Posted: December 7, 2006
By Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen
Vince Pileggi is the founder and CEO of Music Inc. and president of the newly formed label, Music Inc. Sounds, which has partnered with Rock Ridge Music and offers distribution through the Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA).
With a deep passion for the music industry, Vince has been working in the music and entertainment industry since he was 13 when he started playing in garage bands. In 1985, at the age of 15, Vince opened an all-ages venue at one of his father’s warehouses in Arizona. He quickly found himself in over his head, and the club folded, but he had gained valuable experience. But Vince got his first real start when a small band from San Francisco asked him to book a few shows. That led to him becoming their manager. And although he lost the band due to their troubles with drugs, Vince found a niche.
While he was plotting his music industry career, Vince worked as a sales rep for an electronics company and used his time and the phones there to try to build a management roster. He was relentless. In 1992, with the help of an investor, Vince opened up a rehearsal studio in Orange County where he became well known among local and national bands. In fact, he opened up in two locations, one of which is still in the Music Inc. compound today. However, Vince walked away due to uneasiness about his investor’s business practices. “I still owned my first location and never included it in the deal,” he notes. “I went back and the bands followed.”
All the while, Vince was learning the ins and outs of management from Laura Engel, manager of Oingo Boingo, who had been the professor of a music business class he attended at UCLA. In 1993, Vince worked as an intern and ended up handling the day-to-day management responsibilities alongside Engel. “My experience with Laura was the inspiration for many of my career choices,” he acknowledges.
In August 1995, Vince signed the most significant deal of his career. Local ska band, Reel Big Fish, regularly practiced at his studio and frequently talked business with him. Using the experience he had gained working with Engel, Vince started advising them and signed a management contract with the band the day after Oingo Boingo played their last show.
"The last show for Boingo was basically the end for me at Engel as she shortly moved on to Kraft, Benjamin and Engel to continue to manage Danny Elfman as a composer, he explains, “and I quickly got busy with Reel Big Fish. It was one band that I knew I could make work. I knew it was make or break. I was on my own and working on commission, and this had to be it.”
Reel Big Fish went on to have a hit single off of their 1997 release, “Turn the Radio Off,” and the record went gold. Ten years later the band is still going strong, still self-sustaining, and recently released a live album in August with the Music Inc. staff filling in the role as the “invisible label.”
Other bands Vince has worked with through his management company include Buchanan, Fiore, Jaded (Tina Yothers), Let’s Go Bowling, Teen Heroes, The Forces of Evil, The Killington’s, US Bombs, Death By Stereo, and others. He recently brought in additional managers Jared Baker, Scott Ramey and Jenny McPhee.
Vince founded Music Inc. (formerly Milano Entertainment Group) when he opened his rehearsal studio in 1992. Located in Orange, Calif., Music Inc. has grown to become a one-stop shop for the music industry, with several different companies operating under the Music Inc. umbrella, including management, a talent agency, rehearsal and recording studios, as well as social networking sites, and a digital media production company, even a retail music/lifestyle store. Vince describes the various divisions: Music Inc. Recording - "Begun almost 10 years after I'd been in business with the rehearsal studio. A drummer for one of the bands that rehearsed at the studio blocked out time to record his band. I watched the process and quality of his work and asked him if he would be interested in starting a recording studio with me. Five years, 500 bands, and now our third re-model. We now have a legit recording studio that competes with other studios.” www.musicincstudios.com EVIIVE – “A Web 2.0 social networking site where the real world meets the virtual world in what may be the company’s most ambitious project to date. It's hard to explain in a few short sentences, but if you use Google, eBay, Craig list and listen to music you will find it not only useful but fun. YouSuckI Rule.com was the beta test for EVIIVE .” eviive.com Lucky Artist Booking – “The lines of management and agent always are blurred, and it seemed bands were not looking for managers. They were more in need of agents as the majority of band break from the road. In a ever changing landscape in the music industry, I know live performances aren't going away, so with my partner Angie Dunn, Lucky Artist was formed and over the years we have watched so many of our bands grow and develop and just in the short amount of time.”
