Barb Dye is the president of the Colorado Music Business Organization (COMBO). COMBO is an all-volunteer nonprofit that educates musicians about the music business and also offers some excellent local opportunities for networking.
Q: What do you do for your day job, Barb, and how else have you been involved in the local music community?
Barb: I work as a legal secretary for a law firm during the day. I have been involved in music since I was very young. My mom, sister and I all ran dancing studios and music was an important part of that. I started violin lessons at the age of 8 and progressed to playing 14 different instruments including piano, oboe, trumpet, upright string bass, and – my favorite – drums.
I eventually majored in Entertainment Management at UCD. I love managing bands and artists [see Sweet Revenge Management and Dyenamic Productions] and started doing that on the Denver scene in 1989. I am passionate about seeing to it that they have a “music business” going. I’ve also worked as a booking agent for 17 different clubs along the Front Range, as well as being an independent agent.
Q: You’ve been involved with COMBO as an active board member since 2003 (year five of COMBO) and you became president in 2005 – what changes have you seen in the past nine years?
Barb: I’ve tried to carry out visions of past presidents and boards that somehow didn’t have time to come to fruition. Firstly, our board has grown to 11 members – most of whom have served for several years. We came up with a new logo (thanks to Paul Klinger, Sr.) and a new acronym (COMBO) since there was always a problem with “CMA” and/or “COMA”.
We’ve tried to become more active in the community by attending and participating in many, many events such as the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs [DOCA] Expo, The People’s Fair, the Colorado Performing Arts Jamboree, the Durango Songwriters Expo, the 40th Anniversary of the Hard Rock Café, and open houses of locally owned businesses like Colorado Sound Studios, Mile High Recording Studios, and the Decibel Garden’s Second Saturdays.
We now put out a “newsletter” regularly every Thursday and try to put pertinent information in it that relates to the “Business of Music.” Some of the articles may seem a little strange but all contain info that a musician might need at some point in their career. We also try to put in as many auditions as possible for nationally televised shows as well as local band/vocal competitions and tv shows.
Q: When did COMBO start hosting its annual music expo?
Barb: In 2010. We held the first one at Red & Jerry’s. The idea was to have an event that might interest all musicians and help out our local home-owned music businesses with a gathering in one place; musicians could meet and interact with each other. We presented an Expo of the local music or music-related businesses, seminars with professional speakers, listening sessions where musicians could get their songs critiqued by professional songwriters, and a showcase of local musicians. Now, in conjunction with the Colfax Business Improvement District [CBID] and Live Nation, we will be expanding the Expo into the Fillmore Auditorium and will be helping more than 20 clubs and venues along the Route 40 designated area to offer entertainment for one week (April 22nd through 28th of 2012).
Q: What are some of COMBO’s biggest challenges right now? Where do you want to see some dramatic improvements?
Barb: Like all non-profits, our budget is the biggest challenge. In these budget-minded times, the first things to go are non-essentials – including dues, fees, and donations to your favorite not-for-profit organizations. The Expo and a large fund-raiser got us through the last few years but, unfortunately, last year we lost the income from the fund-raiser when the promoter decided to go with another group. That’s when CBID stepped in with their proposal to help out.
Our “dramatic improvement” would be to raise enough funds not only to pay our basic expenses but to give us enough money to be able to offer scholarships to college music students of all ages and check off other items on our “Wish List”!
Q: What plans do you have for COMBO’s big day at the Fillmore (Sunday, 4/22/12)?
Barb: The Expo will continue on a larger scale. Again, local music stores will be invited to participate so that they will get exposure to a larger potential customer base. As well, we are inviting large instrument manufacturers to come in and to demonstrate and show off their new product – sort of a “mini-NAMM”. Listening sessions will be held in the Fillmore’s dressing rooms on that day, too.
During the following week, seminars will be held in conjunction with the Auraria campus music schools (Metro and CU) and Live Nation who will bring in national music professionals to speak on the Music Business. And instead of having 7-8 bands perform, we’ll be offering around 100 bands for the 6 nights of the Expo/Upper Colfax Root 40 Music Festival.
Q: What else lies ahead for COMBO?
Barb: For the first time, we’ll be participating this year in Denver’s Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in cooperation with the Christmas Caravan – Marines’ Toys for Tots program. We’ll also support the CHUN/UMX auditions in March, the People’s Fair in June, the Taste of Colorado in September, as well as holding our monthly programs.
February’s program is focused on helping bands to dismiss a member without burning a bridge [Sunday, 2/19/12 at Rocky Mountain Recorders], and upcoming programs will be on more phases of helping artists and bands with finding solutions to their problems. We’ll also be offering more workshops such as the recent Artist/Band Management Workshop [Barb presented this workshop/COMBO fund raiser herself, on 2/11/12].
More on the “wish list” includes ideas that we’d like to carry out to increase our funding. We’d like to be able to find a permanent place to meet. We’d like to be able to give out scholarships and to sponsor music-related events. And we’d like to be able to answer all of our members’ prayers!
Q: Sounds like a pretty tall order! Anything else people should know about COMBO?
Barb: We’re all current or former musicians who have gone through hell or heaven at some point in our musical careers and we like to teach about our experiences to help other musicians, to help them get further up the ladder, and to aid and encourage musicians of all ages to keep trying for their dreams or to find some career in the business of music that fulfills those dreams.