Tortella credits the Department of Communication Studies in Concordia's Faculty of Arts and Science with giving her the multifaceted and practical training she needed to work in music marketing and, most recently, launch her own successful business.
“One of my favourite courses at Concordia was visual dynamics,” she recalls.
“I remember what my teacher at the time, Denis Diniacopoulos, said: ‘My class is going to make you earn a lot of money.’ And he was right. He really boiled down what a good visual was all about, and why we respond to certain visuals over others — a preservation instinct.”
Learning how to join those visuals with great sound was the magical combination for Tortella and the emerging artists whose careers she helped launch.
Upon graduation, the former entertainment editor at The Link student newspaper started writing press releases for Polygram Records, the last multinational record company in Montreal.
Tortella moved to Toronto in 1992, when PolyGram merged with Island and A&M. Universal then bought PolyGram in 1998, and the former chairman of PolyGram invited her to New York City in 2010 to become a product manager.
“I said, ‘Sure!’” she recalls. “I was just excited about it and to learn a whole new market and do marketing in New York. ‘Let’s do it, why not?’”
To get a handle on a whole new world of music, though, Tortella worked until 3 a.m. practically every day.
It paid off with promotions and a job offer from Warner Music Group to be head of marketing for Atlantic Records. At Atlantic she was responsible for signing the deal for the hugely popular Twilight series — and making millions for the company.
“This lead to a promotion in Los Angeles to be co-president to Warner Bros. Records,” Tortella says.
With the rapid shift to streaming from online music libraries, Tortella saw a need to help music labels attract listeners to the latest would-be hit song and engage them with the artist. So in 2013, she started Black Box, which offers a complete marketing package that incorporates the latest ways to develop and brand an artist.
Know everyone at Spotify
“We help artists learn how to manage their social media with the right content, the right pictures, the right videos, and we show them how to communicate with their fans directly,” she says.
“We have people who make content, who have press relationships, who do visual marketing, and who know everyone at Spotify. So we get everyone in a room with a client and come up with a marketing plan, and we execute.”
Still, not all artists become overnight successes.
“A lot of them don’t get that chance and you have to work super hard to make them get that chance,” says Tortella. “The more people have a chance to make it, the better it is, the more jazzed I feel.”
“I really enjoyed my experience at Concordia and what I learned in the communication studies program just helped me throughout my entire career,” Tortella says. “I want to definitely pay it forward.”