From playing music to teaching the ins and outs of the music business, Bobby Borg has done it all. Borg has taken his 25 years of experience and gifted it to aspiring musicians and business professionals, serving as a music business educator at Musician’s Institute in Hollywood and at the University of Los Angeles in California. As a music business and A&R consultant and devoted teacher, Borg shared his knowledge to the industry and published two Billboards Books best-sellers, The Musician’s Handbook: A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business and Music Marketing For The DIY Musician. MEB editor Emma Guido had the chance to ask Bobby a few questions after attending his marketing seminars at Berklee College of Music. Read below to learn a great insight on what it truly mean to be a music industry professional.
MEB: You have probably touched on every aspect of the music industry during your long career; how do you explain your start and versatility throughout it all?
Bobby: I started from the heart. I just started banging on stuff because it was what I was naturally feeling inside. It was the stuff my dad was listening to around the house and I was starting to emulate it by playing it all over the furniture and my head and everywhere else. By being a musician and surviving in the industry, naturally you have to learn about the business. So I started to transfer more onto the business side of things, sort of as a natural progression. I think that’s kind of what explains my versatility from being a musician to being on the business side. It’s pretty natural.
How were you able to decide that where you are today is the right track?
Again, just kind of by following my heart. I have this theory of connecting the dots, sort of going through life and one thing leads to the next and it just felt like a natural step. To go through the trials and tribulations of being a musician to figure out the industry to then go into the business side just kind of makes sense. It’s like an athlete beginning to play football or baseball and then eventually going on to coach the team.
What has been your favorite title as a music industry professional and why?
I think I like professor [laughs]. And the reason why is because for so many years I was a musician, so professor is the exact opposite and it shows incredible diversity. Seriously, I think that’s my answer.
Experiencing both the business and creative sides of the music industry, how do you feel about the connection between the two? Do you think that to be successful in a music career you must have knowledge on both ends of the spectrum?
They are very, very connected. The more you understand musicians, the better you’re going to be as an industry person and as a musician, the more you understand what the industry people want, the more realistic you’re going to be.
With all of this experience, how do you use your consulting skills to make sure your client is benefitting the most from working with you?
First of all, I really listen to what the client wants, first and foremost, because that’s the number one objective, to meet the needs of the client. And then by virtue of going down that path, so to speak, I can advise them about the pitfalls and the obstacles so that they can better steer their own careers around those obstacles and face less calamities on their journey.
What inspires you to assist other industry professionals in making the right decisions?
Because it brings meaning to any of the trials and tribulations that I’ve experienced as an artist. In other words, the fight wasn’t in vain. I can use what I learned and I can actually share it with other people in the business, so that the road to their success can be less bumpy. And by virtue of going down that road myself, by sharing with others, my experience is that those things weren’t in vain.
As a marketing specialist in the industry, what is some of the best advice you can give to musicians who are trying to brand themselves?
Good question. Number one, you have to be real. It has to be believable. And it has to be absolutely consistent. You can’t pretend to be something you’re not, because I think ultimately people will see right through that, number one. Number two, you have to be consistent in everything that you do. You can’t be wishy-washy, because a lot of times people don’t really know who they are. You really have to kind of think about that.
You also take your knowledge to the classroom and work as a music industry instructor at both UCLA and Berklee College of Music. As someone who works directly with the next generation of professionals in this industry, how do you predict the music industry will look in the next 10 years?
There’s going to be music and music and music. Music is never going to go away. We dance to it, we laugh to it, we sing to it, we get married to it, and we get divorced to it. It’s always going to be there. I’ve literally seen the world go from vinyl to cassettes to 8-tracks to CDs to digital downloads to streaming. It’s going to go somewhere else. It’s just going to be music in a different configuration. People are going to love to get together and listen to music and go to concerts and things and they’re going to be interested in artists. The industry is just always going to be different. The way people consume music is always going to be different. Peoples’ habits are going to be different. But there’s always going to be music. I think that’s one thing that we all know for sure.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? Do you find yourself comfortable in your working life now, or are there more parts of the industry you’d like to explore?
That’s a very good question. That’s the type of question that I ask my clients. I really enjoy what I’m doing right now, but I have to say, I perhaps see myself doing what I’m doing now but maybe even tenfold. I’ll definitely be the author of many more books, I’ll definitely be perhaps doing my own online courses, my own school called something like Bobby Borg Music School Online .com or something like that. I might be doing some more professor work at various universities, I might go get my doctorate and teach at USC. Who knows? To be honest with you, it’s quite open. I have some financial goals, and those are to retire a double millionaire [laughs]. So I’m interested in being wise about money and investing and things like that, which I think is something that a lot of the young kids should really think about too. Save your money, budget your money, invest your money. Know about the wonderful thing called compound interest and save and save and save.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your long and diverse career as a music industry professional?
I could tell you a couple things. Number one, the first time I heard myself on the radio. I think I was bout 18 and it was the most unbelievable experience in the world. Number two, the first time I saw myself on MTV was the most unbelievable thing in the world. Number three, when I got endorsed by Toma Drums, that was amazing because they literally sent me a catalogue and said “Pick whatever you want”. That was unbelievable. Number four, playing at Jones Beach in New York with all my cousins and my father behind me in front of a large audience. It was just a really amazing experience because my dad literally saw me as a kid growing up practicing hours and hours and hours a day and now he was standing right behind and a whole crowd of people were cheering. I don’t know what Jones Beach holds, but it felt like there was at least five or six thousand people there. It was just really really cool. That was an amazing experience. When my first book came out, seeing it in a bookstore, that was absolutely amazing. Walking in and teaching my first class at UCLA was an amazing experience. And just waking up everyday and looking up at the beautiful blue sky in Los Angeles and just being healthy is an amazing gift that we all must really really appreciate.
Learn more about Bobby Borg by visiting his website.