Clients include: Ballyhoo!, Big D And The Kids Table, Bottom Line, Forever In Fall, Hero Pattern, Kilowatt, National Fire Theory, Righteous Jams, River City High, Rory, Roses Are Red, Self Against City, Sirens Sister, Spiraling, Streetlight Manifesto, Suburban Legends, The Effects, The Flatliners, The Matches, The Secret Handshake, The Transit War, The Vacancies, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Whole Wheat Bread, and Zolof The Rock And Roll Destroyer. www.luckyartsisbooking.com Merch House – “My wife was over being a dental assistant and wanted to work close to me so over the weekend when she quit her job, we decided to start a merchandising company to take care of the needs at first of my bands, which quickly expanded to bands at the studio, and without fail word of mouth got out, and we found ourselves with a thriving business.” Clients include: The Ataris, Audio Karate, Bad Religion, Berlin, Big Wig, Capitol Records, Coast to Coast Coach, Crystal Cathedral, Days Away, Death by Stereo, Drive Thru Records, EL PUS, Everybody Else, House Of Blues, Hepcat Records, Hidden In Plain View, Home Grown, Hurley, Kara's Flowers, Flogging Molly, Kung Fu Records, Let's Go Bowling, Limbeck, Lit, Melee, No Motiv, Ozma, Paul Frank Industries, Reel Big Fish, Rilo Kiley, Rooney, Saosin, The Distillers, The Matches, Side Cho, The Starting Line, The Strokes, The Vandals, Throwrag, Tsumami Bombs, Zebrahead, Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer. merchhouse.com Merch Sales – “Early on in e-commerce, the company found another niche of setting up web-stores for it own bands and warehousing the product and shipping. Nine years later we are still doing it with not only our bands but many others. Unlike other merch sites, which have deals with bands, we modeled our business as a traditional fulfillment service and everyday are praised as bands are surprised by how much revenue is earned with little to no effort on their part.”
Clients include: Audio Karate, Drist, Fiore, The Forces of Evil, Homegrown, Moment Theory, Power-Vibe, Reel Big Fish, Reverend Blue, Street to Nowhere, Suburban Legends and Thomas Dolby. They are now gearing up to work with CDBaby and Filmbaby to handle merch fulfillment for their clients in 2007. merchsales.com Music Inc. Management – “Being in the manager’s chair, the majority of the inspiration for almost all divisions of Music Inc. had to be DIY over the years when we didn't have the money or others to turn to. The company one person can only handle a few bands. Music Inc. now has four managers and is always looking for new talent.”
Clients include Buchanan, Craig Chaquico, Death By Stereo, Fiore, Ikey Owens (Sublime and Mars Volta), Tina Yothers & Jaded, Let's Go Bowling, Oingo Boingo, Reel Big Fish, Teen Heroes, The Forces of Evil, The Killingtons, and US Bombs. musicincmanagement.com Music Inc. Studios – “Starting out over 15 years ago with the rehearsal studio has had thousands of local and national bands come through the doors for pre-production. This eventually led to building a recording studio in which over the past five years has recorded over 500 bands from simple tracking and overdubbing to full albums.”
