Industry Pro: Digital Marketing Executive Jason Feinberg
With his educational background in IT and his passion for – and deep knowledge of – the evolving music business, Jason Feinberg is supremely qualified for his chosen profession: marketing music online and managing the web presences of artists. The story of his career path will be very instructive for those YII readers who wish to have a successful career in a branch of the entertainment industry that is struggling to adapt to the new technologies increasingly impacting its bottom line.
Current position: Founder and President, On Target Media Group, a music industry digital marketing firm. I am responsible for finding and retaining artist and record label clients, devising digital marketing plans, interfacing with everyone from technology companies to gossip bloggers, and staying aware of daily trends in the music and technology industries.
College & degree: BA Management Information Systems, Western Washington University
Internship: I did college radio promotion at Nitro Records and I worked at the LA chapter of National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) doing event coordination.
First job in the entertainment industry: I started as a DJ, but quickly rose to Music Director at the UNLV college radio station KUNV. It wasn’t paid, but it certainly was a job. My first full time paying music industry job was at Favored Nations, the record label run by guitarist Steve Vai.
Big break: That’s a tough call. I’ve had a lot of good people help me along the way, some of who are still giving me breaks. But I’d have to say the biggest boost was Steve Vai offering me a job at his record label at the end of a three-hour guitar lesson and deep conversation. Yeah, that was a pretty amazing day!
Eureka moment: I have a eureka moment every three months or so. They tend to relate to massive successes or mistakes at my company. For example, when I lost a project to a competitor that I thought was a sure thing, I suddenly became well aware of the areas my competitor was stronger, and instantly began working at improving our services there. When an idea I thought was an average one exploded and brought us a bunch of new business, my eureka moment was realizing I am so entrenched in this industry that I understand some things even deeper than I give myself credit for. If I had to decide on one ultimate eureka moment, it was when I realized that being my own boss is the only arrangement that works for a guy like me.
Career path: My career path was almost derailed when I graduated college. Instead of going the hard route and looking for a job in the music industry, I went the fairly easy route and took a high paying computer job. It was at a very formal, corporate company and I was instantly miserable. It paid well and offered a very clear and prosperous path ahead, but that wasn’t enough to get over the stuffy environment that went against everything in me. I quit and took a job at a six-person startup in a basement and loved every second from there on out. However that only lasted a few years, as my music industry calling never went away and I eventually realized I needed to move to Los Angeles and get back on the path that had been clear since I was six years old.
Describe a typical work day in your current position: I start every day by trying to grasp all the amazing things that have happened since I left the office the night before. In the area where music and tech collide, interesting developments happen every single day, and I read many blogs and newsletters to take a current temperature.
I spend the next eight to ten hours alternating between sending and replying to a mountain of email, phone calls, meetings, Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, web development, sending out invoices, finalizing reports, and brainstorming interesting marketing strategies. The benefit of running a small company is I get to do a little of everything; the downside is I have to do a little bit of everything.
Who are your clients? We work with a lot of established artists, and record companies marketing special re-releases and boxed sets. We’ll consider newer artists but only they need to have some level of momentum, already playing shows and building up followers on FB, blogs, Twitter, etc. We can turn up the volume on that, create new avenues for marketing, connect them with some of the bigger players and on-line opportunities.
Worst job (or day) in entertainment industry: The worst job in entertainment is working as an intern or assistant for someone that is neither giving amazing training or has any intention of helping you in your career. When I bring on an intern, I make sure they receive some level of value. If I can’t hire them, I at least make sure they leave here with solid skills that will help them in a future job. A lot of people in entertainment thrive on taking advantage of others without giving anything back; if you are in this position, you have the worst job in the industry.
Best job (or day) in entertainment industry: The best job in the industry is artist management. Managers run the show at a level like never before. It is creative yet structured, requires imagination but also a business sense, and is involved in every influential decision an artist makes. In the past, managers had a far more limited role; these days they act as manager, record label, marketing consultant, merchandiser, retailer, artist development rep, and much more. It’s worth noting however, that all these things can also make this the hardest and most demanding job in the industry.
Best thing about your current job: The best thing about my current job is feeling that I am part of developing an entirely new business model for the music industry. We spend a lot of time working on direct-to-fan initiatives – enabling an artist to market and sell directly to their fans. I am a firm believer that for many artists this is the future of the business and being a part of that is very rewarding.
Worst thing about your current job: The worst thing is that we (as an industry) are still having a very hard time creating a sustainable, quantifiable, scalable business model. It is often frustrating being able to get an artist a tremendous amount of eyes and ears yet not have it translate into tangible results. We’re all still searching for that magic formula, and we’re still quite a ways off. At least I am in the growth part of the industry, versus many of my colleagues in areas that are shrinking.
Brush with greatness: I’ve been fortunate to get to meet and work with many amazing people, from famous musicians to industry leaders. I am often impressed with what they have accomplished, but what always stands out to me is character. I consider my brushes with greatness the times that someone of massive character has seen something in me and offered honest, meaningful advice or direction. You can work for an entire year and not learn as much as when someone far more experienced sums it up for you in three sentences.
Secret of your success/advice to the newbie: The secret of my success is that I am always thinking two steps ahead. I wish I were thinking four steps ahead, but two will do for now. In an industry as fast paced and as uncertain as entertainment, people that can base today’s decisions on tomorrow’s realities are the ones that will be successful. This is easier said than done – one needs a hefty dose of common sense, a deep reserve of passion for when things get tough, and more important than anything else, relationships and people that believe in you.
Next move: For people in my position, there are three primary options (that end well). The first is to do this for as long as possible, hopefully getting better and better all the time. The goal here is to be an industry leader, have influence, make good money, and have a real impact on an artist’s career. The second option is to merge with a different yet complimentary company to enhance each other’s strengths. The third option is sell the company, buy a big private tract of land, become a hermit, and spend the rest of your life growing your own vegetables and thinking about the good ol’ days. Not sure which of those three is for me…
In addition to building his thriving business, On Target Media Group, Jason also finds time to blog about music business issues on the PBS Media Shift blog, which tracks how new media is impacting society and culture. (Here’s a link to one of Jason’s posts that should be required reading for anyone interested in the future of the music biz.) He has also taught at Musicians Institute(subjects include internt and mobile marketing, independent artist marketing, how to start and run a record label) for the past six years.
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