Sunday, May 15, 2011

Interview with Kristen Madsen

Good Morning.
“And the beat goes on……………………………………..”

Interview with Kristen Madsen - Senior Vice President of the GRAMMY and MusiCares Foundations.

Bio: Kristen Madsen is currently the Senior Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares Foundation, two charitable foundations established by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (the GRAMMY Awards). In that position she has overseen an expansion of revenues and distribution of programs and services nationwide, including the launch of a televised fundraising concert which garnered two EMMY Nominations in 2007. She also oversaw MusiCares being awarded a 4-Star rating by the charity watchdog organization Charity Navigator.
Before transitioning to head up the Academy’s Foundations, Madsen served as Vice President of Member Services for the Recording Academy for 8 years. Prior to joining the Academy, she was President of the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, a trade association for the 300 arts councils in California. Previously, she directed the Performing Arts Touring and Presenting Program and Community Arts Development Program for the Utah Arts Council, was a booking manager for the Repertory Dance Theatre, and served a fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts.
Madsen is a board member of Grantmakers in the Arts, The Actors Fund and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board.  She has a B.S. in political science and completed course work for a Masters of Arts Administration.

Barry: For the benefit of my readers who may not be familiar with the Grammy Foundation, can you please give them a thumbnail outline of the chief philosophy behind what the foundation is trying to accomplish and the principal programs it supports and operates?

Kristen: Just over 20 years ago, the Recording Academy, best known for producing the GRAMMY Awards, created two non-profit organizations to more broadly serve the music community – the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares.

The GRAMMY Foundation has two primary areas of focus: developing the next generation of music makers and preserving our musical heritage. Key programs include grants for archiving and preservation projects as well as research; GRAMMY Camp for high school music students, and GRAMMY Signature Schools for high school music programs.

MusiCares is a human services foundation that provides assistance for music people themselves in crisis. In essence we provide “operating” funds to individuals with careers in music. Key programs include financial assistance for emergencies including medical, personal and professional crises; addiction recovery assistance because we believe that addiction is an occupational hazard of the music industry; and proactive clinics, dental and medical screenings, and workshops.

Barry: Your outreach in terms of collaboration and partnerships lies principally within the private sector (as opposed to the nonprofit sector) -- what lessons have you learned from those relationships and experiences that you think might have value to the nonprofit arts sector?

Kristen: The For-Profit sector spends money in places that matter to the institution’s success besides product development and distribution. We don’t do that so much. Partly we don’t because we think we can’t afford it – and when funders won’t cover it, they unintentionally reinforce that position. What we call “audience development” the rest of the world recognizes as marketing and it is a chronically under-developed area with a really high potential upside to our operations.

Barry: Along the same lines, what do you think the nonprofit arts sector can do to expand its relationships with companies and organizations that are in the private sector? How might we initiate intersections that would be mutually attractive to the two sectors?

Kristen: Find a value exchange that makes sense. I know that sounds flippant or naïve. But come on. Isn’t that how every successful partnership comes together? Otherwise, you are talking about corporate philanthropy. Do you have an audience, an expertise, a cache, or a cause that plugs a hole for corporate partner? You might have to help shine a spotlight on the hole, in order to show your value first.

Barry: Technology has dramatically changed the way art is created, packaged, distributed funded and even accessed by the public. The new ways a younger generation is making and distributing art has led to a “disconnect” between that cohort and the nonprofit arts sector – with many younger people feeling the nonprofit arts are irrelevant. What do you think can be done to build new bridges to that audience and establish new intersections with them?

Kristen: I was with you right up until “has led to a ‘disconnect’ between that cohort and the nonprofit arts sector.” In a world that offers access to everything, anywhere, all the time, distinctions and categories blur or go away altogether. So, it’s not about our sector. It’s about what we are doing. Does it resonate? Are we providing a clear and easy pathway to find us? And is there a role for a new audience to participate that is a good fit? This is with a generation for whom a participatory voice is a major factor in who gets their attention and dollars.

Barry: While your foundation, along with scores of other foundations, and literally hundreds of arts organizations, corporations and individuals have dedicated themselves and heavily invested time, energy and money to try to expand music education to include more K-12 students throughout the country, unfortunately we are still a long, long way from the goal. In part that is because arts education as a whole continues to be marginalized and thought of as a frill or luxury; in part it is because of the current economic downturn and the enormous expense of even providing one music teacher in each school – even part time; and in part because the priorities remain with math, science and other subjects. What do you think is our best collective approach to making bigger advances – faster?

