The Professional (i.e. "third-person") bio...
Marc Plotkin is an award-winning songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer, and entrepreneur. From contributing to albums that have received Grammy recognition, to being listed as one of Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs, Marc has had the honor to apply his creative skills to multiple sides of the music industry.
Born in Austin, TX, and raised in Philadelphia and New Jersey, Marc studied Music at the joint program between The Cleveland Institute of Music and Case Western Reserve University. He soon found himself working on projects for major record labels including Epic Records, Columbia Records, and Telarc International.
Marc regularly performs as a guitar-based singer/songwriter as well as an in-demand saxophonist with a deep background in jazz. He’s toured in a wide-range of capacities ranging from rock clubs to Carnegie Hall and has worked in the studio with artists including Sufjan Stevens, Ra Ra Riot, Panama Wedding, Hiromi and more. Marc's most recent release, “Minor Faults” took songs composed by him on the guitar but arranged for a group that had no guitars; instead opting for drums, bass, cello, french horn, trumpet, saxophone, and vocals. “Minor Faults” received more than 30,000 plays in its first week out online from solely word-of-mouth marketing, and the song, “Smokescreen” won Marc an American Songwriting Award.
Marc has also led a successful career as a technology entrepreneur. In 2010 Marc co-founded DecisionDesk, the first cloud-based system that allowed Universities to accept multimedia audition recordings alongside student applications. Marc brought DecisionDesk to hundreds of Universities worldwide, leading to hundreds of thousands of students using it annually to get their self-made music and films to Universities for consideration for acceptance. In 2014, Marc founded Wifi Music School, an online marketplace that provided the opportunity for students to take private music lessons exclusively over Skype with some of the world’s best musicians and music teachers. With Wifi Music School, Marc helped music students worldwide, from remote to metropolitan areas, receive and access instrumental and vocal education from these acclaimed instructors. In 2015 Wifi Music School was acquired.
Marc remains active in the startup scene as an advisor and is very active in the music industry as a Producer, Composer, and Performer. In his spare time, Marc has enjoyed guest-speaking and teaching for programs at Johns Hopkins University, the Academy at Carnegie Hall, and others. Publications including The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, WOR Radio, and more, have all featured Marc and his work. In 2016, Marc was made a Professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he teaches Music Entrepreneurship in The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. He lives happily in Brooklyn, NY with his wife Alexandra and dog Bella, who howls when Marc plays the saxophone.
Jonesing for detail? Here's the longer (and in first-person) bio...
1986 – 1997:
I grow up a relatively ordinary kid. Early hints at what my life would lean towards are seen when I make awful home-movies with friends, constantly listen to music, and play with computers instead of doing my homework. Even at 10 years old, I tend to prefer making things rather than work with pre-existing systems.
1997 – 1999:
Inspired by the character in The Simpsons, “Bleeding Gums Murphy”, I decide I must play the saxophone. My school forces me to start on clarinet (less cool…), but because I didn’t do so well with the recorder (the required first instrument in my school district), my Mother decides to get me private lessons on clarinet and then saxophone, this is a total game-changer. Go Mom.
1999 – 2003:
I become obsessed with the saxophone. I’m the only middle-schooler I know learning how to improvise and listening to Charlie Parker. Feeling like I was born at the wrong time.
2003 – 2005:
My jazz phase only lasts so long, and I begin to embrace the music of my times. There is now a clear gap between the music I like to listen to and the music I’m playing. I decide I want to write songs to fix this. Using my Mom’s old guitar, I start translating the music theory I’d learned from saxophone lessons to the guitar and get pretty good. I start taking singing and lyric-writing seriously. Eventually, I start performing outside of school for the first time at local coffeehouses, utilizing friends from the school jazz band to back me up. I’m hooked on being an actual artist, and not just a musician.
2005 – 2007:
I attend a joint program at The Cleveland Institute of Music & Case Western Reserve University to study Music with a concentration in Audio Recording Technology. I use the availability of recording gear and studios to create more of my music. I start my first “serious” band, Miles. We make a record and play an innumerable amount of small shows throughout the northeast. Fun!
2007 – 2009:
I start experimenting with making other people’s records. I guess this is what they call “producing”? I also start jamming on this idea with my friends about starting a professional musician’s social network online. We call it CitizenGroove and start telling people about it around town. Some people offer us money to pursue the idea! Interesting…
After doing a series of internships during college at Epic Records/Sony BMG, Skyline Studios NYC (RIP), and Telarc International, I decide that the day after I graduate I will move to NYC to pursue a position at Masterdisk, a legendary music-mastering facility. However, one week into the job CitizenGroove is offered a lot of money for the three Co-Founders (of which I’m one) to work on the idea full-time. Recognizing this wasn’t my plan, it feels once-in-a-lifetime’esque so I quit the audio job and become married to my laptop to pursue the startup dream. Concurrently, Miles completes its first full-length record, “As Fast as You Can”. I feel proud.
CitizenGroove pivots from being a pro-musician social network to helping music schools pre-screen their talent via web-upload of video auditions. They love it! Lots of the top music conservatories in the world come onboard our platform. Concurrently, I tour the Midwest with Ryan Andrews (whose record I produced in college) as saxophonist and guitarist.
CitizenGroove becomes “DecisionDesk” to better reflect what we do. Now over a hundred universities are using our technology, and for far more than just music pre-screening. Lots of press coverage, lots of hiring, our little laptop project becomes a real company. I also start my largest production undertaking at the time, making a record with composer Rebecca Brandt. We record 25+ people (in different locations) from my laptop and mix it into an excellent record. It’s received well and makes the official shortlist for a Grammy nomination!
I decide to re-focus on making solo music. I start a year-long exploration of what my "solo" sound will be. I’m attracted to the idea of songwriting without guitars or keyboards for a change…Concurrently I start working on a new idea and future company called Wifi Music School. It’s a site to pair up students with great music teachers via Skype.
I found the sound. I settle on an ensemble of drums, bass, cello, french horn, trumpet, saxophone/vocals. It’s weird, and I love it. I start writing, arranging, and recording this setup. By August, I release a short EP, “Minor Faults” as my solo debut. I also decide to leave my day-to-day operations role at DecisionDesk (on good terms), I continue to advise the company but free up my time to work on music, as well as officially launching Wifi Music School.
I grow Wifi Music School to a few hundred teachers and then sell it to another music education company. I created a video introduction to my latest music project that helps get me signed with E Major Entertainment for Management and Degy Entertainment for College booking. In the studio, I get to play saxophones on upcoming releases for Panama Wedding (Glassnote Records) and Ra Ra Riot (Barsuk Records). We start doing some live shows behind the songs of "Minor Faults" (and more new ones), and when the band can't be wrangled, I do some solo acoustic versions of the songs. End the year with writing lots of new stuff and doing a lot of Producing/Sideman/Commercial Composing work on the side as well.
A site called SoundBetter becomes a big part of my life. They list me as a recommended Producer/Composer/Vocalist/Saxophonist/Guitarist and it gets me quite a lot of work. I find myself doing sessions for artists all over the world who find me through the site. Another very cool opportunity emerges; starting in fall '16 I'll be a Professor at New York University! The Tisch School of Arts at NYU has an amazing department called The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music where I'm being brought on to teach various classes around the topic of "Music Entrepreneurship"...something that is perfectly aligned with my background. The other faculty there are pretty mind-blowing too. In the summer, I find out that my song "Smokescreen" off of the "Minor Faults" EP has won an American Songwriting Award! That's it so far :-)