Among the most passionate people about music are those who work in the music industry: at labels, as press relation people, as concert promoters, as booking agents, as managers, as music critics, and so on. RREVERB proposes to its readers a series of interviews with passionate music artisans.
Today, we meet…

JIM DONIO

What’s your name, what’s your role in the company you are presently working at, and since when are you working there? Where are you from and where do you live now?

James DonioMy name is James (Jim) Donio, and I’m President of the Music Business Association (Music Biz), a membership organization that advances and promotes music commerce across the full spectrum of monetization models, including streaming, paid downloads, physical retail, and more. I joined Music Biz in 1988, when it was the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), as Director of Creative Services, and became President in 2004. I was born in Philadelphia, and am proud to continue to live and operate Music Biz’s headquarters from just over the bridge in Southern New Jersey.

Tell us more about Music Biz, what’s the 2016 edition about?

When Music Biz moved its annual confab to Nashville in 2015, the event saw a 40% increase in attendance, drawing publishers, managers, artists, songwriters, startups and more to meet with the commerce and content communities that Music Biz has been known for assembling for the past 58 years. This year’s edition will take place on May 16 to 18.

Some topics we’ll cover are Artists Management, Brand & Strategic Partnerships, Entertainment & Technology Law Conference, Metadata, Music Educators Meetup, Music Startup Academy, and so on.

We have an event called “Finding Your Voice: Musics Leading Ladies Speak Out” and also the Songwriters & Publishers Town Hall.

music biz 2016

When have you started to work in the music business?

NARM was my first job in the music industry back in 1988. Prior to that, I held a variety of communications, PR, and event-related positions for the Association of Information Systems Professionals (AISP) based in Willow Grove, PA.

At what age have you started to love music?

I have always loved music from a very early age. I played a variety of instruments in grade school, and subsequently joined a local band that participates in the annual Mummers Day Parade in Philadelphia. I played in the band for many years. In terms of music appreciation, I have enjoyed listening to all kinds of music my whole life.

Mummers Day Parade in Philadelphia ((Dec. 31, 2010 - Source: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images North America)

Mummers Day Parade in Philadelphia ((Dec. 31, 2010 – Source: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images North America)

When you were 20, what was your dream (in the music world)?

I really did not have any career aspirations in the music business at 20. Actually, I wanted to be a film critic on TV. I did do some local TV broadcasting and I joined AFTRA. That actually led to some extra work in movies that were shot in the Philadelphia area. If you look closely you’ll see me in the movies “Mannequin,” “Clean & Sober,” and “Stealing Home.” My professional introduction to the industry was when I was hired to work at NARM in 1988. After that, I quickly developed a deeper connection and commitment to the music world.

ABOUT THE MUSIC BUSINESS

Do you live from it?

Well, I am not a working musician.  But, I’ve certainly been able to make a great living in a unique role in the business — supporting the businesses and people who bridge the gap between artists and fans. I’ve always appreciated the commercial and cultural contributions record stores make to their local communities. The new forms of digital distribution have added a new dimension to music consumption. I’m happy to make my living facilitating these connections between commercial businesses, artists, and fans.

MB15 The Who Group Pic

With The Who, 2015

Is it still possible to make a living with music today? What do you need to do to make ends meet?

Yes, I think the massive amount of new music released each week, month, and year is a testament to that. The industry is beginning to stabilize. We are seeing massive growth in streaming access models, as well as consistent increases in vinyl sales. The industry is rife with new opportunities, and that only means good things for artists, too.

Who did you meet in your musical path that was key to your development/success?

Mickey Granberg

Mickey Granberg

My biggest mentor was Mickey Granberg, who hired me at NARM. I learned so much from her. She was definitely an inspiration; someone who showed tremendous confidence in my abilities and encouraged me to go after the top position of leading the Association.

What do you like about your current position?

