Relevant work experience for this startup? Try 10 years as a touring musician

November 3, 2017

Touring as a musician is a tough way to make a living.

Evan Weiss spent most of the past decade either on tour or writing music for a variety of bands, including indie solo project Into It. Over It. In that time, he toured 24 countries and every state in the continental United States.

“I love playing music professionally, but eventually it begins to take a toll,” Weiss said. “You’re never home for very long, so everything starts to feel very transient. When you do come home, your relationships, friendships and city all feel different. At 25 you don’t care as much, but at 33 you begin to reevaluate.”

Taking a step back at the end of last year, Weiss decided it was time to try something new. Weeks later, he was working at Reverb.

Part of a tight-knit community of Chicago-based touring musicians, Weiss had seen many friends go on to land jobs at the fast-growing music gear marketplace. Former bandmate Matt Jordan was Reverb’s eighth hire, and Weiss regularly played shows with people who worked there. Weiss joined the startup’s customer engagement team and became a business development manager in less than eight months.

“I don’t have a college education because I started playing in bands straight out of high school. My primary education was in networking, knowing how to speak with other musicians and understanding the products Reverb deals in,” Weiss said. “This role played exactly into my real-world experience, which is the most important thing someone can bring into this office.”

Weiss is one of a handful of Reverb employees with touring experience. Developer Jeremy Kay opened for The Black Keys while touring with Nicole Atkins, and his bass guitar videos are crowd favorites on the Reverb YouTube channel. When not fielding questions from fellow musicians, customer engagement representative Emma McCall tours with indie rock bands Moonrise Nation and Company of Thieves.

“I’m actually bettering my musical skills and knowledge while simultaneously building a career at a quickly-growing tech company,” said McCall. “It’s an incredible feeling to not have to pick between being in the music industry and having a secure and fulfilling job.”

Weiss, for his part, has been writing new music for Into It. Over It. all year. He’s also part of a three-piece called Pet Symmetry, which just set out on a weeks-long tour. In many ways, Weiss thinks taking the job with Reverb has helped him get to a better place in his music career.

“Having a stable job, I can focus more on shorter stints of touring that are really beneficial to my projects, rather than taking opportunities just to keep the lights on,” said Weiss. “It’s reshaped my attitude toward being a musician and given me freedom. It doesn’t matter if my record isn’t a hit. I can go into it knowing it isn’t something I have to do — it’s something I love to do.”

Only a handful of Reverb’s employees have professional touring experience, but musicianship is a refrain throughout the company as a whole. Around 85 percent of the team plays an instrument, and Reverb’s annual holiday party is a cover band extravaganza put on by the startup’s own employees. Last year, CEO David Kalt and director of infrastructure Yan Pritzker covered Weezer and Rage Against the Machine, respectively.

In Weiss’ view, the fact that so many members of the team engage in creative endeavours outside of work helps foster creativity in the company’s day-to-day work.

“Everyone here is pretty willing to exchange ideas and chat, which brings out new ideas and helps bring out a lot of symbiotic collaboration, rather than sweeping opinions under the rug,” he said. “I’ve worked in offices before, but it’s never felt so much like a family — it kind of feels like being in a band, except with 150 people instead of five."


Images via Reverb.

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