Sarah Badran: The Hero Dallas Deserved.
The music industry and its observers are engrossed by the super star. The people behind the scenes? The ones creating opportunities for artists to shine, making and breaking careers, putting together your city’s favorite events? They’re happy superhero-ing in the shadows. Successful shows (and the occasional magazine article) are more than enough for them. Sarah Badran, the creative director of RAW Dallas for the past 3 years, is exactly this kind of hero.
Sarah started her career as an influencer in the Dallas music scene working for Universal Music Group, the largest and arguably most influential music company in the world, but she learned quickly that with big names come big restrictions. “I just wasn’t happy where I was, I remember thinking in my head that I wanted to do something that would change up the scene in Dallas. I needed to find more likeminded people,” she says. “There was a lot of control and a lot of boundaries. There was so much red tape to cross when it came to working at Universal.” In need of something less proscriptive, she left her job at Universal and a few days later was given the opportunity to interview for a creative director position with RAW, an independent arts organization with locations in over 70 cities across the world. “It was the toughest interview process I’d ever gone through in my life; they had me take all these tests. I had to interview through four levels of people until they asked me to come to California and offered me the position. That’s when I found out more about the organization and what they were doing and how the process works.”
Just as nervous as she was revitalized, Sarah returned to Dallas and with little instruction, put together the city’s first ever RAW show. “It was scary at first, having nothing to go off of, but I just knew I had to hit the ground running,” she said. “I wasn’t happy with the venue. I didn’t have as many artists as I wanted in it but we ended up having about 600 people come out to that show and I had a really great lineup; some of the first artists I was able to work with are some of the best in the city. I was proud of myself that I held myself to a high caliber. Overall, my friends and family were really impressed. That gave me the momentum I needed to keep going after I saw, ‘Okay I can do this, I can make this happen.’ I just knew right then and there all of the things I wanted to change and fix, and the first thing was getting into a new venue.” Since then, RAW Dallas has moved into Deep Ellum’s LIFE Cultural Center and become the number 2 location in the world. Sarah has executed over 20 successful shows and worked with over 1000 artists but her success was anything but effortless.
“I lean more towards urban audiences and I started to realize it’s harder to get respect in the industry when you lean more towards that audience, but I was proud of the fact that I was creating more opportunities for urban artists.” Her preference for urban art wasn’t the only thing that worked against her. As a woman of color in the music industry she also had to accept that being in the industry meant kicking down doors for people who looked like her, whether she wanted to or not. “I always get that I look Mexican, most people don’t even know that I’m half Black and Asian. I could just see how it was easier for some people. I had peers who did the same things as me and I just saw that it was easier for them to get some of the same things that I wanted. There were more no’s than yes’s. There were some situations where they said it politely, but I knew what they meant. I’m pretty keen on picking up on people’s energies and what they really mean.”
In true hero fashion, she refused to get discouraged despite the industry’s challenges. As she reaches the end of her time with RAW, Sarah thinks ahead to the next phase in her mission to make Dallas’ music scene a competitor on the world stage. “The next level and direction of my work for the city and for myself is moving in the direction of creating an agency for artists to help with PR, artist management, booking, brand development, things like that. I have a strong passion for finding artists with amazing raw talent and helping them reach that new level. The more managers and publicists and people with skills like mine start pairing up with talent in the city, we’ll see more artists able to make it and bring that name to Dallas and start showing the nation and the world that there’s a lot of talent here and they deserve to be seen and heard. I want to be one of those mavens who breaks more artists in the city.”