Interview with Paul Mauceri

Q: Hey Paul! Where are you from? 

A: I currently live in Orlando, FL. Before that I lived in New York City. I’m originally from New Haven, CT.

Q: When and how did your interest in music begin? 

A: Listening to the records my parents would play when I was a very small child, including ones by The Beatles and The Beach Boys (a very typical Gen-X thing). I have been a drummer for most of my life but also dabble in piano and guitar.

Q: Is your experience with music hobby or career-based? 

A: Hobby-based in the sense that I was never able to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional musician; I have played in bands since I was in middle school and continue to at this age but at this point it’s just for the creative and social outlet it provides. Career-based in the sense that I worked in the music industry for almost 10 years while living in New York – first at ASCAP and then for the Harry Fox Agency – and for the past ten years as a Career Advisor at Full Sail University, a school based in Orlando that was founded as a recording engineering school but has since branched out into all areas of entertainment and digital media, where I help students and graduates find work in the audio profession. So, I guess my career is still working in some aspect of the “music business.” 

Q: Wow, yeah! Full Sail is actually one of the universities I’m looking in to! That’s so cool! So how many years of experience do you have? 

A: Around 20 working in the industry. 36 as someone who plays music as a hobby and, on occasion, semi-professionally. 

Q: That’s a lot! What are some of the biggest opportunities you’ve been presented with? 

A: While at Harry Fox, I traveled a couple times to Europe to meet with the foreign societies in France (Paris), Germany (Munich), and the UK (London) – once with your father! – to discuss ways our organizations can partner better with each other. As a musician, I have played at South By Southwest (SXSW) a few times with my former band The Brilliant Mistakes and also played several overseas gigs as the substitute drummer for the fairly renowned indie rock band The Wrens.

Q: Haha I’m not surprised that you traveled with my dad- he tells us so many stories like that and we’ve started this joke that half of them are made up because 17 years into my life I’m still finding out more about him (lol). So who are some of your favorite artists? 

A: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, The Beach Boys, The Velvet Underground/Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Pavement, Jellyfish, Aimee Mann, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Big Star, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Neil Young, Stew/The Negro Problem, Elliott Smith, Gram Parsons/Flying Burrito Brothers, Pixies, The Police, Pugwash, Richard Thompson, Rush, Paul Simon, Television, Todd Rundgren, XTC, The Zombies

Q: Cool! The Beatles are by far my favorite of the bunch but I don’t think I’ve listened to nearly as much of that music as you have! Who would you consider to be your best connection(s) in the industry? 

A: My former ASCAP colleague and Brilliant Mistakes bandmate Erik Philbrook, VP, Creative Director at ASCAP,  my former Harry Fox colleague Bridget (Unger) Perdomo, VP, Film, TV & Ad Sync for Def Jam, Island and Republic Records at Universal Music Group, Jackie Otero, Program Director, Entertainment Business and Music Business Bachelor’s programs at Full Sail University, and your father.

Q: Do you have any music of your own you’d be willing to share with us?

A: Cosmic Roots Collective, latest band I played drums for/recorded with: https://cosmicrootscollective.bandcamp.com/

The Brilliant Mistakes, band I played drums for/recorded with for 10+ years while living in NYC: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0eA6B4wfMysYQl26ny7Ga1?si=Ow-u716tQqe6zckFZrACXg

Q: Awesome thank you! You’re actually the first contact sent by my dad who has had any music to share so I’m stoked! What advice or words of wisdom do you have for my readers as well as myself?  

A: Learn as much as you can about the industry, how it works, and the many various facets to it. 

Be realistic when it comes to your goals, whether they be on the creative/artistic side, business side, or other; this is a hypercompetitive industry and there are a limited number of spaces for those who want to be a part of it and are able to make it their livelihood. Also be aware of and open to the many different roles there are within the industry. 

If you are an artist, be hypervigilant about signing any contracts; always have someone, ideally a music attorney, look it over first and give you feedback. 

If and when you start to make any money, make sure to have an understanding about how it is going to be split up if you are working with others, like in a band. This can have major consequences down the road. I was never in a situation where there was any significant money from gigs or anything else to have to worry about this. Plus, as a drummer, I am by nature primarily a side musician. 

Try not to lose sight on what it is that ultimately drew you to music, hopefully your love of it. It can be really disappointing, if not heartbreaking, if and when your music dreams do not come to fruition the way you hoped they would, but this doesn’t have to mean you can’t always be involved in it in some way. It’s also important to realize that many people, including artists who are household names, still have to work very hard to sustain their careers; don’t be fooled by the fact they’re “famous” and think they haven’t had struggles or setbacks or have to deal with the kinds of things most of the rest of us do, like money, family, work/life balance, etc. This is especially true during a global pandemic. 

Q: Yeah. I never expected to have anything handed to me anyway, but now that I’m learning about the industry and looking into colleges and how finding a job afterwards will be as a creative, I’m truly starting to realize that it’s hard work that takes not only practice, but patience. What would you say have been some of your biggest mistakes so far if any?

