2022 Emerging Leaders — Music Tectonics’ Shayli Ankenbruck

XLIVE is proud to present its second annual list of Emerging Leaders. Our group of 2022 winners includes young event professionals — across both B2B and Fan Experience — whose innovation, creativity, and drive are pushing the industry forward. We will be featuring all of the winners on XLIVE over the coming weeks, so be sure to check back!

Shayli Ankenbruck has always been passionate about music and participated in bands, choirs, and private music lessons throughout grade school. She got her start in the music/entertainment industry during her senior year of college in 2019, when she had the opportunity to plan Rock Paper Scissors’ first annual Music Tectonics conference, which explores the intersection of music, technology, and business.

Her experience planning Music Tectonics in 2019 gave her a small taste of what was to come the following year, as the event ended up having to change venues at the last minute due to wildfires in California. “After that, I felt equipped to deal with anything,” she says.

In 2020, Music Tectonics pivoted to virtual, and Ankenbruck was instrumental in helping the event adapt to the ongoing challenges. The annual conference usually takes place in October, “but we quickly realized that as the world shut down, the industry really needed something to help foster community, so we launched a pop-up event called Isolate or Innovate in May of 2020,” Ankenbruck explains.

She subsequently organized a few other virtual conferences with conference director Dmitri Vietze and marketing director Eleanor Rust, as well as weekly Zoom roundtables to facilitate connections in the industry while in-person gatherings were paused. Ankenbruck notes that some of the biggest challenges of putting on events in a virtual format were developing benefit packages for sponsors that met business goals in the new virtual space as well as the technology learning curve — even though she is technically Gen Z, she does not describe herself as tech-savvy — but the hours she spent researching and learning now enable her to effectively explain the technology to other stakeholders and attendees.

For the virtual iterations of Music Tectonics, Ankenbruck and her team used avatar-based metaverse platform Degy World in addition to the main platform, Hopin, to provide a more immersive experience for attendees and exhibitors/sponsors. “It was great to see all of our attendees walking around as avatars and get to speak to people in real time,” says Ankenbruck, but it also presented another challenge in terms of making sure that attendees could access the platform and get enough value from it.

In 2021, Music Tectonics experimented with a hybrid format in which all programming was available online and was followed by a one-day in-person networking event in Santa Monica in November.

“It was amazing,” shares Ankenbruck. “It felt like the perfectly timed event, because we weren't ready for a fully in-person event yet, but it provided people who were ready to be back in-person the opportunity to be in one physical space with each other. That's when we realized that the appetite for in-person was totally back, and we made the decision to go back fully in-person in 2022. We're super excited about that.”

This year’s Music Tectonics conference will be taking place from October 25th – 27th  in Los Angeles, and while it will not include any digital elements, Ankenbruck believes that online meetups will continue to be sprinkled into the programming she curates throughout the year to leverage the benefits of virtual, including being able to reach people from all corners of the globe. In the meantime, she is thrilled for everyone to be back in-person and to connect and network with the community, which is one of her favorite parts of her role.

One of Ankenbruck’s career goals is to become a leader in the music industry and speak at major events like SXSW and NAMM, as well as lead more music tech meetups and roundtables. She also hopes to make the industry more accessible and equitable. “As a conference planner, I have the opportunity to program topics that I feel need to be talked about more and to program super diverse panels that are balanced as far as culture, gender, etc.” she says.

Ankenbruck shares that another woman in the industry that she looks up to as she continues to chart her career path is Cristina Pimentel, Director of New Digital Business and Innovation at Universal Music Group, with whom she has collaborated on Music Tectonics partner events.  “I'm watching what she does — her mission to help startups and help underrepresented groups of people in the industry — and I think it’s really amazing,” Ankenbruck says of Pimentel.

She’s also inspired by Portia Sabin, President of Music Biz. “While I haven't worked as closely with her,” says Ankenbruck, “overall her role as President of Music Biz is really inspirational for me, because it makes me think of all the potential for growth I have with Music Tectonics, and the industry as a whole.”

While Ankenbruck works in the music industry, it’s also a big part of her life outside of work. She loves spending time listening to music and curating playlists. She also enjoys hiking, disc golfing and making crafts, including polymer clay earrings, which she sells at pop-up shops around town.