Culture in the Community: Sound Basics

Sound Basics, a local nonprofit that provides assistance to small businesses on the near South Side, is offering a business seminar for people interested in the music industry. Community economic developer Daniel Friedson founded this financial, legal, and entrepreneurial literacy program that employs students’ love of music to fuel the learning of basic business concepts.

The concept of Sound Basics came to Friedson in a series of discussions with friends in the kitchen of the old Brick Oven restaurant on Cherokee Street and at Meshuggah’s coffee shop. “My goal was to get people excited about profit and loss statements.”

The ultimate goal is to work Sound Basics into high school curricula as a melding of music, business, and economics and to conduct dual music-business competitions on a national level. Friedson says, “I’m looking at 14-year-olds and seeing an entrepreneur. We decided to use their love of music and require them to write business plans to get into the studio to cut a demo.”

Blake Ashby, a local business consultant and Sound Basics co-founder, states, “I don’t think we do a very good job of teaching business education in America. Really, the goal of Sound Basics is to help people to learn the importance of basic business skills in their life.”

A seminar conducted by Sound Basics last winter brought in participants from ages 22 to 58 and from all walks of life. Participants varied from potential small business owners to musicians, managers, and promoters. Classes covered everything from the basics on contracts and credit to profit and loss statements and copyright law. Guest teachers from across the industry gave presentations on management, production, and promotion.

Ashby says the goal of the seminar is to get people in the music business to recognize and plan for the costs of management, marketing, and production. “We help the students transfer those things into a balance sheet and project how many albums they need to sell, how many shows they’re going to play, and how much revenue it’s going to produce. We teach them the process of financial modeling at a basic level.”

Both Nate Dewart of the local rock act Wydown and 2Tech of local hip-hop promotion company Play on Playaz Entertainment, Inc. enjoyed the co-learning environment of the initial six-week seminar. “The teachers guided me through a bunch of questions about copyrights, promo packets, and CD production,” says Dewart. “Just exposure to thinking about these things is a big step.” 2Tech adds, “The open discussion was great. Everybody just brought their issues to the table.”

Danny Taylor, a local entrepreneur, says that writing a business plan in the Sound Basics seminar put him and his small business on the right track. “For anyone who has an idea, when you put it on paper it makes it so much more clear for you. Since the class, I’ve incorporated Danny Boy Entertainment, got my EIN number, and I’m basically ready to roll.”

Adds Friedson, “You need to have a little understanding of law, a little understanding of contracts, and know-how to engage the paper system to succeed in anything, be it music or small business…those are the Sound Basics.”

The next Sound Basics seminar will begin on Tuesday, April 15. Registration for the eight-week course is $200. Anyone interested in community seminars or high school curricula can e-mail Dan Friedson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or leave a message at 314-772-2783.

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