Want to get in the music biz? This Web site is a good starting point

ON POPULAR MUSIC

May 03, 2007|By RASHOD D. OLLISON

I suspect the phenomenon of American Idol has seduced millions into thinking that a booming career in the music business can be established in no time, that just about anybody who can halfway carry a tune can be a superstar. Although over the years there have been many exceptions (indeed too many to name), it's not that easy, folks. Not everybody can be the next Beyonce. Besides, one is more than enough.

But don't give up all hope. So you can neither sing nor dance, but maybe you have a talent for writing catchy songs. Or perhaps you have no interest in the artistic side at all, preferring to apply your technological skills to developing recording-studio programs that make banal singers and musicians sound glorious.

So where do you start?

Well, there's this new fancy Web site, ArtistsHouseMusic.org, that offers practical information on career opportunities in the music industry. Launched this week and believed to be the first of its kind, the colorful and easily navigable site offers an interactive community that allows users to learn from successful industry veterans via articles and videos.

Luminaries featured on the site, which cost about $500,000 to produce, include Blue Note Records president Bruce Lundvall, singer-songwriter-film composer Randy Newman and Recording Academy president Neil Portnow. Thanks to funding by legendary trumpeter/record industry executive Herb Alpert and the Norman and Rosita Winston Foundation in New York, the site costs you nothing.

"This is an opportunity for musicians to take advantage of the resources out here," says John Snyder, founder and president of the Artists House Foundation, a nonprofit music company overseeing the Web site. "I wanted to gather up the knowledge for people to access. The music industry is a community. It's a fairly tight one, and this Web site helps bring people into that creative atmosphere."

But don't get it twisted, thinking the music industry revolves around the activities of four conglomerates that make up the major labels, and maybe a sprinkling of large indie companies. Although the business is in the throes of change as album sales plummet annually, the consumption of music continues to rise. This means that music is being used in more creative (and lucrative) ways, becoming an adjunct component to businesses that only a few years ago had nothing to do with it.

Starbucks is a perfect example. It used to be you'd stop in for a grande latte and a slice of banana bread and keep it moving. Now, you can peruse the rack of CDs for sale near the register. The Seattle-based coffee company even has its own record label, Hear Music. Cell phone networks and the boom of ringtones are other examples of how music is becoming a highly profitable part of non-music businesses.

So opportunities to find careers in the shifting industry seem to be mushrooming.

"The artists and the entrepreneurs are going to be the ones to change the industry," says Snyder, a 30-year music business veteran who has worked as a label executive, a producer and a lawyer overseeing business and publishing deals. "The question is how do you perfect your craft? And if the new Web site can encourage artists or entrepreneurs, that's great. You have to inform yourself on things like copyright and the way lawyers talk in the business. These days, you can't depend on anybody else to tell you what you need to know."

Debbie Cavalier, dean of continuing education at Berklee College of Music's online extension school, is one of many contributors to ArtistsHouseMusic.org. Given the industry's current fragmentation and folks' increasing reliance on the Internet, Cavalier says the site is timely, maybe even necessary.

"I was brought on board to develop the music education resources," says Cavalier, a trained musician who for more than 20 years has worked as a music educator and written jingles and theme music for ESPN, the Special Olympics and others. "I certainly would have benefited a great deal from the resources contained within ArtistsHouseMusic when I was first starting out as a music educator. And now, 20 years later, I'm learning from the resources on ArtistsHouseMu sic.org all the time. There's something here for everyone."

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

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