Interview: Brendon Anthony Discusses Bringing Music & Business to Texas

May 19, 2016

Back in March during SXSW, TuneCore’s executive staff was honored to be invited to Governor of Texas Greg Abbott’s office as we ‘cut the ribbon’ on our newest Austin office. During this time, we were welcomed and embraced by Brendon Anthony, the Director of the Texas Music Office – which was founded in 1990 with the legislative mandate “to promote the development of the music industry in the state by informing members of that industry and the public about the resources available in the state for music production.”

For those who don’t already know, Texas is massive, and with the exception of cities like Austin (SXSW, Austin City Limits), it isn’t one U.S. residents necessarily acknowledge immediately as a go-to ‘music state’. But with hundreds of venues, studios, retail stores, small music business enterprises – and of course thousands of artists that span every genre -Texas has a lot to offer both music creators and music entrepreneurs alike!

We interviewed Brendon about his experiences as a musician in Texas, how his position came about, and why Texas is a great place to be a business-minded creative on either side in 2016:

After 26 years in existence, tell us more about what the Texas Music Office aims to accomplish year-to-year.

Brendon AnthonyThe Texas Music Office is truly a unique agency. Very few state governments have made this type of investment in their music industries. For the last two and a half decades, this office has worked hard to provide unparalleled resources for industry professionals working both in Texas and outside our borders.

This mission, along with our mandate to promote the Texas music industry both here at home and abroad, has not changed. 2015, however, marked a notable expansion in the scope of the office’s responsibilities. Our addition to the Governor’s Economic Development team signaled a new mission. We are to use our office to grow the industry and add new ‘rungs on the industry ladder’ for our professionals who choose to live and create content in their home state.

Too often we lose our emerging talent to industry centers located outside of Texas only to welcome them back as national and international success stories. If our office can play a role in the creation of these brands and assist them in building a successful business from the ground up, we can say that we have made a real impact in the years to come.

This is a question of attracting infrastructure to our state to support our creative class. These content generators are our ‘software developers.’ They generate the intellectual property that the entire music business is based upon. We need to support them, create VC opportunities to allow them the freedom to create, attract businesses to them so that they can build a 360 business around their creations based here in Texas. Year to year, our goals will broaden and gain focus as our recruitment efforts begin to gain traction nationally.

Amy Lombardi, Joe Cuello, Scott Ackerman, Brendon Anthony, Shelby Kennedy, and Kedar Frederic at TuneCore's Austin office

Amy Lombardi, Joe Cuello, Scott Ackerman, Brendon Anthony, Shelby Kennedy, and Kedar Frederic at TuneCore’s Austin office

Tell us more about One Live Media and your transition into the Texas Music Office under Governor Greg Abbott.

OneLive Media originally began as Music One Live, a ticketing and direct-to-fan business based here in Austin. It was tech-intensive, but sought to create new and lucrative verticals for artists, venue owners, and concert promoters. We knew that the collection of fan data was of paramount importance for our various clients and worked with them to build ticketing models that would allow them to more effectively market performances, sell tickets for live events, and move their merchandise online with greater effectiveness.

As our scope and involvement with merchandising rights owners increased, so did our list of client services. We began to focus heavily on E-commerce for major artists and developed international fulfillment operations to suit their needs. My transition from Head of E-commerce at OneLive Media to The Office of the Governor was fairly abrupt. I was contacted by the transition team, post-election, and asked to consider the role of Director of the Texas Music Office. I accepted, closed out my role with OneLive and, after assisting in the transition process with management and new hires, began the process of developing a long term agenda for the Texas Music Office.

Scott Ackerman, Shelby Kennedy, Governor Greg Abbott, Brendon Anthony

TuneCore CEO Scott Ackerman, Shelby Kennedy, Governor Greg Abbott, and Brendon Anthony in March 2016

What do you tell to indie artists – and music business owners  – who are interested in relocating to Texas?

I tell them the truth as I see it. Our office and resources are at your disposal 24/7. You will enjoy unprecedented support from the community that you choose to invest in. We have tools at our disposal (if certain thresholds are met) to assist you in relocation.

For many of the business leaders I speak to, however, the argument is simple. Take a look at your business. How much of it is made up of Texas talent? Why not put a human face to your business in the state that has generated so much of the talent responsible for your success? We love promotional dollars spent on events based here, of course.

What, in my opinion, really helps our artists – in addition to those promotional dollars – is a chance to add components to their brands and build business relationships in their home state.

