The Value Of Creating Community In The Music Industry

I am writing on this topic because I want to share with you an experience I have been part of here in Seattle involving my old alma mater of sorts... the Art Institute of Seattle. (I taught there for 18 wonderful years.)

Last Friday night,Tom Pfaeffle, a kind and amazing man, nationally recognized for his limitless talent as a live sound engineer as well as an Audio Producer and studio Engineer, and an outstanding teacher of audio production for the last 15 years at AIS, was senselessly murdered while on a weekend getaway with his wife. It has been on the national news, so I won't go into much detail other than to say that while staying at a rural vacation spot in Eastern Washington and staying at a small motel over there, he accidentally started to use his room key to get into his room, but it was the wrong room. The man in that room, without any words of warning or anything shot him through the door and the bullets went into Tom's kidneys and liver. The man was arrested, but Tom lay in his wife's arms for over two hours before help arrived and could get him to a hospital. He died a few minutes after arriving at the hospital.

Those are the raw facts. They traveled quickly over the internet and through Twitter and Facebook updates. Today the school canceled all audio class until Wednesday, and held a special school memorial meeting for any and all students and faculty and friends who wanted to gather to remember him in any way they chose.

This event was one of the most extraordinary gatherings I have ever experienced. Story after story came out about Tom as a teacher, a friend, a mentor, a professional, but mostly about the man he was!

I kept thinking about what I do now since I retired from formal music business teaching,(except for an online course I teach for a company called Music Industry Educators, and also the occasional workshop or classes I teach on my own through my company FourFront Media and Music.) The value of meeting in a formal setting and working with real live students compared to digital ones is huge. I write books, and record podcasts, and blog, and Twitter and all that stuff including some digital social networking, but it just ain't the same. I learned today how important it is to have a community. For that is what teaching or talking about music subjects, for me at least, is all about... community.

The music industry is very competitive as we know, but is also one of the most amazing industries when it comes to supporting each other when stressful, sad or happy events happen.

I am still mourning my friend and former colleague, and that will go on throughout the many planned memorial services the Seattle music community is already putting together to honor his memory and his many contributions.

But what I am getting at is this. There is real value in creating a music community wherever you live. Yes, I know we can and do have the ability to have online video lectures and panels and classes, and that's all great. However it will never replace the sharing and the (excuse the politically incorrect word) bonding that happens when musicians gather to talk about how they are promoting their music, or what their struggles are.

I have contributed thousands of words over the years to help educate musicians and recording artists about the business of music, but while I was attending today's memorial gathering for Tom Pfaeffle, I realized that continuing to put on 'real world' events has to be in my future plans, not just be a part of my past contributions.

I know all of you who may read this won't be able to attend whatever events I come up with, but I am not the only guy out there who teaches or writes about music business issues for independent artists and bands.

Check out the remarkable work that Bob Baker does for example or David Hooper, Tim Sweeeny, and even Moses Avalon. They all put on some kind of live events all over the United States. In addition go to music business seminars and conferences like SXSW or join NARAS, the Grammy folks, and join a local chapter. They put on events in every city they have a chapter in. (Check out for a chapter near you).

Take my word for it. The internet is great and we can't even imagine what new developments it will offer all of us who love promoting music, but the value of a participating in a real world meeting or school or whatever... cannot be replaced.

Shaking the hand of someone, pressing the flesh, as they use to say, is still very important today, and will be important forever. Perhaps someday you will hook up in-person with such a man such as Tom Pfaeffle was. I wish that for you. It will be an experience you will never forget.

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".

Christopher Knab

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