Panel discusses opportunities, insights of the music business

Craig Gustafson

Jimmy “Jam” Harris’ Minneapolis-based Flyte Tyme Productions has produced more than 40 recordings that have gone gold or platinum, so he knows a few things about the music business.
Harris, along with 10 other music professionals, spoke to more than 50 area high school students Wednesday at an all-day workshop in the West Bank’s Ted Mann Concert Hall. Students learned about various aspects of the industry, from the performance to the business side.
The event was sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the University’s School of Music and the College of Liberal Arts.
Griff Morris, a NARAS executive director, emceed the discussions, using the expertise of the panel to bring students through the process of writing a song to recording it to eventual sales distribution and radio air play.
“It showed students legitimate professional opportunities across the spectrum,” Morris said.
Producer Harris said as long as people have a love of music, the business still has a myriad of possibilities even if performing doesn’t pan out.
He said two of Flyte Tyme’s assistant engineers didn’t even have work experience when they began employment with the company.
X-man, whose credits appear on many of Flyte Tyme’s productions, began as an errand boy.
Another engineer used to snowplow the parking lot and eventually worked his way into the studio.
Harris emphasized a person doesn’t have to move to California or New York to make music.
“All of us on the panel are proof that you don’t have to go somewhere else,” Harris said. “You can stay in Minnesota and be successful.”
After the panel discussion, the students broke into small sessions that correlated with their particular interests. Some talked recording with Michael McKern, who has worked with Soul Asylum and The Replacements, others discussed self-marketing with internationally recognized composer Judith Zaimont.
Edina High School student Tyler Wood said the workshops helped him realize one essential key to success — networking.
“The people who have been around longer know it takes a lot of connections,” he said.
Wood plans to use many of the tips gained at the event to propel his band, Wall Street to Hennepin, toward success.
The day ended with a concert performed by the Hornheads, a jazz group headed by Prince collaborator Mike Nelson.
Bobby Z, former Prince and the Revolution drummer, said people interested in music careers must prepare for many hard knocks before success can become a reality. He currently runs the independent label Zinc Records.
“I’ve made a career of getting hit by pitches,” he said, adding students need to get their foot in the door any way they can. “You can’t play unless you get on base.”
Harris agreed, adding a break can come from anywhere.
“It’s tragic when you miss a break,” he said. “I hate it when people say they’re waiting for a break. Substitute ‘wait’ for ‘prepare’ — it’s all about preparation.
“You better be ready when your break comes.”

Craig Gustafson welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3222.