Clients include: Duane Peters & The Hunns, Reel Big Fish, Saosin, Something Corporate, Forces Of Evil, Suburban Legends, Throwrag, The Exit, Limbeck, The Dynotones, The Scotchgreens, Big Sandy and His Fly Rite Boys, Hellbound Hayride, Trucker Up, The Irish Brothers, Aces and Eights, The Hellbillys, April 6th, Jackass the Band, The Saddle Tramps, Black Monday, Speedbuggy, Calavera, The Matches, The Cheatin Kind, The Toast, The Forces Of Evil, Streetlight Manifesto, Black Monday, Black Pool Lights, The Vaquetones, The Cheatin Kind, Death By Stereo, Atreyu, Hideki, Home Grown, The Vandals, The Aquabats Travis Barker, Zebrahead, Melee, The Von Steins, The Rattlesnakes, The Killingtons, The City Drive, Teen Heroes, Starpool, Save Ferris, DMF, Light the Fuse, Square, Buchanan, Fairview, F-Minus, US Bomds, Red 5, Campground Effect, Brass Taxx, Avenged Sevenfold, A Static Lullabye, A 18, Astoria, Jamison Parker, Cheswik, East West, Terminal,Four Letter Words, The Lipstick Pickups, Makeout Party, The Stitches, DI,GameFace, Insted, Wank, Longfellow, Joe and the Chicken Heads, 4-Gazm, Mr Mirainga, Fastball, Linley, Litmus Green, Final Conflict, 46 Short, June Makeshift Love Affair ,Mind Driver, Mirken, The Chemistry, The Secret Handshake. musicincstudios.com Off the Chain – “One of the latest additions to Music Inc. is a click and mortar retail location next to Chain Reaction in Anaheim. Each night 200-500 people come to the venue, and at Off the Chain, we sell new and used CDs, DVDs, vinyl, music gear, and band related merch. The store is going into it second month of business and has already been a hit. Our goal is to have every music title still in print. Since starting up we have had in-stores with Senses Fail, Alexisonfire, Moneen, The Hush Sound, Cobra Starship, Spitalfield, Murder By Death, and many more coming up." chainmusicsales.com Ska Summit – “Seeing the lack of support in a genre of music, I decided to bring the ska community together for a huge festival in Las Vegas. Much to my surprise the event was sold out to an audience of 12,000. The phones were ringing the next Monday to make it into a tour but, I wanted to keep it special, and now skasummit.com is a online music community that only focuses on ska bands and their fans.” skasummit.com; summerofska.com The Stor - “With so many stores closing and people turning to the web, it was only natural and a matter of time to build an online store, filter items and make it work in connection with users on EVIIVE for easy buy-now links and searches to help fund our ventures.” thestor.com Visual Digital Media – “I brought together some talented people and started shooting content for shows to stream online on EVIIVE.com. We currently have three shows: there will be "In the Studio" live performance footage from Music Inc. Studios and interviews with bands; "Door to Door" follows a traveling salesman and his crew as they sell door-to-door and see the behind the scenes of their travels on the road town by town; and "Punk Work Out," a show where punk kids stretch, lift, crunch, and hold. Each week semi-professional fitness instructors will shape and keep them in shape. I also have 20 more shows in the works, but until I get a few properly rolling and steady crews and extra funds I will have to wait to get started on the others.” visualdigitalmedia.com Web Name and Host – “Make money in your sleep was my first business attempt as a reseller for another company, and it's working out. I sell domain names and host other peoples web sites, and pass along the saving to my customers.” webnameandhost.com
Now with his partnership with Rock Ridge Music, whose founder, Tom Derr, Vince has had close ties with from when Rock Ridge worked on a digital-only release for Reel Big Fish, Vince says he is excited about the new relationship. And about his role in Music Inc. Sounds, Vince quips, “I’m the guy who is going to get stuck with all the new bills.”
How did the formation of Music Inc. Sounds come about?
It seemed natural to form a label. This is my second attempt, but this time around I'm working with great people, and the industry has changed in so many ways you don't have to follow the old business model to be successful.
What happened with your first label?
MEG ran 1999-2000, and I released The Killingtons. After spending $60,000 and all the returns, I swore I would never do it again without the right people behind me.
Why did you partner with Rock Ridge Music?
