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Anson Stevens-Bollen

Rock ’n’ Roll High-School

Panel discussion help musicians learn the business of their art

August 20, 2014, 1:00 pm


o choose a career that involves writing, performing and/or recording music is to choose a relatively rough path. This isn’t stable work we’re talking about, and there are so many aspects to be taken into consideration it’s mind-boggling.

For most, it would seem that the concept of professional musicianship doesn’t go much beyond playing music you love and hoping everything else falls into place, but this is often not the case. In the old days (read, before the widespread use of Internet), musicians would be courted by labels who would then market and distribute the product for them, thereby allowing them to focus on their craft. Many got rich, many more got screwed and the dark corners of the industry known as pop stars and boy bands proved that quality, talent and hard work don’t matter nearly as much as branding and marketing. Never has this been more true that in today’s musical climate. With the advent of websites and services like Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, etc., there is an oversaturated market that is indifferent to passion and work ethic, and this means that musicians must evolve.

Let’s be clear—this sucks, but whether or not professional musicians like it, they’ve little choice but to adapt or be left behind on the ash heap of history. But what if you lack the tools? What if you lack the stomach to look at your art as a product? The short answer would be, “Tough shit!” Don’t freak yet, though, because help is on the way in the form of the upcoming event, Rock n’ Roll Rap Sessions: Your Band as a Business. Presented by New Mexico Lawyers for the Arts (the folks behind last year’s Business of Music Summit), the panel discussion will be moderated by NMLA Presdient Talia Kosh, co-moderated by musician Brian Hardgroove and feature a host of guest speakers who have embraced the ever-changing business model of music to maximize their impact and potential. 

“This panel isn’t necessarily about do you or don’t you like certain music, it’s about how bands are conducting their business so they can become full-time musicians as opposed to wading from gig to gig just to eat,” Kosh says. “Musicians face many of the same challenges as business startups, but according to the book, The Lean Startup by Eric Reis—and I agree with this—the traditional model where you’re looking at a business plan that focuses on 2 to 3 years out…everything always changes so much, and musicians, like businesses, can outdate themselves.” 

This may sound like it removes the heart and soul from music, but the purpose of the panel is to discover how best to sell the overall package of your band.

“I used to get turned off when people would talk about music and business at the same time, but then I realized that the people who did that were the people that knew how to do that, and the reason they were successful,” Hardgroove tells SFR. “This usually happens with young people, but in Santa Fe I see people 30, 40, 50 years of age who have the same reaction and, if that’s the case, it’ll always be that way unless we address it and cause change.”

Hardgroove, best-known for his work with seminal rap group Public Enemy knows from where he speaks. He’s had a multi-decade career playing with some of the best and most popular musicians imaginable (author’s note: Hardgroove is currently working on a project with The B52’s Fred Schneider…gasp!), and boils down the easiest way to set a trajectory for success into a few simple words: “Ask for help,” he says. “The only reason I got the chances I had is because I was fortunate enough to have people help me.”

Other speakers include singer/songwriter Sean Healen, drummer Braden Anderson, musician/producer John Kurzweg and Linda McDill, who focuses on placement of music in film and television.

“The digital world has cut out so many middle-men that in order to succeed musicians almost have no choice but to become business-people,” Kosh adds. “If nothing else, I’m hoping the panel will spark discussion on these topics.”

Rock n’ Roll Rap Sessions: Your Band as a Business
6 pm Wednesday Aug. 20. Free
Santa Fe Community Gallery
201 W Marcy St.,


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