By Joseph D’Andrea
A panel of musicians shared their stories about the journey of making music and gave advice about navigating through the business side of the industry during Adelphi University’s music-filled event in the Performing Arts Center on Sept. 27.
To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, an audience of about 50 Adelphi students and faculty
attended the event. Guests featured for “The Business of Making Music” included renowned Puerto Rican saxophonist Jorge Castro, Columbian-American vocalist, band director and creative director Andrea Chavarro and Linda EPO ‘09, a Queens-born musician and Adelphi alum with Haitian-American roots.
The three panelists discussed the importance of valuing one’s own self-worth, especially in the extremely competitive music scene, and advised about being one’s own manager when entering the field and the necessity of working with other musicians.
Chavarro explained that by being a fairly young woman dedicated to performing with an all-women ensemble, there are unique obstacles that inevitably come about. She said that as a musician with those tags, “I have to advocate for myself — both musically and in the business realm.”
Speaking more about the business side of performing, all three panelists agreed that perseverance is instrumental in such a learning process that has its fair share of ups and downs.
“I might have a conflict with the club owner, or I might have a conflict with the sound engineer,” Chavarro said, “but that's not going to deter me from showing up to my next show and it hasn't deterred me. I think that's been a key to my success.”
“Another obstacle is money,” EPO said. “First off, in the music business, to make money, you have to have money. It’s so hard to do this without any sort of economic support or sponsorship, or any old school classical Baroque style patrons, so a lot of us are hustlers… It’s hard to make up for losses that are unforeseen and it’s always good to plan ahead. I'm not saying to work yourself to death but be prepared. Be organized.”
Castro echoed this, saying, “Money is a tool. It can be an obstacle but that depends on how you look at it.”
The guests noted the importance of dressing appropriately for gigs, having an up-to-date passport if traveling for work and speaking to an accountant or lawyer about investing in yourself by having career-related activities pass as business expenses.
Also mentioned was using social media to self-promote. But self-promotion doesn’t only come in the form of advertisements — it’s also achieved through how you value yourself in front of organizers.
“Do not accept anyone not paying you,” EPO said. “Seriously. You are offering how much you value yourself. Your dollar amount next to your name is up to you, but never accept zero because that’s your work. That’s your time, your experience, your education.”
Castro mentioned that there are many streams of income in the music world, using his own example of making commercial jingles in the past. He also explained that the more you invest yourself in the world of your career, the further you’ll go.
“Keep striving,” Castro said. “I can say I play the saxophone [but I also] went into the technical stuff. Now I do lighting, automation and sound. As a bandleader or promoter, you have to do a little bit of everything… It's called the music business for a reason. Everybody loves the music part but the business part is what we’re going to have to deal with.”
Especially for aspiring musicians who may become ultra-focused on themselves, EPO emphasized that collaboration and “being friends with each other” is essential.
“You're not each other's competition,” she said. “You’re each other's network and community. You're not a solo artist. That's not really a thing because you need to play with someone else — you need a band, right? You can't just be locked up in your room playing 5,000 riffs for yourself and no audience and then show up to the gig and not know how to play with everyone else. Make sure that you speak to every single one of your classmates or any other musicians you talk to out there… Even if you have different skills, even if it's not the same genre of music, everyone can help each other.”
The Lulada Club, for which Chavarro acts as the band leader, gave an energetic performance following the panel. Faculty, students and fellow musicians embraced the music on the floor of the Olmsted Theatre.
The free event was sponsored in part by Adelphi’s Department of Music, the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program, the Robert B. Willumstad School of Business and the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.