Can Music Survive the Music Industry?

By on 6-21-2013 in Speaking Engagements

Texas Enterprise Speaker Series Gary Powell

Big Ideas from the University of Texas? You bet! Special Projects Marketing Manager Gayle Hight, at the Red McCombs School of Business, has invited me to speak at the Texas Enterprise Speaker Series. Having attended one of these presentations, I can report that they might be described as an extended TedTalk across a wide range of topics offering extraordinary insights with practical solutions from outstanding communicators. I am happy and honored to be included in this bunch of exceptional people. Please join us on September, 5, 2013.

“The business of music has been failing ever since some prehistoric herdsman improvised a song to his favorite yak. Unfortunately, he did this without the protection of representation or intellectual property law. Long before Spotify, the downward trend had begun. Burdened with the unwieldy underpinnings of avarice and corruption, the makers of music have suffered. From the court of King Frederick II of Prussia to present-day corporate strategies, the music, this natural vessel for humanity’s understanding of itself, has also suffered. Why? We now curry favor by offering the promise of celebrity in trade for legal control and ownership of intellectual property. The musicians are left fallow, land plowed but not planted, and not just causing, but demanding their property be anything but intellectual. The story of this business model now has an upside: the liberation of talent by supporting musical aspiration with effective yet seldom-implemented business strategies. ~ Gary Powell


  • How can artists find the balance of income versus artistic freedom?
  • What business and artistic strategies can contribute to musicians developing and adopting informed decisions in creating a sustainable life-style?
  • Despite the egregious nature of this profession, why does it endure?

  • How digital technological advancements effect both music and profits.
  • How to identify young people who seem to have all the talent and determination to pursue music as a prudent career choice.
  • How to determine which educational construct will support a music student’s breadth of talent.
  • How to support performing musicians and recording artists individually and systemically, regardless of celebrity.
  • How music effects the world’s cultural expansion and developmental losses.
  • FOR QUESTIONS contact Gayle Hight or 512-475-6423
    FOR RESERVATIONS visit Texas Enterprise online.

    Phil Ramone (1934-2013)

    The Producer of Many Influences

    By on 4-05-2013 in Winning People

    by Gary Powell

    It was March 6, 2008 when this story wrote itself. At this time of Phil Ramone’s passing, it seems appropriate to remember his influence on me and the music I compose and produce.

    Phil Ramone Gary PowellGlenn Richter, a longtime ally of mine and professor of music at the University of Texas, called this morning and invited me to have lunch with Phil Ramone. There are two producers in this world that would make me get dressed this fast. One is Sir George Martin, whom I have already met and briefly worked with. Phil Ramone is the other. Also present at the lunch were Executive Director of the NARAS – Texas Chapter, Theresa Jenkins and Project Director Jennifer Vocelka along with Ed Evans, Director of Technical Operations for Villa Muse and UT Recording Technology professor Mark Sarisky.

    As a producer and composer, I am conscious about who my musical and production influences have been. I have many of these producers’ albums hanging on my “wall of influences” in the cutting room of my studio. Igor Stravinsky is hanging there right beside George Gershwin, Aaron Copeland and Leonard Bernstein. But wait, also present are Simon and Garfunkel, Peter, Paul and Mary, Chicago and James Taylor. It is seldom the artist themselves that attracted my attention.

    So, what was it about these particular artists that make me listen more closely and why are they on my wall of influences? It was Phil Ramone!

    phil ramone book cover

    Following lunch, Mark Sarisky facilitated an interview with Mr. Ramone in the UT Music School’s Recital Studio for students, faculty and NARAS members. My sense was that these college students had little appreciation or knowledge of Phil Ramone’s contribution to the American musical lexicon. Culturally, we tend to buy into the myths sold to us about the capabilities of our recording artists. This was a brief moment for us all to look around the curtain and now would be a good time for us all to contemplate Phil Ramone’s Discography!

    Thank you, Phil, for mentoring my ears ever since introducing Lesley Gore in 1963 and for now writing your book, Making Records – The Scenes Behind the Music. My best wishes for your continued success and for making our popular music more nuanced, more powerful, more meaningful and simply better than it would have been without you.

    Cheat Fear Now!

    By on 4-11-2012 in Music Lecture & Seminar Topics

    by Gary Powell

    In the next five minutes, I want to change your mind: I want to challenge your long-held conceptions of the performing arts and music education. I realize that asking for a paradigm shift in how we perceive the arts is tricky business. But I no longer risk anything when I tell you that there is a lot of unmovable concrete holding up our academic institutions. And on top of that concrete, with a broader perspective of what education is and who should bring it, there does exist the upside of greater prosperity by way of building an effective network of like-minded individuals…and willing institutions.

    The shift will have been successful when education and opportunity conspire to meet and greet your greatest aspiration. If you can imagine a spark – your spark like no other spark – then you can imagine your future in this new world, one that can become inspired in a single moment. Only then can someone else join you in it. What is holding you back in moving your dreams file into the more active aspirations folder? Forget that worn-out unrequited-silent-genius model. It never really worked; take Van Gogh for example and keep both your ears.

    Every gig you play for free is ladened with fear. Which means that every empty seat you see in a theater or concert hall, conversely, is an opportunity for your insight to cheat fear. Cheat it now. But, insight to what? The first thing to do is to introduce your work to chance. Chance has more to do with us than we thought. Within that idea of power living inside a single moment, chance can change our lives forever. A college education is a huge collection of these moments when we become enmeshed with scholars, mentors and that not-to-be-discounted chance that move us toward discovering our uniqueness and becoming it.

