Brendon Anthony is the guest DJ tonight at MKT Bar's Vinyl & Vino Night and he wants would-be listeners to know one thing about his skills on the ones and twos.
"I feel like I am quite possibly the worst DJ who has ever spun a record. Hate to say it...just really want to manage any expectations here," Anthony admits. "There will definitely be some Houston sounds represented. I love Rodney Crowell from just up the road in Crosby and I love The Suffers, of course. What I will say is that it isn't hard to get a huge playlist of great music together gathered exclusively from Texas artists."
Anthony, who has been on the job since February 2015, is uniquely qualified to make such a statement. He's the director of the Texas Music Office, a division of the Office of the Governor. Those on hand for this evening's free event won't just learn about his personal musical influences and background, but will have a chance to learn more about the Texas music industry’s official promotion office.
"My job in a nutshell is to set the direction and agenda for the Texas Music Office," he explains. "In addition to developing strategies to move our agency forward, I serve as the spokesman for our agenda and our various programs."
“Music and the music industry have been the focus of my entire professional life,” said Anthony, who began by playing classical violin at an early age, developed his skills through private instruction and went on to a music career that has spanned more than 20 years. He’s performed and recorded with several Texas artists, most notably Pat Green. As part of Green’s band, Anthony toured all over North America and western Europe, averaging 175 to 200 shows per year, before retiring from the band after 15 years on the road.
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“I continued to record with many other artists as well, and began looking at different aspects of the business that interested me," Anthony says. "In late 2010 I began working as head of e-commerce at what became OneLive Media, based in Austin. Our clients were high-profile artists like Beyoncé, Willie Nelson, Mötley Crüe and many others.
“Over five years we grew this business, expanded into other sectors and were poised for another big year when I got the call from the Governor's team to come and serve as the head of the Texas Music Office,” he continues. “I say as often as I can that music has given me everything. I am still very fortunate to be able to join my friends onstage from time to time and I really do love getting back up there and playing live music. The music industry isn't just onstage or behind a mike. It is a very complicated, interconnected and, quite often, daunting and challenging place to make a living. I feel very grateful to have been able to make a life out of creating within and supporting an industry I love.”
That’s the kind of experience and passion fellow artists need from a powerful ally. Since we already had his ear, Anthony was kind enough to share his thoughts on some critical TMO initiatives. Its grant program, he explains, “gives kids in difficult situations instruments or music lessons that they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford.” Nonprofits organizing music programs in the state's underserved areas benefit too, he says. Funding of the grant program is through private donations and the sale of special TMO license plates sold by the state and accessible through TMO’s website.
“Another key initiative is our focus on making Texas a more connected and intentional music-industry community," Anthony says. "Few cities in Texas have music offices who can speak for their industry community and that, in our opinion, is not a positive thing. My vision is to assist in the creation of music offices and/or commissions in every community around the state that values the contribution of its live music industry,” he said.
Another TMO component Anthony is pushing is its web-based industry-services database. Nearly 15,000 listings deep, and accessible to anyone looking to connect with music industry professionals from a wide swath, it’s an important resource for artists and others in the industry. Finally, Anthony says, TMO is charged with increasing the numbers of music businesses that call Texas home. The agency was recently added to the Governor's Economic Development Team, he said.
“The word is out that we are actively attempting to recruit business and create industry jobs here in Texas. We want artists to feel that they are able to create their entire business here in their home state and to create long-term success without having to outsource major components to industry centers around the country.”
As for Houston, Anthony sees a lot of promise. He plans more visits like tonight's to personally interact with Houstonians who can take his office's ideas and implement them in practical ways here.
“Houston is enjoying, from our perspective, a music-industry rebirth in many ways," he says. "Several live music events, such as Day For Night, Free Press [Summer Fest], Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, in addition to the many shows that take place weekly in venues like the Heights [Theater], White Oak, Continental Club, Warehouse Live, MKT, Fitzgerald's, the Firehouse, Mucky Duck, Revention, House of Blues — I hate to leave many, many others out here, sorry — make Houston a huge live music center for Texas. I firmly believe that this great community needs more connectivity and representation.”
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Tonight, Anthony may be posted behind the turntables, but he’s really coming to sing the praises of the TMO and hopes to drum up a local choir while he’s here.
“Bottom line, I hope they come away knowing that we are here as a resource to them," he says. "Our office works for them, to hopefully make this complicated business a little easier to understand or to create relationships where they are hard to find. The TMO is a tremendous resource and it is wide open to anyone who is seriously in need.
“I always learn new things from meeting with artists and industry professionals — every single time," concludes Anthony. "One of the best parts of my job is to sit and listen to folks who are working on the front lines of this business every day. I hope that I hear honesty from them about the issues they're dealing with. I also hope that I hear an idea that I've never heard before; you never know where the next big change in this business is going to come from!”
Brendon Anthony guest DJs "Vinyl & Vino Night" from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight at MKT Bar, 1001 Austin. Free.