I am Michael Lake, a Grammy-nominated jazz trombonist who has been blessed with fascinating careers, not just in music, but also in corporate sales and marketing.
My business career started one morning at the very end of my fourth year as a Jazz Performance/Theory & Composition major. I got a phone call from a company in Minneapolis Minnesota called Professional Musicians Referral. Could I come up and audition/interview to be part of what they were building, they asked. I did and was recruited into one of their bands while being trained in sales and business.
Someone there thought I had a talent for talk and for persuading people, and they saw me as a potential salesguy. They trained me well in order to sell their yearly subscription for match-making musicians with bands. For the next four years I flourished in a kind of boot camp for business. My friends and family were worried that I was in some sort of cult. Crazy hours for very little money. It showed me that to gain followers and rabid fans, people have to believe.
Believing is everything
People have to believe in a cause larger than themselves. In our case, the cause was an experiment to build something within the music business that could put more into the pockets of musicians. For my last year, they asked me to run the New Jersey branch of Professional Musician’s Referral.
I eventually left and moved to Boston where I was part of a four-trombone salsa band called Caribbean Express. A&M Records was starting a Latin division and needed a good band to seed the label’s roster. They recorded us and the album somehow got nominated for a Best Latin Grammy. If it weren’t for Julio Iglesias, I might have gotten myself one of those little gramophone statues!
From Boston to New York to a Carnival Cruise ship traveling the Caribbean, I was a working trombonist. I was usually supplementing my income by selling something. At one point, I sat in the Boston Ballet offices afternoons telemarketing their season tickets and teaching others the skill. It sure beat waiting tables!
And then I found the New York Corporate Trade industry.
After moving to New York, I found a company looking for a salesguy. It was a bunch of very smart and street-wise businesspeople who were really good at buying advertising and trading it to big companies. They made a tidy profit and it was a fascinating experience.
For 15 years I sold the financial service while managing sales and marketing, helping build a company called Active International to over a billion dollars in trading revenue. But I was getting bored.
So I started my own marketing agency. Redlake Marketing helped small businesses and non-profits grow their business.That was fun, but about eight years into it, a friend from my former company called me and asked if I wanted to help him start another company in the trading industry.
He knew I loved building things, so of course I said yes, and proceeded to create the marketing image and the sales efforts for this new company called Evergreen Trading. For ten years, we grew to over 100 people and were annually trading half a billion dollars of advertising. But I was getting bored again.
Saying my goodbyes
So I bid my great friends at Evergreen Trading farewell three years ago to pursue an experiment to teach trombone, jazz, and musicianship through my writing, recording, and video skills. I had always been playing trombone and composing music, and I had some different ideas on how to improvise. Players have loved my courses and books, and now I want to help musicians more by building websites and sharing my ideas on marketing, selling, and strategy.