Now an independent artist, Cal Poly alumnus Mike Annuzzi gained experience through booking bands for Associated Students, Inc. concerts and graduated with a music degree. Though he performs in the spotlight, many other Cal Poly graduates work behind the scenes in the music industry.
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Almost everyone knows about Cal Poly alumnus “Weird Al” Yankovic. While attending Cal Poly, he worked at KCPR, the campus radio station. He earned his nickname and started making parodies. Shortly after graduating, he made it big.
But he didn’t do it alone. In fact, Cal Poly has turned out many successful individuals in the music industry, many of whom are behind the scenes, making talented artists’ dreams become a reality.
One of those graduates is Bruce Flohr, a partner at Red Light Management. Flohr graduated in 1989 with a degree in journalism. He helped discover both Dave Matthews Band and the Foo Fighters. Like Weird Al, he worked at KCPR as a disc jockey and music director. It was there he fell in love with the business side of the music industry.
“I didn’t realize how many people and how much money it took to have a big career in the music business,” Flohr said. “I thought all you needed was to have a great band and make a great song. There are many, many layers to success and failure in the music industry.”
KCPR was one of the biggest draws for Flohr when it came to picking a college. A self-described poster child for Cal Poly’s “Learn By Doing” philosophy, he knew he wanted to hit the ground running as soon as he walked onto campus.
“A lot of students go to school and study and then have to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives,” Flohr said. “I was fortunate that I had access to what my interests were while I was still a student.”
KCPR became Flohr’s identity — what he did when he wasn’t going to school or studying. It opened doors for him through exposure to the industry itself as well as to players in the industry.
“(Being music director) put me in touch with many record industry executives and managers, which allowed me to build a network of contacts,” he said. “You could say that I have been in the music industry since I set foot on Cal Poly.”
Flohr flooded his résumé with an assortment of work experience and internships. He worked for KLOS, a Los Angeles radio station, as a MCA records representative for the Cal Poly area, and was a disc jockey for KZOZ in San Luis Obispo.
Flohr didn’t waste any time after graduation. The Monday after his graduation ceremony, he started a job with RCA Records as a talent scout.
Now, Flohr works with all kinds of talent, from up-and-coming acts to big-name artists. He said his schedule is never the same.
“That’s the beauty about my job, I don’t have a typical day,” he said. “And my days aren’t days, they are nights. It is anything from routing tours, to helping artists make records, to traveling around the world looking for new talent. It is always changing.”
Flohr wears many hats at Red Light Management, and they all contribute to helping an artist achieve their dreams, which is one of his favorite parts of his job.
“Someone has a vision or idea, and I get to be one of the people that helps them do that and contribute to that,” he said. “Probably the least favorite part of my job is seeing people with talent, true talent, that don’t make it. Not everyone that is great ends up cutting through.”
Through the ups and downs of his career, one thing is certain: He couldn’t have learned how to succeed if he hadn’t searched out all the opportunities and work experiences available to him in college.
“I haven’t been asked once to show my résumé or my grades for anything I have ever applied for,” he said. “In fact, my college degree has never been part of my success. What has been part of my success is the people that I know and the things that I have learned by doing the job, as opposed to learning about it or talking about it.”
Other Cal Poly alumni garnered their experience working as an Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Events musical assistant. This on-campus job experience has opened up students’ eyes to the business side of the music industry.
Jacki Iwanski graduated from Cal Poly in 2011 with a degree in business administration. She is now an assistant at the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment talent agency. Her job with ASI exposed her to dealing with artists and booking shows.
“That is the best thing you can do at Cal Poly, is to try to get some kind of music experience in SLO,” Iwanski said. “There aren’t too many options, but you can work at a radio station or work at SLO Brew.”
She said what many students don’t realize is they can also intern in Los Angeles or San Francisco, two excellent music hubs.
Her No. 1 tip for finding an internship or job is to completely destroy the old phrase, “It’s all about who you know,” from your head. In order to find her current job, she cold called many agencies, and they all got back to her. The only way to build that network is by reaching out to people you do not know.
“I work in L.A., which is great for networking and meeting people,” Iwanski said. “I meet new people all the time. You get to know people by being around and on the scene of music.”
Mike Annuzzi graduated with a degree in music in 2009 and also booked bands for ASI-sponsored concerts. He applied this experience to his own career as a musician.
Annuzzi is an independent artist whose music has been played all across California on local radio stations and television. He has performed 500 shows in the past three years, including one at Cal Poly.
However, it’s not always the glamorous life one might expect. Organization is the key to success, he said.
“I start my days working with to-do lists,” Annuzzi said. “I have a lot of phone calls and emails that come through, so I have to complete everything with priority. I plan several months ahead; currently, I am working on projects happening in February, so it is important that I am very detailed with all of my work, and I know what is coming up and what I need to get done to make sure that I am on the right track.”
Annuzzi realized that it’s not enough to only be a talented musician; behind-the-scenes work is often what makes or breaks an artist. It is important to have a good understanding of all the aspects that go into a project, he said.
“You don’t just graduate with a music degree and apply for a job to become a rock star,” Annuzzi said. “I have experienced failure, but learned from those faults, approached things with a new outlook and learned from my experiences.”
He said those interested in a music career should know it takes hard work, but it is possible.
“Don’t give up before you try,” Annuzzi said. “There is no one path in life. What works for someone else might not work for you, but as long as you have a goal in mind and continue progressing towards it, you will continue to be successful.”