For a state that could be its own country in terms of size, help readers distinguish a bit between major cities’ music scenes and what makes them special.

This is a great question. Texas is a vast state made up of many different regions and major hubs. Each has their own contribution to make and all have, over the generations past, done so in very famous ways. In fact, this answer could end up being several pages long on its own!

I’ll just speak to the contemporary happenings and direct readers to the sizable Texas music history resources located on our website and also to the myriad museums and collections across the state devoted to the contributions made by hundreds of famous Texan performers. All of our major cities have vibrant music scenes. Lubbock today has more live music venues per capita than just about anywhere else and their community is an extremely supportive one.

Houston has seen a lot of growth as well. The Nightengale Room, Continental Club, Sugar Hill Studios are all great to visit.

Dallas-Fort Worth is done a real injustice by lumping them together but all you have to do is point out the great work being done by Modern Electric Recording, Billy Bob’s Texas, White Elephant Saloon, Granada Theater, Kessler Theater, and artists like Leon Bridges, Old 97’s, etc. to even begin to scratch the surface.

Denton is one of our more interesting artistic communities, of course. With one of the nation’s largest jazz performance schools, great municipal and private sector involvement – and buy-in from indie-rock heroes, Midlake – you have a town worth a serious visit. San Antonio boasts one of the most connected music industry communities in the state. Great venues like the Tobin Center, Majestic Theater, Aztec, Sam’s Burger Joint, and Floore’s Country Store are only the start. San Antonio also cultivates remarkable mariachi education programs – organized and taught in part by the great Juan Ortiz – which are definitely worth researching.

The Pearl District is seriously coming along as well. I haven’t even mentioned Austin yet. As the ‘Live Music Capitol of the World’ Austin stands as an international symbol for live performance. While it wrestles with growth and the complicated relationship between development and the rising costs of the central business district, Austin continues to create new venues, welcome back familiar names and build upon its legacy year by year. International events such as SXSW and ACL Festival keep this trend moving upwards.

Don’t forget about the Rio Grande Valley either….from Corpus Christi, all the way west, this region continues to produce festivals, live music events, and artists, some of whom have become iconic in their own right.

You’ve got your own personal history making music. When did you begin and where did your journey take you over the years?

I began taking lessons on violin when I was around four years old. I continued lessons through the middle of high school and was active in Brazos Valley’s Junior Symphony and also played some trumpet in junior high band. Needless to say I enjoyed playing music from an early age. As I got a little older I started listening more to country/pop/etc. and began playing violin with local cover bands.

During my freshman year at Texas A&M University I met several singer songwriters, Cory Morrow, Jack Ingram, and Roger Creager to name a few who were just getting started in the Texas Music world.

I began playing live shows with them and eventually ran into Pat Green backstage at a Robert Earl Keen show in College Station. I told him that he needed me in his band and he hired me the next night after I sat in with him. I spent the next 15 years as a part of Pat’s touring and recording band. During that time we toured pretty extensively, often traveling over 220 dates a year. There were several major stadium tours involved both on our own and as support for larger acts. A couple of Grammy noms for PG along the way, and I was still able to record on many other projects that I was asked to join in on.

Scott Ackerman, Shelby Kennedy, Amy Lombardi, & Brendon Anthony

Scott Ackerman, Shelby Kennedy, Amy Lombardi, & Brendon Anthony

What do you think are some misconceptions artists and fans might have about the music industry throughout the Lone Star State?

They might mistakenly think that there is a great deal of music business here; there is not. Again, there are some notable exceptions. Taken as a whole, however, we need to do better in this regard.

Also, it isn’t ‘easy to make a career’ playing music in Texas. I hear this a lot and it makes me worry for those trying to get started. I think this myth is perpetuated by those who see artists who have worked extremely hard for many years to build an authentic and loyal regional fan-base. The idea is that these fans are ‘built in’ and that they just have to tap into this and they can play their whole lives in Texas. This is absolutely a myth. These artists work very hard for many years to become these regional ‘overnight success stories.’

Where’s your favorite place of all time to catch a show in Texas?

Really this is impossible for me to answer. There are just so many great ones. If I had to take someone from another country to see a show at an iconic Texas venue, I might lean towards Gruene Hall near New Braunfels.

What are you looking forward to most about the future of the music industry in your state?

I look forward to a time when a new artist can build his/her business on a national level by forming partnerships with industry leaders based here in Texas.

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