I started my career in the music business back in the late '60s in San Francisco working at one of the first ever Used Record Stores in the country-The Magic Flute. That was really a 'school' of sorts for me in the sense that my love for a wide variety of music was born there. I hung out every day for over six6 months just diving into all the cool records the owner had and customers brought in. I remember so many great conversations with other music hounds and 'vinyl junkies' that inspired and motivated me to want to learn more about any kind of music.
The San Francisco music scene of that era was just unfolding, as was the second British Invasion of bands like the original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green, early Clapton and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds going through Clapton to Jeff Beck to Jimmy Page and morphing into Led Zeppelin, not mention all the American groundbreaking bands like Captain Beefheart and the Mothers of Invention, and the Velvet Underground. in Jazz there was the prime time of Miles Davis and his adventures in music, along with John Coltrane, and all the way to the avant garde space music of Sun Ra's Arkestra - and on and on it went. Then to be able to go see these bands at the Fillmore and the Avalon ballroom. I was lucky enough to be right in the middle of a true renaissance in music.
As the '70s arrived I got an offer to manage a new record store that had sprung up around 1971 - Aquarius Records, eventually buying it in 1972 and watching first hand a major shift in music and the music business - the birth of punk rock and the 'new wave' bands of the later '70s.
It was at this time that my love for music gave birth to another love that would be my main source of interest to this day - learning how the business of music worked. I was a curious guy. I wanted to know how record labels and distributors worked together, what role did radio airplay contribute to the selling of records, and how important was it to learn what publicity contributed to this 'game', as well as observing the live performance industry first as a concert goer, and then as a behind the scenes guy who just soaked up the work that went into putting on a concert and the business of that part of things.
I asked questions all the time during that period, probably driving a lot of my comrades in the music business crazy with all of my questions.
Around 1977 I was even asked to become a DJ on one of the greatest radio stations ever, KSAN the 'Jive 95' underground and ground-breaking station led by visionary rock radio guru Tom Donahue. Being a DJ was like being on the other side of a fence. I saw the business, as I said, first from a music retailers point of view, and simultaneously as a DJ playing cool music that would then send flocks of customers to my store to buy what I played. "How cool is that," I said to myself.
Then within a year I help start and became a co-owner of my own record label, 415 Records, along with a good friend at that time, and fellow music addict, Howie Klein. Wow, now I was really in the thick of things. Learning everyday on-the-job how and what a record label did - signing bands like The Nuns, Romeo Void, Translator, Wire Train, Roky Erickson and many others.
We did well enough to attract the interest of Columbia Records in 1982 and then the curtain that was slowly being lifted with the inner-workings of the music business really started to rise up in importance and interest to me. I thought to myself "This is an amazing job I have," and the first ripples of a desire to explain what I had been learning throughout those 'apprentice-ship' years to others came to mind.
I would however have more to learn before I could really commit to teaching others what made the wheels of this business turn. Next up was to quit working with my label and moving from SF to Seattle to take on the position of being the station manager of a non-commercial public radio station - 90.3 FM. To say the least that was an unexpected learning curve, but one that led strangely enough to my first job of teaching a real class about one part of the music business - radio promotion.
Little did I know at the time that I taught my first class at the Art Institute of Seattle, that I would finally find my real purpose in life, my vocation if you will. I was offered more and more classes on topics that related directly to my life experience that I have described here.
I had become a teacher. That long ago faint whisper-in-my-ear thought about how cool it would be to share my knowledge of the mysteries of the music business with others was now a reality.
For 18 years I taught classes on every aspect of the music business, except music law (I would leave that for real entertainment law attorneys to deal with).
So, here I am some 40 years later (and for the last 15 years as well) not only a teacher, but an author, a consultant, and supporter of any and all people who love music and want to learn more about the business side of it.
That is why I write my books, why I write my blog, why I offer my workshops and seminars on the business of music, why I offer consultations, and why I have committed to interacting with social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter etc. I have this insatiable appetite to not only keep educating artists and bands and any other people who love music the way I do, but I continue to have the same zeal and enthusiasm to check out any and all new developments in this fascinating business of music . We live in a remarkable world of new and evolving digital tools and skills that we can apply to the basic old 'analog' ways of promoting, marketing, and selling music.
What a ride it has been. So, I promised to write a bit about why I do what I do, and now I have put it into words for the first time.
I'll drink to that.
Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.
Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.
He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".
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