Leaders from Texas’ music industry convened at UTSA yesterday for the first UTSA Music Biz Day. The Musicians of Business (MOB) and the Music Department hosted their first music trade show and seminar with a focus on getting started in the music industry. Various groups set up tables in the commons area just outside the recital hall to provide students and the public with information about their respective businesses. Organizations like Giant Noise, the PR firm who produce and present festivals had a representative, SA Sound Garden was there explaining their new co-workspace for musicians and Live Nation & The Aztec Theatre were meeting with folks too, as well about a dozen others brought flyers and literature to exhibit what they do in music.
The first set of panel discussions were very interesting, especially because of who the participants were and their personal stories of success in music. A lot of the questioning brought it back to beginnings (which is fitting for a university setting and for the first MBD) and there was a common sentiment throughout the day of ‘hustle.’ Many of the panelists over the course of day reiterated and had different examples of how you HAVE to want it to make it in music and how showing up is half the battle.
Carl Thiel, music supervisor of Robert Rodriguez films and of Kill Bill, said “Failure is a big part of success,” and that “music is a people business,” professionalism goes a long way.
Joe Stallone, entertainment attorney, said one of his biggest obstacles he overcame was getting his first clients. Stallone said he knew law and could provide the service, but working for a firm that wanted him to charge $400 an hour to musician clients who couldn’t afford to pay him $40 an hour it presented a huge challenge to get started.
Velia Gonzalez, who worked for ASCAP (American Society of Composers Authors and Poets) and is officed right here out of San Antonio, drove home the point of professionalism, showing up on time, asking questions, starting somewhere and not waiting for an opportunity to come your way.
Country singer-songwriter Jack Ingram, was running late but brought his experience and artistic swagger to the stage and gave some insights by telling a story about his beginnings. Jack Ingram said he tried to get his foot in the door by sending his music to a label that never listened to his music, until he showed up to help package CDs and showed people he was committed and a hard worker and it was at that moment, did they begin to listen.
“Orchestra plays concert...Bands plays gigs.” - that's not news, said Troy Peters. To answer the question of how he approaches programming, YOSA Conductor explained what’s behind his vision of a successful performance. Whether it’s at The Tobin or with his three piece band playing at a small capacity venue, Peters attempts to create a unique experience for the audience, something that’s memorable and not found anywhere else.
In the Recording and Broadcasting Panel discussion, Robert Sewell had a great point about getting started and finding a niche in the business that echoed earlier sentiments: You have to start somewhere. He reiterated the point of creating your own opportunities “Take Skrillex for example. He came up with the producers and people that he had been working with.” He explained how you have start somewhere, to find an artist or band you believe and work with them, be their manager or producer, book some shows, make some phone calls on their behalf and work with them on the start of their career as you start yours.
The retail panel included Don Beirschenk, vice president of RBC music, Zach Marr GM of Alamo Music Center, Joe Piland of Doobs Standford Corp and Ezra Hurd standing in for his father, Don the owner of Imagine Books and Records. They discussed what it takes to keep people interested in physically coming to their stores, they each had a different niche to fill and each had stories and strategies about how to become a resource for the community.
District 7 Councilman Cris Medina filled in for County Commissioner Paul Elizondo on the Non-Profits and Advocacy Panel. The panelists talked about the processes and the resources available to the music community and also provided strategies on how to best apply for grants and funding.
The Blogging and Marketing Panel skewed a little more towards local and theater programming and how talent buying and programming is closely tied to marketing an event or venue. Stephanie Guerra of Puro Pinche and Libby Day of Do210 talked about various social media strategies they employ to generate engagement and interest of a particular topic.
Overall, this was a great first run of a what could develop into an important annual music symposium with a Texas focus. There are areas to improve on the next Music Business Day, like breathing room for the scheduling, more participation from the audience (not enough time) and higher attendance but for the inaugural event there was a lot to be proud of.
Many music conferences and seminars have a more international and national focus, while UTSA Music Biz Day focused on getting involved in music in your own backyard. Stephen Ray of the Texas Music Office pointed out how their office is now under the purview of Economic Development and Tourism in the State of Texas, which is important classification, because if music as a whole is to be seen as an equal with other industries such as professional sports or movies - leaders and participants at all levels need to coalesce and demonstrate our impact and UTSA Music Biz Day provides a perfect forum.