We had the good fortune of connecting with Siria Contreras and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Siria, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
At this stage of my life, I’ve decided that a majority of that which I involve myself with professionally has to impact the world for the better. Via the work we do at Music Forward and the projects we take on with Consciously Studio, I am lucky to get to focus most of my time on providing opportunities for others or leading projects that contribute to lasting positive change. In 2020, via Consciously Studio we led an important Gen Z Voter initiative, Bring on the Ballot (www.bringontheballot.com), which had great impact on the results of the presidential and senate run-off elections. Seeing our youngest generation of voters not just step up individually, but also to collaborate with and encourage each other as they helped us to take steps towards securing a brighter future. So, whether it’s via our content, our campaigns, or even our individual actions out in the world we are focused on social good, equity, and equality. We have some upcoming initiatives more focused around the climate crisis as well as continuing to give Gen Z a voice via our platforms. This generation is an integral part of creating the change that is needed at this time.
What should our readers know about your business?
Music Forward (www.hobmusicforward.org) is a non-profit focused on transforming young lives, inspiring careers, and championing a more inclusive music industry. We bridge our communities to the music industry, empowering ambition, and creating momentum to redefine what is possible for the youth and industry we serve. Since 2020, we’ve managed the Crew Nation Fund (www.crewnation.org) a successful multi-million dollar fund created to provide financial assistance to live music crews who were impacted by the pandemic in partnership with Live Nation. Aside from our own Artist Development and Career Development programming and virtual live music performance opportunities we have also partnered with other great initiatives such as Sony Music Group’s “Beyond the Stage” where most recently artist Noah Cyrus helped address Nashville High School students and Diversify the Stage (www.diversifythestage.com) a great mentorship program featuring some of our amazing colleagues in the world of music created by Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and the Tantrums.
Consciously Studio is a content and production studio currently focused on initiatives around the Climate Crisis, Voting, and other social issues that we address through empathetic storytelling, platforms and activations that allow for civil discourse, as well as social and digital campaigns. This team is comprised of Entertainment Industry veterans some of whom, like myself, do double-duty for other organizations such as Netflix and CBS, and we bring this entertainment lens to these social issues. Because of our backgrounds, we 100% get audiences. We know what content will resonate with various types of audiences, since we know what tone, creative, and messaging needs to be. We also provide marketing and creative services to a few different companies and organizations. We bring that same skillset and quality of work that is typically reserved for launches of films, tv shows, or other entertainment campaigns to social issues.
I’m excited for the next few things that we’re launching over the next couple of months.
However, what really sets us apart is how we operate internally, which carries over into what we put out into the world.
The members of the team all come from different Generations (X, Y, Z) and that mutual respect that exists within our team–i.e. we don’t look down on Gen Z, we think their opinions are important and valid and tell them so and vice versa. There is a mutual respect that exists within this team that I’ve brought together, which I hope also translates into maintaining that same integrity within our content. Via Consciously Studio, we reinforce the idea that we all need to work together to actually make a lasting difference. Lastly, because I’m highly creative and aesthetically driven the content also has to be engaging and look good.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
It is going to be interesting to navigate life in Los Angeles post-pandemic, I still don’t think that I’m quite ready to be around large crowds. Before we all went into quarantine, friends were always dropping in from out of town, but even with those in town we’d tend to frequent places that make it easy to catch-up. Having been such a big part of the L.A. music and nightlife scene (yes, and somehow I still made it to work on time to the Variety offices back then!) I have since outgrown spending too much time in clubs, flashy lounges, or bars. Yet, I will always show up every now and then to support friends who own spots around town like my practically brothers John Arakaki and Christian Liebfried who own the Saint Felix restaurants (the food is great!) or my lovely long-time friend Michelle Marini who owns The Falls Lounge downtown or The Woods (previously the Lava Lounge which she owned as well).
However, if I’m hanging out with friends I prefer to be by the ocean if possible. Playa del Rey is one of my favorite beaches as it’s always been nice to have what feels like a private beach as my backyard and Playa Provisions is such a chill spot with great food, definitely a go-to. Del Rey Deli is also a great place for quick sandwiches or breakfast owned by locals, who always seem to prioritize my order for reasons that I’m still not sure of other than I always tip. Malibu of course is always great and while of course Nobu is great, most of the time I prefer Cafe Habana as a dining stop where I almost always get the same things, the Chicken Enchiladas (which they happen to make just like my mom does!), guacamole (I think if I had to live off of one food item, I’d choose avocado), or the Seared Salmon. If not by the beach then I prefer rooftops like Petit Hermitage, Mama Shelter, or the London has a nice Jazz brunch that I discovered at the insistence of my friend Gina Wade who oversees events for the London and other spots (I always joke that if you don’t already work with Gina then you’re working with her sister Jennifer Wade who has overseen events for eons now at the Sunset Tower). Lastly for vegan, I do like both Gracias Madre and Cafe Gratitude who share some of the same ownership.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
While there have been many experiences and people throughout my career that have allowed to grow both as a person as well as professionally, I was given great opportunities during my time at Variety, NBC, and CBS as when I first joined each of those organizations it was a very pivotal time for the areas of digital platforms, social media, video-on-demand, and the experiential. When I think back to my time at each of those organizations I really was able to help pioneer and create many things that are still around today, whether it was working on one of the first iterations of the Variety.com site, developing the Actors on Actors digital series, or pioneering what would become known as Integrated Marketing or working on what is now the at-the-pump content that is a part of our everyday lives at NBC, to being one of the first entertainment companies to fully leverage social media, as well as getting to be part of a small team to develop and launch CBS All Access (now Paramount+), as well as working on many other SVOD initiatives. Even my time at AT&T allowed me to grow their Audience Network channel and continue to oversee the daunting tasks of live streaming things like Masters Tournament, FIFA World Cup, and of course ultimately touch the HBO Max product.
However, as of late, I must give credit to all of the women who surround me. At Music Forward we are currently a 100% female-led team, our board is something like 80% female. Consciously Studio is also primarily female-led, and my Austin, Texas based non-profit The Nourish Foundation is also 100% female led, with a 100% female board. Some of these percentages were not intentional, it just happened to be that women were the right fit. I’m actually proud to even look back at the current leadership at Variety, my first real role in Entertainment, both Michelle Sobrino-Stearns (President/Group Publisher) and Dea Lawrence (Chief Marketing Officer) were strong female role models who oversaw departments I worked with during my time there who now lead the publication. Lastly, there are also women like my dear friend Rebecca Ninburg (Los Angeles County Fire Commissioner) or Sarah Jakle (National Outreach Director of Field Team 6) who are such benevolent forces of nature, whether it was working on this past election, human rights, homelessness, or other social issues, that I can’t help but be inspired by. People ask me, in awe, all of the time how I get so much done, and I feel that way about Rebecca and Sarah. Then of course there are the Greta Thunbergs and Stacey Abrams of the world.
So whether in entertainment or in working to make the world a better place, there is no denying that women have been the major players driving big change.