Four music industry veterans spoke about their careers and took questions from budding rock stars, bitter burnouts and buzzing music biz fans on Nov. 29 at the Lincoln Center campus.
“Careers in Music: Hitting the Right Note” was sponsored by the Graduate School of Education and the Center of Communication. It was moderated by Danny Goldberg, president of GoldVE Entertainment and the author of Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business (Gotham, 2008).
Panelists included Maureen Lloren, head of publishing at Glassnote Entertainment Group; Edward Vetri, CEO/president of Wind-Up Entertainment; and Peter LoFrumento, senior vice president of corporate communications for Universal Music Group.
They spent the first half of the 90-minute event talking about their daily routines and how they landed their jobs. Goldberg noted in his introduction that turmoil in the music business has made it more of a Darwinian environment than ever.
“I was a mediocre rock writer, eeking out a living on the margins,” Goldberg said. “I finally got a job as a publicist because I needed to pay my rent and I just really wanted to be good at something.
“I made it my business to read every single music writer,” he said. “I would get everything off the newsstand and memorize the names of the people who wrote and got to know them. So when Led Zeppelin was looking for a publicist a few years later, I had expertise about something that mattered to them.”
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Vetri, whose label promote bands such as Creed and Evanescence, said his career has wandered far from the accounting degree he earned from St. John’s University.
All of the panelists recommended interning at music labels to make contacts that eventually could help them find jobs.
“Interns are priceless; it’s always very difficult to find good ones,” LoFrumento said. “My one recommendation is: Be open in terms of where you get placed.”
The question-and-answer period was especially lively. Instead of asking about how to get a job in promotions or artist development, many audience members wanted to know how to further their careers as musicians
The answer they received? Play live.
“If you can win over 25 people in a club, you can win over 25 million people,” Goldberg said.
Vetri agreed, suggesting that musicians should seek out two or three clubs at which they feel comfortable and play there regularly.
LoFrumento noted that social media in particular has revolutionized the industry—both for labels and for musicians.
“It’s taken all those subgenres of music that have always had to fight to be recognized and put them straight to the top. From our perspective as a company, music has never been as in demand as it is now, in all facets of life,” he said.
And what of those who are struggling to reach another plateau or reboot a music career?
Two audience members delivered demo CDs to the panelists, and another lamented that having once been signed to Capitol Records, she had gotten a taste of fame and could not let go of the possibility of revisiting it again.
“The good thing about today is, with the Internet, you can find niche audiences. The most important thing you can do is something—even if it’s small. Instead of trying to hit a home run, you can blog, put a song on YouTube or play in a club one day a month,” Goldberg said.
“Billy Joel wrote Piano Man because he didn’t have a record deal and he was playing in a terrible bar, and he’s one of the most successful songwriters ever. And that was after he’d gotten a record deal and been dropped.”
The future of the business, the panelists agreed, is touring, merchandising and licensing for television, movies and commercials.
“The same people who say, ‘That CD is a rip off for $15,’ will pay $100 for a concert ticket,” Goldberg said. “That’s hundreds of millions of dollars.