Blood, Sweat, and Money?

Musicians and industry veterans turn to the Internet for salvation, not destruction

In the pantheon of great ironies -- Thomas Jefferson's slave-owning tendencies, Richard Nixon's appeals to morality, Alanis Morissette not knowing what irony means -- surely there must be an enclave reserved for those who lay the alleged death of San Francisco's music scene at the feet of the city's dot-coms. For while it's true that the rise of the Internet has made life difficult for many of San Francisco's musically inclined denizens, many other music devotees have joined the ranks of dot-communism. Enticed by the possibility of earning good-to-great wages, many local musicians and music industry veterans have parlayed a vast knowledge and experience heretofore thought unusable into pay dirt. What's more, they've managed to maintain their enthusiasm for music. In fact, the dirty little secret that your neighborhood Yuppie Eradication Project booster doesn't want you to know is that via their involvement in San Francisco's booming Internet economy, local musicians and music industry vets are not only remaining in local music, they may help to save it.


Dave Rosenheim has spent an inordinate amount of time driving vans. As the leader of San Francisco rock band Hugh from 1992 to 1998, Rosenheim and his two bandmates embarked on almost a dozen national tours in support of three critically acclaimed albums and numerous singles. When he wasn't sleeping on strangers' floors or practicing in the garage of the Funston Avenue house he shared with his bandmates, Rosenheim was manning another van, one that belonged to his employer, Osprey Seafoods.

"I'd get up at 3:30 and we'd buy fish off the boats or go out to the airport," recalls Rosenheim, relaxing on the couch of his Hayes Valley apartment while his fiancee works in the next room. It's three weeks before his wedding and, despite the stress, he's relaxed, appearing almost nostalgic for his days on the docks of Pier 33. "It was a cool job. It was flexible, it was visceral. I was slinging fish with my hands in bloody ice water at 5 in the morning. It was kind of hard-core and I liked it." It also allowed Rosenheim the freedom to concentrate on Hugh and its music. "For a good three or four years, I was touring four months out of the year," he says.

These days Rosenheim is going after fish of a different kind -- namely investors with money to burn. As the founder and chief operating officer of Musicfans.com (a network of 120 music fan sites that garners over 3 million unique visitors a month), it's part of his job to bait the venture capital hook. Sporting a founder and ex-senior vice president of Spinner.com as its CEO, a president recruited from Microsoft, a SOMA office, and major funding, Musicfans.com is Rosenheim's bid for success, an all-encompassing venture that exists to the exclusion of sleep, free time, and, most notably, music.

"I ache for it. I really, really miss it," he says of his musical pursuits. "But I feel there's a time for everything, and right now I really need to focus on this. I focused on Hugh for seven years and I'll focus on that again. I'm writing; I'm just not in a band right now."

Like Rosenheim, many local music industry veterans have spent the last several years in flux, watching in horror as people, bands, clubs, and arguably an entire scene have evaporated before their very eyes, in large part the result of Internet expansion and a shift in consumer demand. However, concurrently, musicians and those tied to them (managers, label proprietors, promoters) have seen an increasing demand for their expert knowledge from Internet companies like Listen.com, Sonicnet.com, and Mjuice.com. It's a bittersweet situation to be sure, and one that presents new problems of priorities and artistic integrity as quickly as it mollifies ones of financial insecurity.

"I was sort of having an identity crisis, like, "Am I a businessman or am I an artist?'" explains Rosenheim, 29. "And what I finally decided was that I'm neither and I'm both. I'm just not one of these myopic artists who're completely useless at everything else. I'm a good businessman and I enjoy this and the business is doing really well. That doesn't mean I'm not a good artist."


"I think if you're a real musician, you're going to be a musician, no matter what day job you have," says Lisa Klein, of Sony-affiliated, San Francisco-based Redband.com. As the site's manager of artist relations, it's Klein's responsibility to liaise with established musicians to create interesting news, talk, and entertainment segments. It's not a stretch, given that she's spent the last decade as the artist manager of such bands as Bracket, Chixdiggit, and Colorfinger (led by a pre-Everclear Art Alexakis). In fact, though she's only 36, Klein represents San Francisco's old guard, who toiled here long before the economic, social, and cultural upheaval of the Web.

Like many music industry people, Klein was initially hesitant to consider a career online, thinking that her skills weren't applicable to the new technology. "I didn't understand the potential of what it could bring or what it could offer," she says. But when her most recent client, Orange County's Elevator Drops, split a year and a half ago, she knew it was time for a change. "I was seeing a lot of frustration from outside sources, with labels and bad tours and any number of problems," she says. "It's hard work. There's no money at all." After being approached by Redband, she began consulting, and later joined the company.
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