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Interview with Portia Sabin, President of Music Business Association

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

The Music Business Association (Music Biz) creates the rooms in which the important conversations that shape the future of our industry take place. The company believes it takes the commitment of everyone in the room to make these conversations actionable. When we work together, our industry, your business and your people will be stronger as a result!

Read on to learn more about the company, and take a behind the scenes look at Portia Sabin.

Tell us more about your early days in Music Business, a bit about your professional career leading up to the creation of the association.

Music Biz started in 1958 as NARM - the National Association of Retail Merchandisers. Basically it was the trade association for record stores, distributors, and record labels. About 10 years ago they changed the name to Music Business Association and added in many other sectors of the music industry: publishers, digital service providers like Spotify and Apple, music tech companies from Amazon and YouTube to Super Hifi and Chartmetric, and many more companies engaged in the commerce of recorded music.

I myself started my career as a drummer in a punk band, became an artist manager, and then ran an independent record label for 13 years. I also started a podcast about the music business called 'The Future of What' and served on multiple boards in the industry. I took over as President of Music Biz in 2019, right before the pandemic!

Portia as president of the independent record label Kill Rock Stars and host of the music business podcast ‘The Future of What’. Photo Credit: Women In Vinyl

The idea for the new Music Business Association came about because the industry changed and the association had to change with the times. We now encompass all companies who touch the commerce of recorded music.

How does Music Biz connect, educate and empower individuals in the music industry?

During the pandemic we did this with over 70 virtual events targeted at all sectors of the industry. Now that people can gather in person more freely, we do this via in-person events like NY:LON Connect and our flagship event, the Music Biz conference, which brings 2100+ executives together for four days of panels, workshops, and fireside chats about the most important issues facing the industry today.

Click the image above to visit the NY:LON Connect 2023 web page

Click the image above to visit the Music Biz Conference 2023 web page

Music Biz hosts many events. Tell us about them and why they are different from other industry conferences for example. Our Music Biz conference is unique in that we crowdsource our panels, which ensures that we're tackling the topics that the industry at large wants to discuss. We have also been serious about diversifying our panelists, maintaining an average of 65% of our speakers across all events being people of color and women.

Panel at Music Biz Conference 2019 2023

What does it mean to be a member company or an affiliate of Music Biz? How do they contribute or make an impact? To be a member of Music Biz is to be part of the conversation. Our members are companies who touch the commerce of recorded music, and we're constantly onboarding new companies as people come into the marketplace with innovative solutions to old problems, or when music gets used in a new context as we see regularly happening.

Selection of companies from the Music Biz member community - Click the photo to see the full list

Tell us about the scholarship foundation. What are some success stories or most exciting examples of awards that have been given so far? In 2020 we decided to increase the award amount to $5000 so that students would be getting significant money. Since then we've heard from students who say that this scholarship was "life-changing money" for them, whether they were international students who can't get jobs off campus who were able to stay in school and finish their degrees, to kids who are paying for college themselves and were able to buy books or pay rent. Every story is inspirational and we feel privileged to be able to help every student we can.

What's next for Music Biz?

The Music Biz Roadshow is our latest endeavor - everyone can't come to Music Biz, so we're bringing Music Biz to everyone! This is an opportunity to bring our members' knowledge and expertise to local musicians and music industry people, while allowing both groups to make meaningful business connections they might not otherwise have made.

Click the photo to learn more about the new Music Biz Road Show


Want to attend an event or become a member of the Music Business Association? Visit their website today to learn how you can get involved.

Follow Music Biz on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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