Ben founded Artistzen based on his 20 years of experience in all facets of financial management relating to the entertainment industry, and the music industry in particular. He has done finance for a record label, a night club, a theater company, touring artists, festivals, and he's worked Front of House in all of those places as well. He knows how the numbers work and how they should look.
First and foremost, Ben is an entrepreneur. The "secret sauce" in this business is the ability to see beyond just numbers into how numbers translate into decisions and the effect of those decisions on daily life.
Ben prides himself in being level headed, thoughtful, and a good listener and integrates his experience in contemplative studies into artistzen.
John Spagnolo graduated from the University of Virginia in 1992 and embarked upon a career in the hospitality industry culminating with the co-founding of the Starr Hill Restaurant, Brewery, and Music Hall in 1999. In 2004, with five years of club operations experience and twelve years of management experience, Spagnolo continued further in the music industry as a Business Analyst at Musictoday and ultimately became the Product Manager for Musictoday’s e-commerce platform. During this period, Spagnolo co-founded an event production company, Cerberus Productions.
Since 2005 through Cerberus Productions he has managed a diverse portfolio by providing consulting and subcontracted services to event promoters, as well as operating his own events. Responsibilities ranged from advance consulting and planning, to on-site production, to post event reconciliation. Within the Cerberus Productions company, Spagnolo’s role was primarily business management and information technology with on-site production experience at more than 40 events including All Good Festival, Baltimore Grand Prix, Floydfest, Lockn' Festival, Langerado Music Festival, The Foxfield Races, The Festy Experience, and Nateva Music Festival.
John worked with Artistzen as a consultant through our first year of business and joined as a full-time team member, business manager, and Festival Division Lead in January 2016.
James Keane - Business Manager
James Keane began playing guitar at age 10 and has been pursuing his passion to build a life around and in support of music ever since. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a Bachelors Degree in Telecommunications Arts, James pursued his passion for playing guitar by co-founding the band DubConscious. DubConscious toured full time, often over 100 shows per year, from 2002-2010. Through this experience, James not only knows what it means to be a touring musician, but also received a crash course in all aspects of band management, from logistics to licensing, contracts, management, accounting and much more. These lessons led James to a position as Stage Manager at Bonnaroo Music Festival, and as Business Manager of at Artistzen where he represents Rising Appalachia and more. James can relate to the music industry from the eye of the musician, able to identify with the struggles and triumphs of an artist. This unique perspective offers him a comprehensive understanding of the services he provides and an ability to exceed the expectations of those he works with.
Erik Larsen - Bookkeeper and Project Assistant
Erik Larsen is a Richmond native who received his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia in 2011 and, like many, stuck around in Charlottesville. Erik worked at a pharmaceutical testing company for a couple of years thereafter and learned way more than he had ever wished to learn about the wonderful world of accounts payable. He left his white collar job to tour nationally and internationally with local band The Anatomy of Frank.
With Ben's help, Erik has realized that bookkeeping is actually pretty fun once you take away the oppressive corporate trappings. (Erik's mother is a CPA, so it was probably only a matter of time.) In his spare time Erik likes to read and make movie soundtracks.
Chassity Johnson - Human Resources Consultant
A graduate of Southern Miss, Chassity moved to Charlottesville in 2006, using her background in bookkeeping and banking to land a job in the finance department of a large coal and gas corporation, and then in 2009, in the accounting department of a small, but growing biofuels company. Once there, Chassity saw the need for HR management, so she began organizing files and researching laws in her spare time to ensure that the company was compliant. This led to her becoming a certified HR professional (PHR) in 2012 and finally feeling like she'd found her niche. Chassity joined Artistzen in 2015 and is excited to bring her unique blend of accounting and HR knowledge to the Artistzen team.
Chassity has always been a music buff, having cut her teeth on her grandmother's Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn records, but at age 10, she gave her heart to the rock 'n' roll genre after getting Def Leppard's Hysteria album as a gift. Since then, she's expanded her musical taste
considerably, but when Def Leppard came to Virginia in 2014, she was first online to buy tickets.