I met David Cloyd through a friend about four years ago, when I was looking for a website designer. I’m what you might call a “low-tech” person, so I need a lot of support. As we sat together many times at Spot Coffee and Ashker’s to discuss my project, I soon recognized that his knowledge and passion are not only technology-based, but that he is also an artist. Although his knowledge, high energy, and phase in life are unlike mine, we connected as artist entrepreneurs, interested in both art and business.
When you live for music, how do you make a living? The answer to that question is ever evolving along with the musician and the music industry. If you are David Cloyd, who started out in classical music and found his way to indie rock, you not only make solo albums (his debut hit #1 in eMusic’s album charts), you also create a platform for recording other artists. If you’re Eric Crittenden, over 25 years of touring, playing everything from funk and jazz to jam band rock, creates a life experience that you readily share with aspiring artists through music programs in Buffalo’s schools and after-school programs.
The two musicians met several years ago, when Crittenden was at the helm of the music program at Buffalo Center for Arts & Technology, and have often talked about collaborating on something as they kept in touch. This year, the pandemic created a whole new set of problems for musicians, music education, and the local music scene. But it also created the opportunity for Cloyd and Crittenden to finally join forces and create Buffalo Music Club—a venture they can only describe as “a new kind of music company.”
Let’s find out how these two musicians are using Buffalo Music Club to creatively solve not only new problems that have arisen due to the pandemic, but a host of old ones as well.
Judith: David, I know you to be someone who has a lot of creative energy. It does not surprise me that you have combined your website wizardry with your love of music to start something new and necessary during the pandemic. Can you tell us about your new platform, Buffalo Music Club?
DAVID: Sure! Buffalo Music Club allows you to connect directly with professional Buffalo artists for music education. It is curated BY Buffalo musicians FOR Buffalo musicians, and the list of talented artists on the roster is growing rapidly. You can search for one-on-one music lessons by instrument, by what style you want to learn—everything from classical and jazz to hip-hop, rap, folk, indie rock, you name it—and what other musical activities you want to pursue beyond just playing the instrument, like improvisation, beat production, songwriting, music theory, recording and audio production, and more. You can even search by the student’s age, skill level, and preferred lesson day.
ERIC: Our goal is to keep artists fed so that they can keep feeding Buffalo art. Our vision will soon expand to include pro music services such as session playing, recording, production, mixing, mastering, composition, and more. Eventually, we’ll even offer music performances to the public, everything from regular venues to special events and custom private occasions. We’re really trying to be as fluid and transparent as possible. We’re open to anything.
DAVID: Each of our artists has a profile where you can really get to know them, like what kind of music they’re into. And we’ve worked with each of them to make their one-on-one teaching schedules public, so you can check their availability and book your next lesson or lessons directly through the website. A lot of our artists are also offering recurring group workshops, which gives people a chance to dig deeper into something that interests them.
ERIC: All of our artists teach virtually, but this isn’t a “virtual music lessons” platform. When this pandemic is over, Buffalo Music Club will still be here to help connect students with artists in the real world.
Judith: You’ve been live now for a few weeks—have there been any surprises?
DAVID: Absolutely! One of the most surprising things so far is that in spite of the fact that we haven’t spent anything on advertising yet, we’ve actually had steadily growing sales from day one. And not just in Buffalo, but from LA to NJ! We launched the day before election day, knowing that so we had zero expectations for this first little stretch. It’s quite remarkable.
ERIC: Equal parts surprised and not surprised. We had no expectations, so were pleasantly surprised in that regard! But the overwhelmingly supportive and positive response from our soft launch has confirmed what we’ve continually felt through the creative process—we all need this.
Judith: So true! When you created this site, who did you have in mind? It has gotten me thinking about taking piano lessons again.
ERIC: First of all, we had artists in mind—specifically, artists we know who have been muted by the pandemic, artists we know who have world-class musical superpowers that should be shared with the Buffalo community and beyond. Not only in a time like this, but especially in a time like this.
DAVID: The other side of that question brings up one of the most exciting things about this whole venture. Buffalo Music Club is for anyone who wants music to play an active role in their life, whether you’re pursuing it as a career, as a passionate side hustle, or even just as a hobby. And through one-on-one mentorship and group workshops, all of our artists want to help people deepen their personal connection to music, share their experiences and knowledge, and also connect with others through music.
Judith: In the absence of opportunities to go out and experience live music, have people embraced playing music at home more?
ERIC: Yes, to some degree. But it’s not real, and everyone knows it. So while it’s nice and it’s
creative and it’s novel, it’s just not the same synergistic exchange that live music provides.
DAVID: Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and that goes both ways—people miss live music, and musicians miss people. Artists share their art with an audience in order to understand it better, improve their own craft, and experience it more deeply themselves. So even though we’re all still practicing and playing at home, it doesn’t really come to life for us either until we share it.
Judith: We have all heard that to get to Carnegie Hall, it takes “practice, practice, practice!” How does having a teacher, even a remote one, encourage people to practice?
