This last Friday, we were lucky enough to have Jose Maria Barbat, President of Sony Music Iberia, come participate in our program’s professional interview forum. There’s no doubt Barbat is an interesting and knowledgeable guy. Experienced in myriad facets of the industry, he has insights that are valuable to someone trying to build a professional foundation and get a foot in the door (i.e. Berklee business students). Unfortunately, any substantive tips Barbat might have had for us were obscured by a poorly conducted interview. Color me unreasonable and harsh, but the questions asked of Barbat were one-dimensional and failed to elicit any advice exclusive to our unique opportunity.
“Where do you think the music industry is going?” “How can entrepreneurs be innovative in a struggling market”?” Obviously, Barbat has a personal perspective on these sorts of broad questions. The truth is, however, that he doesn’t really have the answers. No one does. There is no one answer. Everybody has an opinion about what went wrong or where the money might lie. At the end of the day, an educated guess is still a guess and just something to consider as we try to navigate the music industry.
I would have much rather learned about specific work experiences that Barbat has appreciated over the years. How did he deal with problem X during the release of Y album? What methods of communication proved to be more effective than others? How does he balance his workload? Which experiences have been pivotal in his career and which has he learned the most from? Students are in the GEMB program to learn how to function in a broad range of music industry positions. Anecdotes from a successful music industry executive would perhaps have been more relatable to students and have given us insight about approaching future professional challenges. I certainly don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Hearing Mr. Barbat speak was a privilege. Though there were valuable take-aways from this week’s Music Business Forum, the interviewer and speaker would do well to examine what would be most beneficial for the audience to hear.