Universal Music. I worked in their publicity department and when I graduated from grad school at USC, there were no open positions for me so they recommended me to someone else. I worked at an independent publicity firm for almost two years and then when a publicity position at Universal did open up, they called me and said, “We want you for this job because we trained you as an intern and we know you can do the job.” My boss at Universal really became my mentor and helped me out tremendously. So, I would definitely say I learned more on the job.

Also, in my current position with Moby, I’ve learned a lot on the job. Previously, I had never been fully on tour with a band before. During my first year of working with Moby we traveled the world for a total of about five months. So, I was gone outside of the country for a lot of 2011. While working in publicity I had sort of been on the road here and there, but I had never been away from my family, out of the country, for a long time. That was a brand new experience. That takes balls. You really have to love what you do because you’re going to eat, sleep, breathe it every single day, and you probably don’t know where you are or what time it is. I definitely learned so much that first year.

It sounds like that must have been an incredible and exhausting year. 

Shannon: It was an amazing experience. Now I can say I have been to Lithuania, I’ve been to Belarus, I’ve been to Lebanon.  I’ve been to some crazy places, and you kind of get this star treatment just being part of the posse. It is hard, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know if I’d want to go back to Dubai as a normal tourist.

Can you give sort of a quick snapshot of a day-in-the-life for you? 

Shannon: Ha, goodness, there is no typical day.

That’s a good answer too! 

Shannon: Well, I work from home, because there isn’t an office. Moby’s management is based in London, but Moby is based here in LA; so when the deals are done and everything is taken care of on the business end by his manager, then I handle the organization and logistics. He could be doing a photo shoot one day, then filming a ‘guest star’ spot on a TV show the day after that. He’s also a DJ, so sometimes we travel to festivals where he performs as a DJ. So, any day consists of me waking up, checking my email, getting back to loads of people on lots of different things. I also manage his house, his car, his personal calendar. I project manage his life, basically. Everyday is different.

This is more of a personal question, I guess. Have you ever cried on the job, or had to leave and cry and gather yourself and come back, or something?

Shannon: I did once and it was mostly because of stress. Stress and lack of sleep. We were in France, and it had been a particularly difficult day. There had been a miscommunication regarding the location of some promotional interviews so we were having a tough time completing everything we needed to get done; certain things were out of my control. As a perfectionist, I like to give a hundred and ten percent on the job, so when you’re traveling every single day, and you’ve had about ten hours of sleep in the last week – like I said, you’re dealing with people in a different culture, in a different language. There’s just loads of stuff happening and you have to manage all of it. At one point I had this moment where I just said, “I need a minute to myself.” I walked away and I kept telling myself,  “You’re doing the best you can. You can’t control everything.” Then I just walked back in and said, “Okay, here’s how we’re going to move forward.”

I would have cried more than once in that situation.

Shannon: Lack of sleep is a hard one for me. Plus you’re in a different hotel room every night, you never know if there’s going to be a soft bed or a hard bed, you don’t know when you’ll get to eat or what you are eating, and it’s usually festival catering. One time we were in either France or Germany, I can’t remember specifically, but I thought they had given us sausages. Well, it wasn’t sausage. It was something like pig intestines. So, then you think, “Okay, I can either continue to eat the pig intestines, or I could go back to the hotel and spend fifty dollars on a sandwich. Hmm…” So you eat the pig intestines.

What do you think is the coolest star treatment you’ve ever had? 

Shannon: There are little things that stick out of my mind, like when we played at SXSW a couple years ago, and we were just walking down the street and we bumped into Michael Stipe. They are old friends, so Moby introduced me. I had the thought, “I was just introduced to Michael Stipe by Moby, and now they’re joking about how they look like each other. This is amazing.” Some days are really cool.

You’re a bit of a singer yourself, aren’t you?

 Shannon: I don’t do it professionally, but I did start as a musical theater major before I switched to English, and I do it on the side as a personal hobby.

You have sung backup for Moby before, haven’t you?

Shannon: Yeah, Moby likes to utilize multiple talents that people have. If you work for him and you play an instrument, he may end up utilizing that talent somewhere down the line.

He sounds like a pretty good boss.

Shannon: Yeah, it’s really great. I had worked as an EA before and I was not a fan of my former employer. It was a big lesson in “money doesn’t buy happiness.” It’s the exact opposite now working for Moby. He’s really down to earth, and he has loads of normal friends who are usually pretty interesting people. He really does try to keep involved with people’s lives and pay attention to who they are. He’s always very aware of what’s going on in my personal life. I had a boyfriend during the first two years that I worked with Moby and he was always very conscious of that. If there was an extra ticket for something he’d tell me to bring my boyfriend, things like that. So, he’s very aware of the employees and their personal lives. It is really important and much appreciated on my end.

Your past employer – that you said was really hard – do you feel like you can appreciate your work situation now more than you maybe would have if you didn’t have that negative experience? 

Shannon: I definitely don’t know if I would have gotten this job if not for that prior EA experience, but I didn’t enjoy it while I was in it. At the time I didn’t have anything to compare that experience to. I think current crises that I run into would seem much larger and scarier now if I hadn’t had that previous experience. It puts what I’m doing now into perspective. So, I didn’t enjoy it at the time, but I’m certainly better off for having experienced it.

Do you have any advice for young women who are maybe just out of college, and they’re in their first entry level position? Do you have any advice for staying tough and getting through it?

Shannon: Oh, yeah, for sure. We all have those days when we need a moment. I just go into the bathroom, give myself a little pep talk and then go back out. Ultimately you want to present a strong, put-together, I-can-handle-anything demeanor up front.

It’s unfortunate to say, but there is still a little bit of sexism in the workplace, especially in the entertainment industry where it can still be somewhat of a boys’ club. Guys in bands will sometimes date their publicists or date their managers, which doesn’t hurt them but can sometimes make her look unprofessional. The lines of play and work are blurred because you’re taking one of the bands you publicize or manage out for a drink, going to a show, then it’s three in the morning, and the band wants to keep hanging out somewhere. I think sometimes, unfortunately, the women in this industry fall into the pattern of, “Well I’m just having fun and hanging out and that’s what I’m supposed to do.” They’re coming in hungover the next day because they were out until four in the morning with the band. I’m sure the band had a great time. Is their boss going to enjoy them being hungover and emotional the next day? No, and it can detract from your professionalism. So, I would just say find a mentor. If you have any issues or are confused about what’s work and what’s just fun, obviously discuss it with somebody who has been in your industry for awhile and whose opinions you value.

Hard work pays off, in my opinion. Everything leads to something else, so make sure that when you make work connections, you’re honest about it. Don’t just try to get something out of people because they do remember it. For everyone who is on their way up, someone’s on their way down, and you’re going to cross paths in both directions. Make sure to be nice to everybody because everyone remembers if you’re not.

Photo Credit: Julia Reed Photography