Industry Focus: Jorge Brea, CEO and President of Symphonic Distribution

Jorge Brea provides artists with all the tools they need to get their music heard
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Jorge Brea provides artists with all the tools they need to get their music heard
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As the CEO and President of Symphonic Distribution, Jorge Brea plays a major role in getting music heard by the masses. He's basically a middle man for budding producers to place their music at online marketplaces like iTunes, Beatport, Amazon and a host of others, but that's not all. Symphonic also provides a host of services including promotion, mastering, sync licensing, publishing administration, design, and web services. If you're an artist looking to break through, this platform has everything you need.

We got the chance to catch up with Jorge to talk about his career in the music industry, what he thinks is necessary for success, and where he sees the most innovation pushing the culture into the future. As more artists look to make a statement with their music, Jorge is here to provide a helping hand.

How did you start your career in the electronic music business?

I fell in love with electronic music and began to produce at the age of 14 during a summer after school was out. I was fascinated by the sound and style of the music, and because I wasn’t really ever talented with instruments, it allowed me to look at electronic music production as something that I could do. I started to produce around then and had my first record put out while still in high school, and the rest is history. Playing, touring and getting involved with the label side of the business led me to start Symphonic Distribution in 2006.

What was the process like for you getting involved in the business side of dance music?

I was a fan and also an artist and DJ, but like most people I wanted a stable lifestyle and job. That is why I wanted to start my own business. I didn’t want to be controlled by the man or do something that I wasn’t flat out passionate about. It took me three years of working every night after my full-time corporate job to be able to be full-time in this business. Seven years later, I’m thankful for where we are today and what we’ve accomplished and that we employ more than 20 people in various parts of the world.

What is the best part of the business?

I get to literally be a part of an artist's creative process. What our business does, in simple terms, is distribute music to iTunes, Amazon, Beatport and others all over the world, and then exploit its potential with a very personalized approach to help independent musicians and record labels. We like to talk to our clients and understand what they believe in, what their music is about, and where they’d like to take their careers. Being able to pay musicians millions since day one is very gratifying, and, of course, we have a great staff behind Symphonic. I’m fortunate, but it takes a lot of hard work. Things don’t just happen on their own (something I preach to every artist and record label). This is an industry of filled with dedicated, passionate workers, and even your overnight successes have probably been working hard at it for a while.

What are the biggest challenges?

From a business perspective, we’re bootstrapped so we’ve never had any funding or venture capital money. It’s been great and we’re going into our 10th year. We’re profitable, growing, paying more to musicians and creating jobs, but it’s challenging to do things from a bootstrapped perspective because you can’t make large moves like acquire market share, expansions, and/or build technology faster. One of our biggest challenges is really trying to be innovative and competitive at our scale.

As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be? 

I think there needs to be more collaboration among companies, DJs and brands. We’re pretty cool with other distributors because they understand that collaboration and positive relationships is more meaningful, but we also see some companies or individuals that are very black and white about the industry. I think there also needs to be an importance on innovation, and lastly, more great music. As technology evolves, music evolves with it and the ability to be more creative.

Where do you see the most innovation in the EDM industry and why?

I think people are becoming more innovative with technology every day. What is going on with Native Instruments and STEMS is really fascinating and the technology then dictates the music and the experience. I like the behind the scenes, but not from a performance side – I’ll leave that to promoters and managers. I prefer to be behind the scenes from a business perspective.

What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?

Be unique, don’t try and emulate what other artists are doing. In addition, be humble. If you’re releasing your first-ever single or album, you can’t expect to be generating thousands in sales right off the bat. In the music industry, nothing is given to you. Work your ass off for it. You’ll get a lot of rejection along the way, but keep pounding away. It’s all about consistency.

What does electronic music mean to you?

It means a great deal to me. It is still my favorite genre and what I still love about it is that it continues to be a genre that brings out new content creators every single day. There are so many genres, so many artists, and so many new styles. It is one of the liveliest genres in music. I hope we will start to hear more of the underground sound in the mainstream, but I think people will be craving what electronic music was before the pop that it is now.

What cities/regions do you think electronic dance music is best thriving?

I think that Europe’s scene is great. I personally love Amsterdam and the scene in Germany. It is potentially tied to a specific subgenre of electronic music, but in particular with Amsterdam, ADE is one of my favorite conferences to attend because it is a much better mix of business and music. I am personally done with Miami, but that’s just me from a business perspective. To close this long-winded answer though, Europe, Germany, and I’ll throw in South America as well.

If you weren’t in the music biz, what would you be doing?

Haven’t really thought about this but it’s very likely I’d be doing something in technology, but it’s hard to imagine myself not being in music.