Melody J. Myers
Making Noise 009: Donna Borges, founder of ALTANGELES and Cool Mom Management
Hi Donna! Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer my questions, how are you?
For those who don’t know you, can you give them a little introduction?
Hi! I’m Donna Borges, I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of ALTANGELES and I’m also a band manager for Joynoise through my management company Cool Mom Management. I’m also a marketing student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles (graduating in May!).
When did you know that you wanted to work in music? How did you start?
Ever since I was little, I’ve always been interested in music—both listening to new artists and playing music myself. I taught myself how to play guitar in high school and sang throughout my childhood. I think I knew I wanted to work in music or at least be more involved in the scene in high school when I started going to shows a lot and discovering lesser-known artists.
What made you want to start ALTANGELES? How did it come into fruition?
In high school, my whole friend group was really into Hippo Campus—who at the time were still a relatively small band. My friend Allison and I were talking one day during our junior year of high school about how cool it would be to start a platform to share other lesser-known artists like Hippo Campus with people who would like their music… and then we started ALTANGELES the summer after our freshman year of high school!
ALTANGELES has become such a huge platform in the Southern California local music scene, how do you go about running a massive platform?
I honestly don’t even know… it’s a lot of hard work and organization to keep everything together especially now that our team has grown substantially since we started in 2018. It’s challenging in a way because I’m running this while being a full time student and dealing with other projects and commitments, but at the same time it’s super easy because I’m super passionate about it, and it’s naturally one of my highest priorities.
What drives your determination and ambition when it comes to your creativity when it comes to running the publication?
I really love the community that has formed around ALTANGELES and all of the amazing people I’ve been able to work with and experiences I’ve had because of it. Especially now that we have a solid community of people who look to us for content, I feel like I owe it to them to keep consistently creating good content and finding great new artists to promote. And of course, every time I discover a great new artist, I’m super inspired to keep going because I want to share their music with everyone as well!
What advice would you give someone who wants to work with ALTANGELES, or music publications in general? How do you think people should go about making that happen for themselves?
Honestly, my advice is to just go for it! If you want to write for a publication, send an email and ask how you can get involved. If you want to start your own publication, set up a website and start writing. It’s easier than ever to create content and put it out there yourself, so my advice is to get out there and go do it!
Besides running ALTANGELES, you always founded cool mom mgmt! How did that happen? What inspired you to create it?
I’ve always loved the idea of being a “band mom” and as I got more involved in the music industry through internships and meeting bands, I realized that artist management sounded like something I would be good at and would enjoy a lot. It started just as a general idea for a while until early 2020 when I started interning for BFrank Management in Los Angeles, which pretty much confirmed for me that management is something I really wanted to do. At the end of January, I officially asked my friends in Joynoise if they were looking for a manager—and they said yes! And thus Cool Mom Management was born, haha.
Since music is a male dominated industry, do you believe that it was harder for you to break into the music industry? How were you able to stand your ground?
So far, I haven’t had too much trouble breaking into the industry and I haven’t faced many problems because I’m a woman—and hopefully I won’t have any issues in the future. I’ve been really inspired by other women and non-binary people in the industry who are doing the things that I want to do, and I really want to be that inspiration for other non-cis-men who want to be a part of the industry but may feel like there isn’t space for them. I think things are changing a lot in that regard—I like to hope the industry will continue to grow more inclusive and diverse over these next few years.
Who would you say inspires you the most?
I really can’t narrow it down to one person, I think all of my friends in the scene inspire me the most. To name a few specific people, I’m inspired by Joynoise and seeing their passion and creativity when they write music and by my good friend Allyssa Cornier of Cosmic Bloom Booking, since she taught me everything I know about booking shows and has been one of my closest friends in the scene since we’ve met. I’m also really inspired by all the professionals I’ve worked with through some of my internships in the music industry.
What are your current favorite music publications?
I love Pure Nowhere, Alt Citizen, and Trash Mag a lot!
You also work alongside with Joynoise! How did that happen?
I had booked them for a few shows and we were friends for a bit before late January, when I interviewed them for my friend Salma’s zine. That day I went with them while Salma did a photoshoot for the zine, and at the end of the shoot I asked the lead singer Koch if Joynoise was interested in having a manager, and the rest is history. Now we’re super close and it’s been really exciting to watch them grow while working on their debut album that’s set to come out in 2021!
You do so much from ALTANGELES, cool mom management, and managing Joynoise. How do you motivate yourself to keep going?
I just really love being involved in music, it’s a lot easier to keep up on these projects since they are my true passions… it’s definitely harder to keep myself going when it comes to schoolwork.
If you weren’t doing the job that you do in music, what would you have chosen to do?
I feel like I would be doing marketing for a cool fashion or home décor brand. I also really love graphic design, I think it would be cool to be a graphic designer or maybe a vintage seller… I love thrifting.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned running a publication and a management?
I would say that I learned that if you want to do something, the best way to go about it is to just do it yourself. I never really expected ALTANGELES to become what it is today when I originally started it, but I’m so glad that I did because it’s grown to be something really cool and special.
What’s one of your proudest moment you’ve had so far?
Probably Phantom Fest last year, it was the biggest show I’ve ever put on and I co-promoted it with Allyssa from Cosmic Bloom Booking. We had such a great lineup with a lot of our good friends and there was a really amazing turn out. Overall, it was a really fun time and it sort of showed me just how special of a community we are creating!
What would like to change about the music industry?
I wish the greater music industry was focused more on the talent and creativity of artists and less on what will bring in the most money. We should be rewarding artists that are innovative and that are bringing new life to music instead of relying on the same old sounds that will guarantee profit. I also think that our industry especially needs to do more to increase diversity… it really is a white male-dominated industry and that definitely needs to change. I think with increasing diversity we will see less misogyny and sexual harassment cases and more accountability in music, which is another thing that needs to change in the industry.
What advice would you give someone who wants to do exactly what you are doing?
Be prepared to be really busy and to work really hard—but know that your hard work and passion will pay off immensely! Do what you want to do and make it happen for yourself!
If you could recommend me anyone to interview next, who would it be?
Allyssa Cornier (Founder of Cosmic Bloom Booking, show photographer, overall amazing woman in music) or Salma Bustos (the best photographer I know, absolute badass).
Thank you to Donna for participating in Making Noise! We're beyond grateful to have her on. She can be found on her personal Twitter and Instagram; you can find ALTANGELES on Twitter and Instagram; and you can find Cool Mom Management on Twitter and Instagram!