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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Free Spokane panel teaches what ‘You Oughta Know’ to make it in the music industry

HaveYouHeard!? Live, a Pacific Northwest entertainment company, is host to Spokane’s “You Oughta Know” music industry panel series, with the help of Spokane Arts grant funds.  (Courtesy )

There’s something you oughta know if you’re wanting to make it in the music industry.

In fact, there’s a lot to know.

That’s why “HaveUHeard!? Live” is hosting “You Oughta Know,” a series of music education panels for emerging artists in Spokane.

“The artists we have are really talented, but they’re struggling, because they don’t know the business side,” said Ryker, a mononymous music manager, who is bringing the four-part series to the Washington Cracker Building with the help of a Spokane Arts grant.

The free workshops kick off with a lesson on crafting brand identity.

“Artists have always been a brand. Growing an audience is growing a fan base,” said Ryker, a North Side native who works in the music industry in Seattle, representing artists like Oblé Reed. ” … Not considering how fans absorb what you’re releasing? That’s the wrong way.”

Speaking on brand identity will be Austin Santiago, the founder of BuildStrong Music Group; rosethrow, a local lyricist, DJ, filmmaker and multimedia artist; Carmen Jane, a songwriter and lead vocalist of Carmen Jane; Darryl Crews, an editorial curator and producer of “The Night Show”; and moderator Karli Fairbanks, a local visual artist, songwriter and musician.

“Rather than thinking about how things are branded,” panelist rosethrow (Darrien Mack) said, “I think about the quality and context in which I want to present myself to anybody. For me, a lot of it just comes naturally. It’s just a way of life.

“It sounds weird, but it flows through my way of life with my artwork, extending out to how I interact with people. We all have a personal brand with how we act.”

Mack’s brand, consistently and beautifully on display throughout his social media, is a product of both his degree and self teachings. Mack received his undergraduate degree in 2D design at Whitworth University.

“I don’t know a lot of other people in the music industry in Spokane that have a design background,” Mack said. “I think that’s one thing that makes me standout, especially because I also do videography.”

His logo offers a strong and consistent visual identity for consumers, which is, in part, thanks to learning the principals and fundamentals of design.

“Design is the thing that has pushed me as far as I am right now, and I’m not even that far,” Mack said.

Design hierarchy, spacing and font usage helped drive his brand choices, but Mack said those fundamentals don’t have to be learned at a college level.

“That’s the route that I chose,” Mack said. “Being at a place like this panel where you can see and hear from people all the different ways of where they got to where they are, you can decide which route makes sense to you.”

These panels have been a long time coming for Ryker, who nearly lost the opportunity when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But she’s adamant in bringing her hometown the education she wished she had when she was younger.

Ryker sent a call out to every music department at area high schools and universities about the series.

“I don’t care if you’re 14 years old … I have 14-year-olds who can make beats,” Ryker said. “What I’m trying to do is give the pieces as early as possible, so at 19 they can hit the ground running.”

As long as those in the audience have an interest in making a career out of music, Ryker is happy they’re there.

“You could do folk. You could do metal,” Ryker said. “It will apply.”

No matter your genre, when it comes to branding your identity, Mack said if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it.

“Whether you are Cami Bradley or Carmen Jane, whether you are Moondrop or Oblé Reed, whether you are Jango or Jang the Goon, you can always pivot,” Mack said, in a callback to Pacific Northwest musicians who have rebranded their name and gone on to make it big. “It’s having the clarity of knowing what the difference is between the two. … Because each of those that I mentioned, I know the differences, they’re drastically different from the other.”

Beyond crafting brand identity, “You Oughta Know” will host panels early next year on show creation and booking; effective music and show promotion; and mastering media etiquette and professionalism.

While panelists aren’t confirmed for future events, Ryker noted her contacts as part of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Recording Academy as well as the Treefort festival. Plus, there will always be at least one artist from Spokane on the panels.

“I really wanna see my city succeed, and education is a necessary part of that,” Ryker said. “I just wanna see the hometown win.”