Columbus’ Music is in Good Hands
Columbus, Ohio – The music scene in the state’s capital has been flourishing. This is primarily thanks to the overwhelming amount of talent that fills Columbus and the wide variety of venues that allow them to share their music with fans. On any given night of the week you can find a dozen or more live acts happening within just a few miles of each other. From rock and roll and folk to country and EDM, there is constantly something happening that can fit anyone’s musical taste.
When most people think of Columbus, they rarely think about the music that is coming from it, but one man and his team are out to change that. Bruce Garfield is the first official executive director of the Columbus Music Commission, a non-profit organization that is set to put Columbus on the United States’ music map. The Columbus Music Commission will soon be changing its name to Music Columbus.
Garfield has a long history in the music industry, from working with Led Zeppelin on their first US tour to signing some of the world’s biggest musicians, including Duran Duran and Iron Maiden. He’s bringing his decades’ worth of experience along with his team of industry professionals with one goal: to make Columbus the next big music city.
We Are the Music Makers
I had the opportunity to speak with Bruce Garfield the other day and pick his brain. I had so many questions: what he hopes to accomplish as the executive director of the CMC, his favorite albums of all time, what exactly does the CMC offer, and what it’s like being a New York native now living in the Midwest.
The Columbus Music Commission has been running since 2017, but you’re the first executive director. What challenges did you face when you first joined this project?
“I don’t know if these are challenges, but there are obstacles to overcome In order to make Columbus a music city. We’re a fairly new organization. We have a lot of things cooking. We have a well intended board, but our members were extremely busy with their businesses. They were essentially volunteering their time and belief to work with the CMC. Being an executive director is a full time job. I had to get a feel for the music and music makers happening in Columbus. What were their aspirations? What were their goals? Are they happy with just being known locally? You can really make a living being a musician in Columbus. I want to make that an even better reality for musicians here. There’s no music infrastructure here. No record labels, just a few recording studios, but we intend to change that.”
What makes Columbus different than the other major music cities in our country?
“I don’t want to emulate Nashville or New York or Austin or Seattle. There’s no way we can be that, they have such a huge jump start on us. We’re our own fingerprint. Every musician and band has their own DNA. There’s a lot of music happening. It’s a small large town. It’s about working together and supporting each other. In some way people don’t look at the music here as an economy. This is a $100+ billion dollar business and right now we don’t have a slice in that pie. We do have the resources though. We have the bands. We have the musicians. The goal is to get the people together and make them aware of the music that is happening here.”
Putting Columbus on the Music Map
One way that they are making this happen is Music Business Mondays. Starting April 15, the CMC will host Music Business Mondays at the Gateway Film Center. From then on it will take place on the second Monday of every month.
What exactly are Music Business Mondays and what are the intentions of these meetings?
“We want to bring in very well known, well versed players in the music industry. We want them to speak to the attendees and teach them the ins and outs of the business. Anyone can attend, the workshops are free. This is for those who want to have some type of future in the music business. Bands that are just starting out, or ones that already have a strong following.”
The instrument drive kicks off this summer; would you tell me a bit more about that?
“It’s in the planning stages right now. We’re garnering media partners throughout the city, including CD 102.5, WCBE, CAPA and will probably partner with WOSU. We are asking people to bring in the old and worn instruments that they don’t use anymore and donate them. We will raise raise money for refurbishing and are trying to get volunteers to help with drop-off locations. We can then give these instruments to youngsters from disadvantaged families and to organizations that need help with music programs.”
You’ve signed and worked with some of history’s greatest artists, including Iron Maiden, Isaac Hayes, Duran Duran, and Steve Miller. Who is one artist/band that you wish you had the chance to work with?
“No. I’ve had more of my share. I never looked over my shoulder and said “I wish I had signed that band.” I signed a lot of bands and am grateful for what I have had the chance to do.”
Are there any bands right now in Columbus that you think are going to be the next big thing?
“Yes, I don’t think it’s proper for me to say that. There’s so much music happening out here, I’ve only heard a small portion of it. There are a few bands that have caught my eye and ear though, I’d just rather not say who they are. Time will tell the tale.”
What’s your desert island album? If you had to choose one record that you’d bring onto a desert island to listen to for the rest of your life, what would it be?
“Oh man, that’s hard. There’s so many albums out there. I maybe dating myself a bit with this; Dark Side of the Moon. Yeah, it has to be Dark Side. Actually it’s a toss up between Dark Side of the Moon — I just have so many favorite albums, I love Zeppelin 1. Actually, add Neon Bible by Arcade Fire and Absolution by Muse to that”