Creatives In Conversation: How Taylor Balian is focusing her creative drive to ensure diversity and inclusion in the arts.
An incredible part of creativity is in being able to share it with others, as well as working to amplify voices and expressions that are different from your own. For Taylor Balian, her fervent mission to help support the creative community in every way possible has not only helped shape the course of her professional life, but has helped influence the way she views her own creative drive and spirit as well.
As an enthusiast of the arts and culture at large, the proud Sacramento native began learning tangible and innovative ways to apply her knowledge and skillset to help elevate creativity in the event space. Through her first forays into project management and curation, she gravitated towards learning more about how it all comes together behind-the-scenes, working tirelessly to execute both a creative vision and a community experience alike.
After earning her masters in Global Entertainment and Music Business at world renowned Berklee College of Music campus in Spain, she went on to dive more deeply into the industry and started working closely with creative-minded people. Soon thereafter, Taylor relocated to Los Angeles and found herself immersed in the worlds of film, music, live events and artist marketing. Fast forward to today, Taylor is currently working at YouTube, where her focus is fixated on a facet extremely close to her heart: diversity and inclusion.
As she eloquently expresses during our conversation, being able to give diverse creators the opportunity to feel heard and appreciated by such a large platform is extremely rewarding, as well as isn’t a responsibility she takes lightly. Learn more about how Taylor Balian is pushing for more inclusivity across the board and constantly seeking out ways to support creators in the interview below.
What do you do for a living?
I currently work at YouTube. I've been here since April 2019 so I'm still pretty new to the company. I work as a project manager specifically doing things within our creator marketing department. A lot of the events we do either are for creators, or to celebrate and highlight creators, with my role focusing on diversity and inclusion. It's a lot of fun. I enjoy seeing the planning come to life and seeing all of the creators excited to be with each other and with us. During a lot of our events, we invite executives to come speak or engage with the creators, which allows them to ask questions that are really pertinent to their channels and how to keep growing as a creator. It's really nice to be able to keep creators interested and to hear from them directly about what we could be doing better as a platform and what we should be working on.
How long have you been doing what you do?
I've been working in the creative industry for almost seven years. Prior to being at YouTube, I was in the music industry and most recently worked for Red Bull leading all of the music and event initiatives. I would say I'm a creative, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. I know how to produce events and that's where my creative abilities come to life. Thinking about certain types of events, I work really closely with a lot of different agencies to work with what we are presenting and what the experience is. Making sure that it resonates and is engaging and people want to talk about it. I think that's my creative angle.
What do you do to get into your creative zone?
There are a bunch of different ways I try to stay ahead of the curve and how I get inspired. I pay a lot of attention to social media. Just looking around and seeing what is going on, seeing what is bubbling underground and coming to the surface. Music also gets my creative juices flowing. I love music videos. If I'm ever in a creative rut, I check out whatever the newest music videos are. I try to make an effort to talk to people from younger generations and see what they're interested in because they're the ones that are going to be setting the pace and the zeitgeist for what's next. I tend to play devil's advocate when it comes to conversations around generations to get a feel for what people are actually thinking. There are a bunch of different ways I try to stay ahead of the curve and how I get inspired. I love to travel and experience new places, especially when I'm able to go back to places that I've been to before and see how they've changed.
How would you explain the DropLabs experience to your friends?
The shoes are awesome for a gaming experience. I'm not much of a gamer personally but I recently went to Dave and Busters and was playing a game that reminded me of how the shoes could take the gaming experience to a new level. It was a game that you could sit in so you could feel it in your body. Having that experience at home and being able to quiet the rest of reality around you is pretty cool.
When I initially heard what DropLabs was all about, especially noting my position working with diversity and inclusion with creators, I was so excited to learn about the company's work with Antoine Hunter, the Deaf dancer who helped with the shoe's engineering and design. Antoine and I are of the same alma matter (Saint Mary's College). Having graduated from the same school was a 'sign' of sorts that I needed to pay attention to DropLabs and what they were doing with this shoe.
Since my time here I've noticed a huge gap for the disabled community. Upon learning about DropLabs, I immediately started to think about how the technology is really opening the door to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, and how it’s helping provide others with the opportunity to feel the music the way they feel all other things. I think it's a really beautiful thing to be able to include everyone in the kind of event that kind of excludes those in the deaf and hard of hearing community inherently. It's really exciting to think of ways we can collaborate and work together.
What is a project you're particularly proud of?
During my Red Bull days, I was a part of Sound Select (which has since become merged into Red Bull Music). During Sound Select, our goal was to help discover new and upcoming artists and, to utilize the branded messaging, give them "wings." [Laughs] We would ask artists about what plans they had in their pipeline and see how we could help level that up.
We worked really closely with Sampa The Great, for one example, and helped her with this one initiative involving a beautiful African cape. As her set at the festival in Australia was ending, we made a giant cape made of little capes that we threw into the crowd. It was like playing that parachute game when you were elementary school and it was really so cool. It's been really cool seeing artists we identified, such as Billie Eilish, 21 Savage and Lizzo, are all doing so well now. All of those artists no one really were taking chances on at the time, so we were definitely ahead of the curve.
What words of wisdom would you like to pass along to someone first starting out in your field?
I think that sometimes creatives can pigeonhole themselves. They put so much of their identity into what they know and what they do. For me personally, moving away from the music industry into this position was really hard. I think it says a lot about you if you can really take a step back and look at the big picture, instead of fixating on following a linear path. If you don't pigeonhole yourself and look at all of the possibilities, then you really can open up a world full of opportunities for yourself. Being able to look at what's in front of you and take a step back to see all of the potential opportunities doesn't come easily to everyone, so my advice is to be open-minded and try to connect the dots whenever and however you can.
Taylor Balian can be found on Instagram at @taylorsable.
As innovators by design, the team behind DropLabs Technology™ is dedicated to supporting and elevating members of the creative community. Together, we aim to serve as a platform highlighting different creators as they work towards achieving visionary excellence and inspiring others along their path. To nominate a creative leader you’d like to see highlighted on our website, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.