It's always good to hear about young people who grow up in our area, gain an education in our local schools and colleges, and then establish successful careers in industry centers.
To many, it's even more satisfying when some of those young people come back to enjoy our upstate way of life as they continue to build their careers.
Deric Frost, director of development for Boynton Sound and operations director of Music Square in the Southside Mall, matches that description perfectly. He grew up in Worcester, where he says he was "completely involved in music." While a student at Worcester High School, he was a member of the All County Jazz Band, the choir and the concert band.
He planned to attend Binghamton University to study music performance, but when he learned about the music industry program at the State University College at Oneonta, he decided to combine his interest in music and business while he earned a college degree.
"Even though I love music, I always had business aspirations, so the program at Oneonta made sense to me," he said.
While in college, he worked at the record store FYE. I asked, "How did you get that job at such an early age?"
He said, "I moved to Oneonta in 2001 after I graduated high school and was hired as a salesman at NRM, the local record store at that time. They went out of business six months later and that store location was vacant for close to a year. When FYE opened its doors, I applied for a job and was hired as a sales clerk and was hired as a second assistant manger. Within a few months, I was promoted to first assistant manager. I worked for FYE during my sophomore and junior years at SUNY Oneonta.
"Working for FYE was part of my big plan," he continued. "I wanted to be in the music business, and I knew that I'd need at least two years of retail experience to do that. I was proud of that job because I was the only student in the music department that was employed with that company."
I asked, "Do you still have family in Worcester?"
He said, "My folks are still happily married and live in East Worcester. My father is a carpenter in the contracting business and my mother works for the Otsego County Office for the Aging."
I said, "Boynton Sound is a very successful business. How did you get the job as its director of development?"
He said, "SUNY Oneonta's Music Industry program has a degree requirement of serving at least 400 hours in an internship. I chose to do my internship at Boynton Pro Audio, and after I graduated, I stayed there for about a year to settle back into the working world. I held a sales job with them but I didn't feel I had the opportunity to apply what I had learned from my music industry degree and my prior experience with the music business. I didn't feel I was living up to my potential.
"I moved to New York City and tried to find work in the music field. I was hired to do artist development for Hector Martignon, a jazz pianist from Columbia, and helped him get signed to Zoho Records," he continued. "I stayed in the city working with his organization for about a year. After seeing how the music business operates, I decided that maybe the city wasn't the best place for me to pursue a career. I enjoyed that side of the industry but wasn't able to make enough money to support myself. I learned firsthand how hard it is to establish yourself in the music business without the right connections and contacts."
It was then he moved back to Oneonta.
"Boynton hired me as head of marketing," Frost said. "I saw within their company an avenue they hadn't pursued themselves. Although they're proactive and on the cusp in their part of the music business, they had missed a lot of marketing and development opportunities. I wanted to put Boynton on the map in new ways. I've always had an in interest in marketing and development.
"With the help of Boynton," he said. "I am building business for their new retail outlet from the ground up. Our store is called `Music Square,' and we're located in the Southside Mall on Route 23. Boynton sells great sound equipment at a mostly wholesale level, but they hadn't built a retail market for the end user. Boynton already has buying power so it's not hard to establish a new business with that kind of backing.
"We've been open about two months and we're doing very well," he continued. "We're responding to a trend I've seen in the marketplace in which people are moving away from large corporations, looking for smaller, more-creative private businesses that really care about their customers' needs. We have good product knowledge and our salespeople really care about music and what it stands for."
I said, "Most of the music industry students in my classes plan to work in the record industry or as performers. They don't think of working in a music retail store. Is the world of retail music a good career goal for someone who loves music but wants to be able to make a reasonable living?"
He said, "I didn't expect to pursue a career in sales. But with sales of CDs going down every year it's hard to find work in the recording industry. I came to terms with the fact that music stores represent one of the only music markets still going strong. There's no problem with illegal downloading of guitars. People have a strong relationship with their guitars and nothing will taint that.
"Musicians are drawn to our store. When I sell them a good guitar at a fair price, I am selling them happiness, I'm selling them their dream," Frost continued. "Playing music in the most beautiful thing the world has to offer. There's nothing finer than being able to create music. Nothing feels better than sitting down with your instrument for the first couple of months after buying one and actually making music. Playing music is never a chore. No one is ever forced to play music. It's something they're drawn to."
"I think retail music may be a new idea for a lot of people. It feels good to give that gift of music to other people," he said. "Oneonta has a shiny new business. Boynton has given me an opportunity to prove we can make an impact on the market. It's something I've always wanted to do and I'm glad it's happening here in Oneonta."
I asked Frost what skills are needed to work in retail music. Here is his advice:
Music Industry Tips
Gain experience in sales.
Learn to speak in front of people.
Build contacts and business relationships with manufacturer's reps.
Be excited and motivated about playing music.
Care about music because that comes through in your selling.
The most important thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the product. That's what will come to the forefront in the retail market. People who will be successful have good understanding of the product.
Dr. Janet Nepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta.