My name is Ben Coe and I am the founder of ArtistZen Business Management. This business is the distillation of my passions discovered through a 20 year journey in the entertainment industry. Having worked in nearly every aspect of the music industry including booking agency, management, record label, festivals, and venues gives me a perspective that is unique. I'm not just a numbers guy, I'm a contemplative business guy rooted in numbers. A bit about me:
The brief version...
I am community builder first and foremost, with event production at my core.
I am a Leader and Project Manager. I find that leading often takes the form of leading from behind by letting voice be heard and using the numbers to help inform decisions. I thrive on creating clarity out of chaos.
I practice living and leading Mindfully and Peacefully and use this approach in all of my business interactions.
The long version...
If you want to know more of how this came to be you can read the full background story below.
My first event produced at ripe age of 12 years old. I planned the ingress and egress, lighting, menu, layout of the space, and mix tape.
High School years saw me performing in a rock band, recording an album at $10/hr in the local studio, and designing and project managing large scale dance parties for the school.
In college, at University of Virginia, I interned at TRAX nightclub (where Dave Matthews Band started out) and a booking agency called Sam Hill Entertainment. I managed my first band at 20 years old and settled my first show at Biketober Fest in Daytona, FL while the manager had his pistol on the desk as he counted cash.
I moved to Berkeley, California to be near the magic that Bill Graham had created. Found one freelance production gig for a lesbian dance party but couldn't get my foot in the door anywhere else. This was before the scene was developed by Another Planet.
Moved to Seattle because it seemed there were many festivals and production companies. I landed an informational interview with TPN Productions and they told me I was too green but recommended I volunteer at an upcoming street festival called Fremont Fair. I did and worked all weekend all day and met some great people from One Reel. That led to a contracted gig to be a zone manager at One Reel's Bumbershoot Festival and later to be the Sponsorship Coordinator.
I moved back to San Francisco area. For 6 years worked seasonally for a 4000 seat outdoor theater on top of Mt Tamalpais called The Mountain Play. I was Event Manager and Box Office Manager. It was then that I first discovered finance and bookkeeping.
I co-founded a small ticketing business called Moonrise Tickets - made a bit of money but learned a lot. The first settlement I had to do I couldn't understand how to make it work. I took my first accounting course and in the first day learned about assets, liabilities, debits and credits. I was hooked!
For a few months I managed the box office of a small blues club called Biscuits and Blues - my life was becoming a series of cash and credit transactions and it was glorious.
I started a bookkeeping business and took on various clients. I started part-time work at Lookout Records (iconic punk label which launched Green Day, Operation Ivy, The Donnas, and Ted Leo) as bookkeeper. I worked on mechanical and artist royalty payments, licenses, advances from Sony Red, and A/P and A/R a wee bit. I saw in short order that the company was losing money monthly, and I saw a solution, but management felt stuck. The business stumbled and fell from greatness- laid off its team, and sold its building. It wasn't pretty but it was an incredible experience to learn what happens when the financial side of the business isn't forefront.
I attended Burning Man three times and witnessed one of the greatest events and productions on planet earth.
My last gig in California I worked for a small business management firm called A. Maze Inc, providing accounting services for several jazz and jam artists and songwriters- Garage a Trois, Staunton Moore, Charlie Hunter, Jon Cleary, Adam Levy, and more.
I moved back to Charlottesville, VA to work at Red Light Management which at the time was making moves to be one of the most powerful management companies in the country, if not the world. I worked for Chris Tetzeli, Coran Capshaw's original right hand man and day-to-day for DMB. His clients, for which I served on the day-to-day management team, included John Butler Trio, Yonder Mountain String Band, and North Mississippi Allstars. I focused on websites, tour marketing, talking with promoters, and managing street teams. I learned about the marketing and communications flow of tours but didn't do much with finance other than tour and album budgeting.
My boss at Red Light moved to Denver and I stayed back in Cville. Another manager from the same team, Michael Allenby, joined me in leaving Red Light to start our own venture called The Artist Farm. We started out providing day-to-day management services a la carte. Clients included Squirrel Nut Zippers, That 1 Guy, Melissa Ferrick, Infamous Stringdusters, Dubconscious, and many more. This was the first time I felt I pulled it all together - marketing, finance, music business. I ran the numbers but I was also talking with clients about their business.
We converted a couple clients to full management and dropped the a la carte services. We managed The Infamous Stringdusters, That 1 Guy, and Old School Freight Train. Most importantly, a band I loved more than any other, The Mood Docs, broke up. I was managing them and though they were a baby band I was crushed. I soul searched and decided to move away from artist management.
I started writing a blog about business and life. Seth Godin featured a post I wrote and my mind was blown. I wrote a book about tour marketing called Squeezing the Show that Berkelee School of Music included in the music marketing course and Ian Rogers tweeted and touted. I began coaching artists in business and life (and continued to do so for many years totaling about 50 clients). I sold my share of The Artist Farm. I started a family (now 2 boys) and moved away from entrepreneurial endeavors for a bit.
I became the Board Chair of Common Ground Healing Arts - a non-profit dedicated to making complementary healthcare (yoga, acupuncture, meditation, massage, etc) accessible to all. I was Board Chair for one full year prior to the opening of doors, then served at the helm of the board through the first year of operation. This role brought all aspects of ArtistZen to the fore - start-up based financial, operational, and leadership management.
I became the Operations Manager at Contemplative Sciences Center at UVA, managing finances and producing events including mindfulness talks by Congressman Tim Ryan, author and neuroscientist Richie Davidson, and author Sharon Salzberg. Through another brand I brought author Charles Eisenstein to town for a talk and full day workshop.
And now, this ArtistZen Business Management. With the journey of life you never know what's going to show itself in front of you, but often you can look back and see the threads connecting your whole story. I have always loved the magic of live events - theater, music, parties. I have always been operational and a project manager. I have always been a listener and a contemplative leader. ArtistZen Business Management pulls all of this together, to help your business thrive. I want to help your team excel, I want to help you create the best experiences you possibly can, while also listening to the story the numbers tell to see how they can help us propel your business forward. Looking forward to working with you... and appreciating now, always.