I’m so lucky to be in the center of the music business at one of the most exciting times in its existence. The lines of music commerce are being redrawn every day, and I’m really proud to advocate for promising new models while also highlighting the value that physical music stores still bring to the marketplace. In addition, as an Adjunct Professor in the Music Department at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, I get to help prepare the next generation of music business creators and leaders.

What would you change about the music business today?

If I had a magic wand, I would want to bring about a stronger sense of trust and partnership in the business overall. Players must compete, but they must also cooperate so all boats can rise.  I understand the challenges involved, but being able to make it happen would be amazing.

NARM Music Biz 2012 Awards Dinner Party And Red Carpet

CENTURY CITY, CA – MAY 10: Actress/singer Katy Perry and President of NARM Jim Donio attend the NARM Music Biz 2012 awards dinner party at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 10, 2012 in Century City, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

Which great personal goal have you not achieved yet?

I would love to write a play or a novel someday. My college degree is in journalism, and I consider myself a writer first and foremost. There have been so many ideas kicking around in my head for decades, and I would love the have the time and luxury to bring some of them to fruition.

Vinyl, cassette, CD or digital?

All of them, of course. The experience of music is not one size fits all. It’s a spectrum of choices that every music fan can and should have.

ON ARTISTS AND MUSIC

What are your preferred music genres? Was it always the case through your life?

I have always been a big fan of Pop, Broadway, and Soundtracks, but in later years I have added Country and Smooth Jazz to the list, as well as gained exposure to many other kinds of music and enjoy discovering and listening to a variety of artists, songs, and albums.

On a desert island, you bring those 5 albums (no more!)

Original Soundtrack from West Side Story
Original Cast Recording from Gypsy
The Dixie Chicks Fly
Bette Midler Experience The Divine
Beatles #1s

Playlist!

 

Who is the friendliest artist/music celebrity you’ve met?

It would be impossible to select just one, as I have had the good fortune to meet so many legendary and iconic artists throughout my career. The most memorable have certainly included hosting Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Luther Vandross, Lisa Marie Presley, Dick Clark, Don Cornelius, Taylor Swift, Buddy Guy, BB King, and Meghan Trainor.

Lisa Marie Presley

Lisa Marie Presley

Some artists weren’t friendly nor easy to work with. Without naming them, can you pinpoint why or the circumstances of a negative experience? Is ego always the problem?

Well, this certainly comes with the territory in my position. I will always remember the experience of trying to work with a comedian who was hosting one of our award shows. He did not show up for his rehearsal, and when I went looking for him, the hotel said he had rented a car and left the property. Upon his return, I went to his room, and he did not answer the door. So, I finally got him on the phone and was met with such a barrage of profanity and unprofessional behavior that I had not ever encountered, nor to this day have seen repeated, thankfully.

Which brilliant artist should have made it big, but didn’t (yet)?

This is a tough question. I have seen so many new artists take the stage at our conventions over the past three decades. I have been incredibly impressed with their music and showmanship, only to be disappointed for them when they simply did not go very far with their careers. It’s just the nature of this business. It is so unbelievably competitive and, some would even say, unforgiving. It is not for the faint of heart, whether you are on the creative side or the business side. You have to love it, believe in your talent, take your chances, and hope for the best. That’s all any of us can do in our lives, right?

bette midler

Who would you like to meet? What would you tell/ask them?

While I have seen them perform live many times, I have yet to personally meet my two favorites: Bette Midler and The Dixie Chicks. I would simply thank them for the countless hours of entertainment and inspiration they have provided to me and their fans around the world.

Thank you James!

For more information on Music Biz, click on the logo below!

music-business-associationThe mission of the Music Business Association is to advance and promote music commerce. It provides common ground by offering thought leadership, resources, and unparalleled networking opportunities, all geared to the specific needs of their membership.

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier
Fondateur et rédacteur en chef
Google+

Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 4 500 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Nicolas a publié "Les perles rares et les grands crus de la musique" en janvier 2013, un ouvrage de 1250 pages en deux tomes.