A: Yes, what I would consider among my biggest “mistakes” is just a general naivete about the industry (and really life in general). Having come from a very privileged background I don’t think I fully grasped how hard one has to work to be successful in something like the music business. As someone with aspirations to be a professional musician and, ideally, be in a successful band, looking back, I think I can safely say I was pretty delusional about my chances, or about the chances the bands I played in had, at actually having a career playing music. That isn’t to say we didn’t try to the best of our abilities and with the available resources we had, time and other, but there is a tremendous amount of sacrifice one has to make if he/she really wants to make a go at music, especially in an “artistic” sense. There is a lot of luck involved too; you can do everything right and still not get to where you hoped you would. Sorry if this sounds depressing and/or discouraging; it’s just important to understand the reality and that this is a very tough business to be in and survive in. 

It is perfectly okay to also have a “day job” in the music industry and have a life outside of that, if one wants, but music in the creative/artistic sense really requires a total full-on commitment often at the expense of just about everything else. So, it takes not only understanding that but also doing a lot of soul searching to know what one wants in their life, for example, security, a family, etc. 

And again, for me anyway, I think I definitely glamorized the lives of working musicians when, in reality, I’m sure it can be a total grind. I have definitely had more than my share of soul-destroying gigs wherein no one showed up and you had to go on really late and get up and go to work the next day and you end up asking yourself why you still do this. It was only a couple years ago that the band I played with accepted an offer to play a “festival” about two hours west of where we live, in a town on the Gulf Coast of Florida called New Port Richey, at a total dive bar. It was a stormy rainy night and I took a route there my phone GPS gave me, which started off not on a highway but on country roads where the speed limit is around 45-50 mph. On the way there, I was not paying attention to my speed and ended up getting pulled over for doing about 17 miles over the limit, resulting in a ticket that cost me north of $250 (my first speeding ticket in decades, btw, and first since moving to Florida ten years ago). When we got to the club, there was nowhere to leave our gear and the entrance was soaking wet from the rain. So, when it was our turn to play we had to load in and set up our gear like gangbusters, get through the set (we actually played really well despite the circumstances) – playing to people who had no idea who we were; we didn’t have any kind of fan base in that part of the state, at least not that we knew of – and then immediately hightailing it back home to Orlando hoping to erase the show from our memories. Okay, I stuck around a little afterwards to watch the band after us, who was also from Orlando, but I wasn’t going to hang out that long, as it was late and I had a minimum two-hour drive ahead of me in the pouring rain. And we wouldn’t be able to collect whatever money we made from the gig – most likely not that much at all – until the end of the night, which none of us was willing to wait around for. After that show we made a vow to never agree to play something like that again. So, even at my ripe old age, I still sometimes tend to forget how grueling even one stupid gig can be. I guess this just comes with “paying your dues,” but at some point you want to not have to continue doing this. I will continue to play every now and again, of course once it’s deemed okay to do so safely, but it will be more on my terms. 

Q: No I really do understand the reality and appreciate your honesty, because like I said, I really am considering being a creative and making a career out of it. I’m becoming more aware of the risks, but I am going to try my best anyway, and make sure I have something safe that I still enjoy to fall back on if necessary (in case I didn’t already say, I am looking to become a music producer, although I am interested in singing, songwriting, and learning guitar all as hobbies). Also, who would you consider as your mentor(s) in the industry?

A: Jim Steinblatt, Assistant VP while I was at ASCAP (he no longer works there), Christos Badavas, SVP & General Counsel at SESAC (formerly HFA), and your father. 

Q: Pfffttttt everyone keeps saying my father and I just find it hilarious because after asking him what he does for a living a little over a hundred times, I still don’t understand what he physically does. Anyway, do you happen to have any interesting and unrelated facts you’d be willing to share about yourself? 

A: I have a Bachelor of Arts in English degree from Cornell University and a Master of Arts in Public Relations degree from Full Sail University. I am a first-generation Italian-American on my mother’s side. My uncle John (father’s side) is the renowned Maestro John Mauceri (I guess this isn’t completely unrelated).

Q: That’s okay- I will definitely be reaching out to you again to learn more about Full Sail though! Do you have anything else you want to share before we go?  

A: Next month, I will be starting the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate program at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. In addition to music, I have always been drawn to this field and even worked in it for a while after graduating from my undergraduate degree many years ago, before moving to NYC to pursue “the dream.” As a result, my professional goal is to permanently transition to this field after completing the program, hopefully in three years as a full-time student. I believe there is a strong link between people interested in music and the other creative arts who also work in the helping professions and perhaps I can find a way to combine the two. As a Career Advisor/Counselor for the past ten years, I guess I’ve already been doing that! 

I hope this has been helpful to you and I wish you the best of luck with all your musical endeavors!

Thank you so much Paul! This has been incredibly helpful and enlightening. I never imagined when I started this blog that I would end up conducting so many interviews with industry professionals. I thought it was going to be more of a “learn with me” kind of deal, which it still is in many ways, but these interviews have taught me so much about the business and where I should be focusing my attention when it comes to what I should be learning about and preparing for a future in music. I just hope that these interviews give as much to my readers as they give to me!

Goodnight guys. Let me know your thoughts on today’s interview, and what kinds of interviews you’d like to see in the future, in addition to other posts. (CHECK OUT THIS MONTH’S CALENDAR ON MY HOME PAGE OR BY GOING TO BLOG > MORE INFO > WHAT TO EXPECT THIS MONTH).

Author: Madison Palmer

According to my little siblings, I'm an adult "sorta". Just 17 with big dreams and an open mind. I've been through a lot but paradise is right around the corner. I am an entrepreneur, singer/songwriter, poet, writer, and aspiring music producer.

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