Third year Music Industry Studies major Ryan Aicklen has spent the last five years discovering the power of networking. His talent in connecting with fans, promoters, and professionals in the industry has helped propel his band, The Collab Project, on small tours and onto music festival circuits.
He recently played a six-date tour on the East Coast which came about through contacts on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace and through word of mouth. People he meets tell their friends and word gets to club promoters who contact him for gigs, he said.
One way the band makes friends is by playing impromptu shows at the campgrounds of music festivals. They connect their gear to their van’s generator and play free for the people there, Aicklen said.
“We make these contacts by being friendly and respectful,” Aicklen said. “It’s all about our attitude.”
Aicklen describes their sound as electronic/dance jam music. He started the band in 2008 with bassist Darin Lehman and later added his brother Andrew Aicklen on guitar and Ryan Knights on drums. The band’s “live” sound helps them to stand out at trance and electronica shows.
“One of our perks is being a band and not just a DJ,” Aicklen said. “It’s a breath of fresh air for the audience.”
But his measure of success hasn’t come without hard work and introspection. At 24, Aicklen is slightly older than most juniors in college because he took two years off after graduating high school in 2004 to figure out exactly what he wanted to do with his life, he said.
During this break, he got his foot in the music industry door when a friend introduced him to manager/producer Josh Binder, who had a publishing deal with Universal Music Group. They hit it off when Aicklen tracked guitar on a song Binder was producing, he added.
Aicklen took advantage of this opportunity and stayed in touch with Binder and the producer was struck by his persistence. He took Aicklen under his wing and taught him how to set up studio gear, sample and program music, and how to make programmed drums sounds more organic.
“He’s responsible for getting me started out here,” Aicklen said. “If I didn’t meet him, I wouldn’t have been able to jump into the industry as quickly as I have. I’m extremely grateful for meeting him.”
Binder also had a big impact on what would become The Collab Project’s sound. Aicklen began playing guitar in the fourth grade and was soon writing and composing his own music. He played in jazz bands in middle school and high school but got into creating electronic music only about four years ago with Binder’s influence.
Now sure of his path, Aicklen has a full class load of 14 units and looks forward to his senior project next year in which he’ll be part of a team chosen by professors to find and produce musical acts, he said.
He’s also far enough along that most of his courses are in music studies but he said he doesn’t want to lose sight of his passion in writing and performing music and his future with The Collab Project.
“It hit me that I wasn’t making the most out of my networking at school,” Aicklen said.
Full-time school can leave time for little else but Aicklen said he recognized that success may depend on relationships he develops with the talent around him at CSUN.