ERIC: The deep desire to make music at the level of your teacher, your peers, or even your idols inspires all artists to “shed” (cool music slang for practice).
DAVID: So true. The artists that inspire me the most are ones I’ve never met, and they push me to achieve all I can out of my own music. But music is a folk art—always has been, always will be. Along the way, I’ve needed those one-on-one relationships with mentors to keep making progress. They’re like sherpas guiding you up to the peak—they can’t climb the mountain for you, but they point the way, instruct you, encourage you, and keep you from getting lost. Whatever you’re going through, they’ve gone through it many times before.
Judith: Besides practice, what does it take to become a successful musician?
ERIC: That question is another huge reason why we did this. If you’re living off of music in any consistent way, buying food for your family and paying your bills, then you are absolutely a successful musician already. It was important to us that we boost the narrative of successful musicianship within the mission of our company in order to empower our roster and each other.
DAVID: That’s right. Being a musician is a difficult and nebulous vocation. It is by nature an entrepreneurial pursuit, even within some of the more traditional career paths. The ups and downs can be a real roller coaster, and you have to constantly learn how to adapt and evolve. Every one of our artists has been doing that for years already, and is ready to share that knowledge and experience.
Judith: Is there any overlap in the skills needed for website design and creating music?
DAVID: Oh man, that’s a great question. I’m a fundamentally different person because I’m a lifelong musician, and I bring that perspective to everything that I do, whether it’s music or digital work, or even parenting. Creating music has three main levels to it, no matter what kind of music you’re making, and no matter whether your role is musician, recording engineer, or any other. First, you need to have a mental knowledge and understanding of how music works. Second, you have to develop the physical discipline of your craft. And third, you have to connect with the deep soul mystery of music that is essential to connecting with an audience. If you don’t have the first two levels down, it’s very unlikely that you will get a chance to explore that third level, and that’s where all of the real magic happens. Web design, parenting, cooking – whatever it is, they all have those levels, so I bring my artist mindset and practice to all of them—knowledge, craft, and soul. I’ve carried that approach with me from a very young age, and I’ve always found it to be an advantage. I owe so much of that to the music education I received from the army of band directors, choir directors, private lesson instructors, teachers, professors, and mentors I’ve had the honor and pleasure to study and work with over the years.
Judith: You are one of the groups of people who have to multitask during the pandemic, pivoting to work at home and becoming your children’s teacher or at least assistant teacher while they are learning from home. Can you speak to that challenge?
ERIC: Well, as a certified New York State music teacher . . . one glaringly apparent truth is that I am no certified homeschooler. LOL! While we were forming our company, each of us had to deal with our kids climbing on our laps and demanding our attention at times, just like so many other parents right now. So our meetings often devolved into, “I’ll call you right back.” School and work in the COVID era is a wild ride that I’m sure we would all rather not be on, but in its own way, this experience has been more memorable because of it.
DAVID: I’ve been multitasking as an artist for my entire adult life. As a solo recording artist, I play all of the instruments on my own albums, so maybe that’s why it hasn’t seemed all that different. I have a lot of concerns that I don’t normally have, and our days are certainly busier than normal, but otherwise I’m quite happy to see my children more and keep them safe. I agree, I’d rather things be normal, but I think we’ve each been making the best of it.
Judith: Tell me how you came up with the name. The word club suggests community and it looks like for the time being and perhaps the coming year, community will be experienced digitally. Was that a part of your thinking in naming the platform?
DAVID: Absolutely. We are living in a time where physical location is becoming more and more of an abstract concept, and that comes with a lot of wonderful advantages and side effects for us as individuals and as a society, especially with the challenges of climate change. Since fewer people have to drive to work, there’s less pollution in the air, we each spend less on gasoline, and we each can maybe spend a little more time with our loved ones each day. But there are a lot of potential negatives we have to wrestle with now, particularly an increased sense of isolation and disconnectedness. I think the word “club” captures this quality of being inclusive and exclusive at the same time, and that was important to us. The door is always open, so come on in and get to work!
ERIC: Music education is just one way that we hope to foster community—not just between artists and students, but amongst the artists, amongst the students, and then finally between the artists and their audience, within the community of Buffalo and beyond. There’s obviously a poignant angle to the need for community right now, but speaking as an artist myself, this effort was needed before this pandemic. So Buffalo Music Club is not meant to only be a “virtual” solution for these times. It’s a trusted hub for connecting with artists of the highest calibre, right here in our community. And it is meant to carry on beyond this crisis.
Judith: Is there anything else you want people to know about Buffalo Music Club?
DAVID: Just to tell everyone to come check out the website, and search our music lessons and music workshops . . . but don’t just look for WHAT you’re interested in, look for WHO you’re interested in working with. And you don’t have to pick one artist—learn from any of our artists, anytime they’re available. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know! Chances are we already know an artist that can do it.
ERIC: Our place in the tribe is that of the muse. Our job is to bring the light of music. That has not changed, and will not change. Here at the Club, the music never stops.
Judith: Just found out that Buffalo Music Club is offering gift cards to make it easy to support music lovers this holiday season.