    Outside of the fear model there are more opportunities now within the arts than ever in recorded history – we just need new models in education and new inclusive models in business to mine the gold in order to experience a personal and sustainable prosperity within this new, yet undeveloped construct. When aspirations and aptitude, existing business models and curriculum, are all in concert together, they make a powerful formula for creating successful lives: purposeful and self-directed.

    The problem is that stock prices in aspiration have been dropping semester by semester, year after year, decade after decade. The individual student’s aptitude, not meeting the existing academic criteria, is harder and harder for the institution to even recognize. Business models within the recording arts have taken to the smoky back room while ivory tower curricula is stuck in the nineteenth century. Here, we must all agree to not make fear the basis of our relationships, otherwise fear and predictability is all that will be engendered.

    If we educators look more deeply into our students’ experiences, mine their aptitudes, inspire their aspirations, and stretch curricula to include all forms of music and entrepreneurship in the arts, universities will have more than the usual ten former students performing at the fundraiser event in praise of their university. They will add ten a year, then twenty and eventually… your school will need a bigger concert hall. And… your school will deserve it – all because of you the student, and you the professor, and you the administrator for the collaborative effort you have each engendered.

    Photo is the Old Main Building at Sam Houston State University.
    I started my professional career sitting in that green grass with guitar in hand.

    Gary Powell “The Producer’s Workshop” Video

    Sam Houston State University

    By on 11-15-2011 in Watch Film & Video

    Gary Powell brings 33 years of experience coaching singers in the recording studio presenting his skills to universities and vocal studios around the country. As an alumnus of Sam Houston State University, the university music department invited Gary to work with their student singers. Singers were auditioned on the first day followed by three nights of workshop rehearsals and vocal exercises; 12 hours of solo vocal exploration and ensemble singing. These singers, most music and musical theater majors, were wonderful to work with and eager to have fun while in the process. Cheers to all involved.

    FEATURING SINGERS: Nic Alaggio, Rebecca Marie Castillo, Daniel Cloud, Bree Derbecker, Linky Dickson, Justin Michael Finch, Emily Heller, Hubert Jones Jr, Hannah Miscisin, Kiersten Ortiz, Cliff Randle, Maria Roos, and David Smith

    Before the Sun Sets on this Memorial Day

    By on 5-29-2011 in Music Business Insight

    by Gary Powell
    caribbean sunset

    Memorial Day is the day to reclaim one of our greatest American values,

    “perception becomes reality.”

    No, that’s not it! Professional communicators across all cultures and generations have known and utilized this manipulation – every politician, every manager, every promoter. Decades ago, I had several people in the field of public relations suggest that it was time for me to “build my myth.” I could never understand how they could miss the fact that my musical skills and professional life didn’t need a myth. I did, however, have the need to create my own authority. Although this is the truest of American values, no one suggested it to me. The lesson of claiming my own personal authority was finally taught to me at age forty-two! Although there were immediate benefits, it took another decade before it sank in and became integrated into my being. Utilizing our self-determined authority, if we have earned it, is how we; the talented, the educated, the bold and the caring, win.

    I did have the need to create my own authority. This is the truest of American values for which we have fought and died.

    Only a few will understand that we, ourselves, are responsible for creating and maintaining our own authority. If learned and applied, each of us can now create a professional life which is less encumbered by the weight of the institutional gatekeepers, and there are plenty of gatekeepers who are usurping, borrowing or hijacking our earned authority. You, the individual, with the freedom to hang out your own shingle, creating your own opportunities while prospering through the relationships of your choice, is the kind of pursuit to happiness which can be traced back to the “Magna Carta” in year 1215, to Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence” in 1776, to the “United States Constitution” in 1787, and to James Madison’s “Bill of Rights” in 1791.

    Through this eight-hundred-year-old paper trail, self-reliance and self-determination has become embedded into the American consciousness. By awakening this reasoned argument, which we have inherited through the words of these authors, these liberators, we can define the direction of our own destinies even in failure. I have struggled with and yet still continue the great challenge of creating my own life and identity. Nobody owes this to me. The responsibility rests solely on me. If I fail, let it be a grand and picturesque failure for others to either follow or avoid. Today, I will do it yet again before the sun sets on this Memorial Day, in honor of those who even today and for centuries before, fought the good fight for my freedom. Either way it goes, at my final sunset, whatever I have built or have failed in, will be gloriously mine largely due to the sacrifice of others in the cause.

    I wish you all a peaceful and healing Memorial Day!

    (I took the sunset photo above in Alaska on a September afternoon in 2007. This article was originally posted May 26, 2008)

    Texas Singer/Songwriter Donna Dorrell

    in the Studio with Gary Powell

    By on 5-21-2011 in Watch Film & Video

    by Gary Powell

    Let’s tell the story of a woman courting a deep East Texas drawl, Donna Dorrell, who finds and shares a defining perspective from her life through songwriting. Is her disarmingly insightful lyric born from the song-farms of major recording centers, or from somewhere else? That rhetorical question is only meant to wake us up to the idea that people like Donna Dorrell who have lived a conscious and mindful life make excellent artists – regardless of age.

    I am so pleased to share Donna’s first video which we shot in the studio in one take. This is real singing with a real songwriter and great players. I hope you will watch it, comment, shout encouragement and go to iTunes and support it. Otherwise, this talent pool and writers like Donna Dorrell with her gift of perceptiveness, will continue to shrink even further as our most high-functioning writers move their talents to more fertile professions. Congratulations Donna for stepping up and sharing your life. I’m so proud to be a part of it.

    “If You Knew Your Heart”

    (Music and Lyrics by Donna Dorrell)
    Donna Dorrell – Vocal
    Larry Seyer – Guitars and Ukulele
    Luis Coutinho – Percussion
    Gene Elders – Fiddle
    Gary Powell – Musical Arranger/Producer