A&M Head Ron Fair at Career Expo 2002
Berklee's third annual Music Career Expo and Job Fair attracted an enthusiastic crowd to Boston's Hynes Convention Center on Saturday April 6. The event offered a roster of distinguished speakers from across the country and panel discussions on a wide range of pertinent topics.
Ron Fair, president of A&M Records, was this year's James G. Zafris Jr. lecturer and delivered the expo's keynote address. Fair spoke to a capacity crowd about his own ascent in the music business. He recalled becoming attracted to recording at the age of two when he first saw his grandfather working with recording equipment in his garage studio. After working as a professional keyboard player, Fair sharpened his recording engineering skills at a friend's studio. Fair's first real break came when he got the opportunity to work with composer Bill Conti on the score to the film Rocky. "We did the soundtrack in just three hours," he said. "I was making only $20 an hour. It was Bill Conti who told me I that should become a record man."
Fair described how his career blossomed through work on various albums and soundtracks for the movies Pretty Woman and Reality Bites (they sold seven million and four million copies respectively). "After Reality Bites, I had four years of flops," revealed Fair. His comeback came when he discovered teen idol Christina Aguilera. During her audition, he saw that she had real star potential. "I recognized the kind of talent she had right away," said Fair, "I got her to sing the song 'Reflection' for the Mulan soundtrack and then I signed her to RCA Records." Since then, Fair has worked with Aguilera on her multiplatinum-selling CDs and eight number one hits.
He spoke enthusiastically about his current position as president of A&M Records where he oversees a roster of superstars. "I have a passion for what I do and I love being around young people," he said. "Through learning from my failures and reinventing myself, I've been able to make a successful career."
Before concluding, Fair fielded several audience questions. When asked to comment on the use synthesizers and drum machines versus using musicians, Fair replied, "Real bands who can write and sing are what the public wants now."
The expo's other sessions and panel discussions included topics like getting your music into film and television, music publishing, record production, music licensing, music technology in education, getting big gigs, a demo derby, and much more. Among the event's notable panelists were John Doelp, a senior VP for Columbia Records, Albhy Galuten, senior VP for Universal Music Group, Sandy Feldstein, CEO of Carl Fischer Music Publishing, Barbara Jordan, music publisher/supervisor for Heavy Hitters, Fred Taylor, manager of Sculler's Jazz Club, Doreen Ringer-Ross, VP of film/television relations at BMI, George Howard, president of Rykodisc Records, Steve Gousby, program director for Hot 97.7 FM, and many others.
Berklee's Director of Alumni Affairs Adrian Ross, who organized this year's Music Career Expo commented, "I am very grateful to all of the music industry experts and label executives with very heavy credentials who made presentations at the expo. It was most worthwhile for everyone who attended, no matter which stage they are at in their careers."