What Does It Really Take to Make It in the Music Business?
Read about how three members of Bay State College's Entertainment Management department offer you the benefit of their real-world experience.
Class: Venue Management
The ambitious 1986 launch of the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts-- now known as the Xfinity Center-- was just getting under way and a job opened. "Even though I loved my other work, I thought I would see if I could actually make money working in the music industry," recounts Lee Zazofsky, who was working in social services when he joined the outdoor amphitheater that would later host bands like The Who, The Clash and Pink Floyd back while it was still under construction. It proved the start of a successful tenure that would continue until his retirement as its even manager in 2018.
Because of the season nature of the 19,000-seat venue's operation during the off-season Zazofsky managed indoor facilities like the Orpheum and the Paradise, amassing experience in every facet of event management, from booking talent and marketing shows to crowd management and audience experience. "Every show is different, every crowd has its own dynamic and demographic to accommodate, "he says, noting that safety is a particular concern. "In today's world, keeping a venue viable and profitable while keeping everyone safe is a challenge."
At Bay State College, Zazofsky views sharing his hard-won experience in venue management as an opportunity to give young music fans opportunity. "Getting hired into a venue can take you in so many different directions, he says. "Whether you just love music or want to be performing as a musician, learning about what goes on in a venue gives you a chance to get your foot in the door."
Class: Entertainment Law & Ethics
David McWane broke into the music scene as the lead vocalist, lyricist and songwriter of the internationally acclaimed band Big D and the Kids Table, a band he started at age 17. He's been performing with the band steadily ever since, touring worldwide. With 17 CDs and 13 music videos to its name, Big D is a three-time winner of Boston Music's Best Punk Band award.
Between tours and recording sessions, McWane also writes and performs music for children's television. Along the way, he's earned a reputation as a "DIY musician," expert in everything from getting gigs to copyrighting music. "When you don't have a band manager, you have to take on all those responsibilities-- everything from getting your foot in the door at clubs to selling merchandise while on tour," he says.
It was the desire to share practical know-how that led McWane to teach. "A lot of us learn how to play music but we don't learn about the importance of making sure your songs are registered," he explains. "People helped me early on-- the singer of the Toasters sate me down and taught me about publishing, so I started sharing what I know. I love to break that down for young musicians."
Class: Advanced Live Sound
Ever since William Powell starting attending concerts as a teenager, he knew he wanted to be a sound engineer. "Everyone else would watch the musicians and want to be them, I'd look at the guys doing the sound and think, 'I want to do that,'" he says. Since he graduated from the New England Institute of Art in 2008, Powell has been living that dream career for a series of clubs and event spaces in the Boston areas, including House of Blues and Brighton Music Hall. In addition to serving as an adjunct professor at Bay State College, he continues his current role as production manager at Brighton Music Hall.
"Anybody can plug a wire into a speaker, but understanding all the different technical aspects and how they fit together for the artist, the venue and the crowd can make or break a good-sounding show," says Powell. It's that level of expertise that he seeks to impart to his students, who start out learning technical skills in a classroom setting then move to outside venues to work directly with brands and venues. "The idea is for them to grasp a venue in it s entirety, so they can not only handle the quipment to do sound for a show, but also understand everything else that goes into that-- dealing with the artists, understanding the acousics of the space and the audience," Powell says. Putting theory into practice really allows them to learn very quickly."