I've respected Tom Derr for years for his accomplishments and dealings with me on various issues with regards to my band and each time he delivered and kept up with everything. Having dealt with Rock Ridge on a digital only release for Reel Big Fish, many wouldn't expect much, but Rock Ridge treated it as their own, and got it everywhere. Without them I'm not sure if I would've started Music Inc. Sounds and felt confident.
Why so many divisions?
Opportunity. You can call me a business junkie, but Music Inc. at times can be its own island and live and thrive without others' permission. We're so DIY because you're constantly ignored and that's why people take up a do it yourself mentality and just like anyone, we and our bands need to survive.
What kind of artists do you want to sign?
Anything that makes sense from a garage band we can develop to established artists who may not have a home to release an album properly on. But being genre specific, I can't nail it down if the music is amazing and I've a chance to work it and I feel we can do it justice and work with the artist, we will put it out.
Do you run each division?
Each business is like a garden, and I have to water everyone each day, but some days I get lots of weeds and have to get dirty. We have 16 people in-house and 12+ people outside the offices.
What division are you still planning to start?
After construction is done on the new tracking and control room at the studio in mid-December, I'm going to start working on The Food Fight Cafeteria behind Off the Chain--a record store. Being next door to a venue has its advantages, and I'm betting that the cafe will do great business especially since I plan to stay open until 3 a.m. The only other places open are fast food and Denny's.
In addition I've a few other things in the works, but I've been burning at both of ends of the candle stick, and until I can bring in more people to manage everything else, I'm forced to not do anything else--a strict order from my business manager.
When did Ska Summit start?
Our goal was to put on the biggest ska show we could to help support and re-kick start one of the strongest underground music scenes of all times. For those of you who don't know, ska is a flexible style of music that started in Jamaica in the late 1950's and spread around the world in many different forms. The music is always upbeat and will make you dance. Ska Summit was hosted at the 8th annual Extreme Thing, a musical/extreme games event held in Las Vegas at Desert Breeze Park. In 2003 we teamed up with Extreme Thing and took over the musical portion of the event. In 2002 Extreme Thing hosted Alien Ant Farm and other popular radio/TV bands and drew a crowed of 8,000 people. In 2003 all the bands were ska bands, most of which hardly ever get any radio play, yet the event still drew an even larger crowd of over 10,000 people. Mainstream may have more fans, but the underground scene has the most dedicated fans. Kids from around the world flew or drove in just for this event. Some fans even picked up side jobs just so they could afford the trip. Many companies in the music industries doubted this event would draw more than 3,000 people, but we proved them wrong.
The bands that played were Chris Murray, The Toasters, VooDoo Glow Skulls, The Selecter, Let's Go Bowling, The Skeletones, Rx Bandits, Dan Potthast, Reel Big Fish, Mustard Plug, The Special's Neville Staple, Buck O Nine, Attaboy, Skip, Fishbone, Monique Powell of Save Ferris, Suburban Legends, Over The Line, The Know How, The Debonaires, The Return, Go Jimmy Go, the Ska DaddyZ, The Nuckle Brothers, Starpool, Mobtown, The Forces Of Evil, Dr Octopus, Codename:Rocky, The Toast, Big D and the Kids Table, Monkey, The Fabulous Rudies, and Deadball 38.
What is the history of Summer of Ska?
I wanted to keep the Ska Summit event special and not do a repeat; it was too perfect the weather, the crowd and the bands. Summer of Ska was an SOS signal that the genre still needed to continue to be kept alive and by seeking out bands that would do this three years later in 2006 wasn't as easy as you think. We hope to continue each summer and grow it out of the clubs.
Catch 22, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Big D and the Kids Table, Suburban Legends and Westbound Train were the bands on the first SOS. The tour was 38 cities from Los Angeles to New York, and each market varied from the Blue Bird in Denver, Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco to House of Blues in San Diego. The tour was booked by Jeremy Holgerson at The Agency Group and Kevin Gunther from Lucky Artist Booking.
What makes a good manager?
