Bridging Musicians & the Music Industry


By Brittney Saline, Assistant to Connie Frigo, Director of Road of Creativity

Who comes to mind when you think of the music community? Musicians. Teachers, students, audiences. Maybe sound engineers. But did you ever think about industry as being part of the arts world? The companies that dedicate their time and resources to crafting the products you rely on to make the best music you can make?

Road of Creativity couldn’t be more excited to have D’Addario (parent company of Rico Reeds, Bowed strings and Evans/ProMark percussion) as our industry sponsor and partner for the June 2012 Music Entrepreneurship Retreat. D’Addario experts (many of whom are also musicians) will provide first-hand, real-world knowledge of entrepreneurial concepts including marketing, web design, effective social media use, networking, outreach and leadership.

We thought we’d take a moment to get inside the heads D’Addario clinicians David Via (percussionist and Vice President of Sales & Marketing) and Kristen McKeon (saxophonist and Rico Product Specialist) to see what makes them tick and why they’re interested in this retreat.

ROC: We are thrilled to have D’Addario as a partner in the Music Entrepreneurship Retreat – we can’t wait to hear what you and your fellow industry experts have to say. Can you tell us why D’Addario is excited to be a part of this retreat?

DV: At D’Addario we take pride in evolving to meet the needs of present and future musicians.  Anything we can do to assist the entrepreneurial spirit of tomorrow’s musician is a responsibility in which we eagerly participate.

KM: D’Addario is incredibly invested in bridging the gap between our company and the end user. We view the Road of Creativity Music Entrepreneurship Retreat as a needed service to all musicians—as well as an opportunity to be involved in a mutually beneficial venture from which we can learn as much as we’re sure the participants themselves will learn. We are proud to support the retreat through active participation and sponsorship.

ROC: Many musicians see industry as having a completely foreign – and sometimes opposite – agenda, one against which they have to struggle. What is your response to that point of view?

DV: The two are definitely not mutually exclusive.  An independent artist is the quintessential entrepreneur.  Many talented musicians struggle to make a living due to a general lack of business knowledge, and today’s market is too competitive and fragmented to think that talent alone will prevail.  Artists need to understand the principles of management, marketing, finance, fundraising, etc.  The “industry” and the musicians share a common goal – to share music.  That is what unifies us.

KM: I understand that point of view, because I used to be of that point of view! Many artists believe that art should be pursued for the sake of its creation alone and judged based on the artist’s ability to deliver it—not what it provides its audience.

I am now both a member of the musician community and the industry. Upon assuming this dual role, I learned how  incredibly important it is to refrain from thinking of one’s artistic visions and the goals of an outside audience (including industry) as mutually exclusive. Oftentimes, the end goals are largely the same—we all want to pursue music at the highest possible level we can each achieve. For the musician, it’s producing great music. For the industry, it’s producing great  products that will be widely accepted and utilized in the musical journey towards that goal.

ROC: As you began to expand your experience into industry, what three things surprised you most about the music world beyond the stage and the practice room?

DV: 1. How incredibly competitive and talented the marketplace is.

2. How too many musicians surrender to that competition rather than finding a niche in which their music could find a unique and interested audience.

3. How incestuous our music education system has become: Teachers teach students what they have experienced, and students become new teachers and repeat the same lessons to their students.  There is not enough experimentation and exploration in our traditional music education system.  Don’t worry so much about making a mistake.  Worry more about never taking a chance.  Upon returning from recent ski trip, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was asked if he fell while skiing.  He answered yes, saying that if he hadn’t then he hadn’t skied a challenging enough slope.  While in school take responsible risks, and don’t be afraid of “falling”.

KM: 1.  How little the “bottom line,” (industry as a means of generating revenue) is talked about in the office. By this I mean that D’Addario does not feel like a faceless corporation. Most of my colleagues are other musicians, and we all work daily towards the common goal of making great products and engaging with other musicians in a global way.

2. One of the most shocking things about the industry is how incredibly fast it moves. I would compare it to the pace I encountered in the restaurant/bar industry without as much physical exertion.

3. My time at D’Addario has taught me the skills to be a much better listener (in general). Because of the wide range of personality types I work with as an artist relations contact, as well as the various other job types that D’Addario employs, I had to learn very quickly to adapt my communication style to suit anyone ranging from verbose musicians and teachers to astonishingly quiet engineers. I’ve also learned that there is an art to presenting thoughts and ideas at appropriate times. This continues to be a work in progress!

ROC:  Having built a career as all at once an industry expert, performer and teacher, what is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way?

DV: All activities are ensemble activities: In business it is about playing your part with the team.  In music, it is not about the technical proficiency, but rather the respect and reliability to honor your part as being critically important no matter how small or large.  As a teacher, you can learn as much from the student as the student can learn from you – watch and observe in additional to speaking and demonstrating.

KM: Before I left graduate school, I subconsciously feared that I would stop learning about music once school came to an end. I have learned more in the past two years as an industry representative about music as it exists and functions today than I have in my entire life. The music industry is fast-paced, competitive and at times grueling, but it forces you to live in real time—not within small isolated chambers. I would offer this advice to musicians coming out of school—look forward to being out in the world! Look forward to relishing the opportunity to put those countless hours to real use.

Interested in learning more about the industry of music? Meet Kristen, David and the rest of the D’Addario team at Road of Creativity’s June 2012 Music Entrepreneurship Retreat. Register now with the Early Bird Discount to receive as much as $250 off your tuition!



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