Kristen: How about demonstrating that the arts provide an essential element in creating graduates who can compete in a knowledge economy? We have to draw a direct line between what is learned through the arts and capacity for innovation. The message that a successful education can no longer be defined by good test scores in math and reading is finding a new foothold. And the characteristics most uniformly touted as critical to America’s future success is our ability to compete through innovation in the global marketplace. So now is the perfect to time to make the case that the arts are essential.

Barry: Easy to say, hard to do. Do you have any suggestions how that direct line between what is learned through the arts and capacity for innovation might be drawn?

Kristen: I also think that the arts should explore the possibility of working with the science education community on this issue. The parallels in our two fields are extraordinary: we both foster problem solving and creative thinking skills; we both require intense focus and concentration for long periods of time; we both find breakthroughs when groups work together on a single project; and more. Is this a partnership where we each have something of value and can make better progress together?

Barry:  Neil (Portnow) – President of the Academy - has been a tireless champion of the importance of the arts and creativity to America. Do you think it practical – or even possible – to enlist the aid of the Academy’s high profile celebrity membership in a national campaign to include high profile celebrities from other fields (film, television, sports, business, politics, science, academia) that would promote the value of arts to creativity and arts education in general? How might we begin to interest people in launching such a campaign?

Kristen: It depends on if you can articulate what the goal is – what would you want to achieve in a high profile campaign? If it’s measurable and meaningful to all the desired players then yes, maybe this would be “practical -- or even possible”.

Barry: Before you began working at the Academy, you held the post (before me) as the President of the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies. I know it’s been awhile since you were on the front lines of the nonprofit arts field, but you remain very active in Grantmakers for the Arts – what do you think are the top major issues facing arts organizations in 2011, and what ideas do you have for addressing some of those issues?

Kristen: Here are three:
  • Competition. To some of my earlier points, spending resources – financial or human – on getting our own messages out to the audiences we crave – is really critical. The good news is that making yourself heard electronically is as much about creativity as it is about money.
  • Changing expectations of donors. I agree with recent studies showing that new funders want a different level of participation in the organizations they fund. I’m a big fan of focus groups to bring new ideas into the organization and get out of our own heads. One of the hardest but most important lessons I’m learning is that letting go doesn’t have to be the same as losing control. And the payoff in new energy, new ideas and new ownership are totally worth it.
  • Crowd-sourcing philanthropy. This is on the list mainly because I have no idea where it’s headed. But it’s definitely a change that is going to impact the way all of give and get funds. So it’s definitely one to watch.

Barry: In terms of the promotion of creativity across generations, across borders, across income levels, across political beliefs, what is the best idea you’ve heard in the past two years?

Kristen: I’ve got two. One comes from the music industry. Jill Sobule is an independent artist who had five albums under her belt but no label deal for a sixth. So she created a vehicle where her fans could become financial sponsors of the new album to raise what she needed to produce it. She developed a tiered strategy that allowed sponsors different levels of actual participation in the process and successfully came up with the $75,000 she needed. Sobule got not only got the resources she needed to release the album, and additional creative voices in her process, but built a much deeper relationship with her fans that will benefit her well into the future. See more at: http.

The second idea was really more an experience. Last year I was in Fort Collins, Colorado during the annual Tour de Fat bike ride. Produced by the New Belgium brewery, makers of Fat Tire Beer, the ride is a community bike parade that encourages all riders to be as creative as they like with their bikes, their costumes and their teams. They participate in a morning-long ride that ends up in a park for an afternoon of music stages, food and beverages. This is not inherently a new concept, but what I witnessed from the sidelines was a remarkable demonstration of the democratization of creativity – people who would never consider themselves artists had created amazing and clever expressions of themselves, and were parading it for the community to see. And it turns out that the parade I saw was only a tiny fraction of the New Belgium does in a really interesting new model of corporate citizenship – everything from providing grants to nonprofits in the area to “Car-for-Bike” trade ins to promote a greener environment. You can find more at

Barry: One of the more popular offerings directed at working artists by those nonprofits that are trying to provide services to that constituency has been The Business of Music seminars and workshops. I have always thought that another offering that would be enormously attractive to those interested in recorded music would be a seminar or workshop by one or more professional Producers. A sort of Boot Camp Basic Record Production 101 Course. Is that something you think the Producer’s wing of the Grammy’s is doing or might be interested in?

Kristen: Yes, and they already are. They sponsor or host dozens of workshops each year on various elements of music production and engineering. There are also many other institutions that regularly host these types of workshops, and some terrific online resources that are available for this kind of instruction., with initial funding from the Herb Alpert Foundation, is a really great resource, with video lectures from some of the best in the business.

Thank you Kristen.

Watch this speech Kristen did earlier this year on Hip Hop and the power of vocabulary:

Have a good week.

Don’t Quit!