Playing saxophone in bands such as Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and Dave Matthews Band taught musician and record label owner Jeff Coffin a lot about touring and the music industry.
Coffin imparted some of his knowledge to eager students in the music education and industry majors this past Thursday. He discussed his own experiences in the music industry, not only as a performer and composer, but as a band leader, manager and record label owner.
Aside from touring with Dave Matthews Band for the majority of the year, Coffin also performs with various other groups such as his own, Jeff Coffin and the Mu’tet, as well as the Viridian Trio and Band of Other Brothers.
Coffin enjoys giving back through educating those interested in music and the industry and has given over 300 clinics similar to this one at Rowan. Much of Coffin’s knowledge of the business side of music comes from running his own record label, called Ear Up Records.
John Andrelczyk, a senior jazz education major, appreciated the opportunity to learn from Coffin.
“I’m part of the Wind Ensemble, and I’m really excited to have Jeff come in and talk to us,” Andrelczyk said. “I’d like to get a better understanding of how he operates.”
A majority of the 40-plus students in attendance were music industry majors, so much of Coffin’s talk was centered around how he manages to make money in the music industry and how he manages to keep it all held together.
His own record label seemed to be a large focus of the conversation. Coffin touched on some of the complexities of starting his own label.
“Even within the label part of it, I had to get a logo, had to deal with contracts, secure the website stuff, making sure nobody had the label already, that it was protected,” he said.
According to Coffin, carefully agreeing to a contract with a label can be the riskiest part of being a musician.
“All you have to do is look at the car the producer is driving or the shoes that the executive is wearing and you’ll know who’s making the money,” Coffin said.
While many labels focus solely on generating cash, Coffin noted that his own label does not deal in very large profits like many other bigger ones and that they are more interested in getting new music to the listeners and supporting aspiring musicians.
Jayce Williams, a sophomore music industry major, found Coffin to be a source of inspiration.
“I really took away his work ethic,” Williams said. “He is really doing everything and he seems very stable. I’m taking a publishing class right now and he talked a lot about how he makes money from [Broadcast Music, Inc.] and how he makes different revenue streams.”
Many of the questions taken from the audience involved Coffin’s performances with Dave Matthews Band and how he manages to balance his life, career as a touring musician and his own sanity. Coffin’s answer emphasized sacrifice, which is a necessity when it comes to keeping up on one’s craft.
Through events like these, Coffin is able to deliver some of his wisdom from years of working in the music industry.
“I love interacting with students and I feel that having been on the road now for such a long time, I have information that will benefit them,” Coffin said. “ I love hearing how young players are playing. I love this time period for them because they’re very malleable and they’re looking for their independence, they’re looking for their voice, for direction.”
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