About Marc Plotkin
I’m an American Songwriting Award-Winning Artist, a Grammy Shortlisted Producer, a Bloomberg BusinessWeek Top 25 Entrepreneur, and a Professor at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. But here’s the long version…
(Austin / Philly / NJ) 1986 – 1997:
I make awful home-movies. I constantly listen to music. I play with computers instead of doing my homework. Early hints to the type of life I'll lead? Even at ten years old, I 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 Mom 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. 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 play alongside me. I’m hooked on being an actual artist, and not just a musician.
(OH) 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 New York City 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 my co-founders and I 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 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 music as a solo artist. 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 also create 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 the fall, I'm to become 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"...an area 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 won an American Songwriting Award!
I overhaul the music business curriculum at the Clive Davis Institute and focus it in on the thesis of having young artists think of themselves more like a startup, in the name of being self-sufficient. I create an interview-series that features some unbelievable icons in the worlds of music, tech, and business, including Jack Dorsey (Co-Founder/CEO of Twitter and Square), Alex Ljung (Co-Founder/CEO of Soundcloud), Ryan Holiday (Best-Selling Author), and many more amazing people. Alongside teaching, I'm recruited by some large brands and artists to consult them on growing their audience. I also launch two new exciting music projects. One is writing and producing pop songs alongside my old friends Ben Jacobs and Ryan Andrews, and the other is called Dragon Crest Collective, led by one of my childhood heroes, Pete Francis of the legendary band, Dispatch. We regularly write and record songs, and start documenting our creative-collaboration sessions in video form.
I played some shows with Dragon Crest Collective! I spoke at a music conference in Italy! I recorded a Sylvan Esso cover with the amazing Alexandra Milak! I recorded a piano version of my song “Smokescreen”! My old band Miles had an amazingly successful reunion show! I got to interview more of my music industry heroes, including Scooter Braun (Manager to Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Kanye West, and more), Theo Katzman of the band Vulfpeck, and more!