Someone who believes in a band and always does their best beyond when times are good; a manager who has the respect of the artist in order to choose the right moves along the way and keep the integrity and spirit of the project in check at all times. I could go on, but everyone has their own style, and the above, at the end of the day, is what should be important.
First concert attended
The Alarm and TSOL at Irvine Meadows, now the Verizon Wireless, in Irvine, Calif., 1984; I'd go to other shows, but you just can't count going to a show with your parents.
First concert worked
Oingo Boingo in 1993 at Universal Amphitheater as an assistant to the band's manager. I worked other shows, but this was my first real production experience even though I'd been around live music venues at a young age. I did the guest list VIP parking list, lyrics for tele-prompters and getting correct gum for the production manager escorting VIPs backstage and driving drunk people home. It was so much fun.
First industry job
Pro-Tec where I was an international sales rep that sold instrument cases and gig bags. I credit my knowledge of instruments and brands from working there as I had to learn about all the various instruments and how to wrap them.
Presenting Reel Big Fish their gold record -- it was one of the first significant achievements for a sometimes-thankless job.
When a band I managed fired me claiming I procured employment in order to get out of their deal and not pay me the $25,000. I deferred payment in order to keep them alive, but to be honest, when this happened it crushed me as a manager, and everything I'm now doing is my rebound. You always hear about how the industry takes advantage of the artist but no one seems to talk about how much the artist takes advantage of the industry.
Juggling numerous roles within the industry and sustaining has always been the greatest challenge for me. I call it pulling money out of thin air.
Best business decision
Keeping it all under one roof has worked to my advantage in so many ways. It afforded me the ability to put myself into various circles I would have never been a part of if I only played one role.
Best advice you received
"Think big be big think small be small" has always rung true for me and even though some of my other ventures are in their infancy, it fuels me to at all times think of the maximum potential -- sometimes to a fault.
Best advice to offer
Fake it until you make it. I often look back on certain scenarios and think I had no idea but somehow pulled it off, and it's funny at times to watch the new school come up and know they are simply just rolling with the same punches.
Most memorable industry experience
Not going to lie: my first big check from the music industry. Even now I'm excited to get paid to do something I love no matter how bad it is. It will always be better for me vs. swinging a hammer.
The California Angles, but it's more of a hometown thing. Tiger Woods, once again, another hometown thing, and I'm truly inspired by his drive. Beyond that, I really do care for sports and I'm drawn more to creativity as a spectator.
It used to be Nirvana for its Indian cuisine in Manhattan until they closed. Currently it’s Villa Nova in Newport Beach -- my alternative to Denny's for those late night dinner meetings.
Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Actually any hotel in Vegas where else can you go and actually never leave the hotel and feel exhausted and do so much.
What friends would be surprised to learn about you
That I've never actually been in jail. It has always been a running joke with me because people always ask what's up, and I casually say I was in jail, but I'm getting my shit together. It really catches people off guard. People really don't care when I tell them about projects, so until I know I'm having a real conversation, I save my breath.
Industry pet peeve
Where should I start? Honestly the lack of sincerity overall and tunnel vision. It's hard to answer all emails, but my diligence of returning them all has been one of my greatest tools. Fans get into the business so I have countless relationships with people in key positions simply because I answered their emails, questions and requests, while in the beginning, I reached out to others in the industry who were established and rarely got a courtesy reply.
27" flat screen monitor and my Sony Vaio are basically my world these days. Everything else in the office just collects dust.
If I wasn't doing this, I would be...
...in all honesty I'm doing exactly what I would be doing just at a different level than once imagined. I anticipate with the assistance of the numerous talent people around me to do even more and not just in the entertainment industry.
Laura Engel is whom I got my first real start as a manager from. She basically is the one I could credit with giving me the knowledge and structure to understand the entertainment industry. In addition many others in various roles have been an inspiration, and I learn from everyone good or bad.
Vince can be reached at: (714) 997-0919; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org