Finding The Overlap Between Your Creative Passions And Your Career

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(FastCo article) Tech executive and (actual) rock star Reid Genauer on the payoffs of shifting back and forth between two very different careers.
By Jennifer Liberto

It’s not unusual for Reid Genauer to spend full work days typing away on a laptop in the back of a tour bus or wrap up a high-stakes conference call from the green room, minutes before taking the stage with his rock band Assembly of Dust.

Genauer is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter who is quite adept at balancing the demands of his music career with his other job as a tech executive. Genauer is chief marketing officer for Magisto, a Tel Aviv tech startup that offers video editing for mobile users to transform snapshots into smart-looking movies.
Reid Genauer

Genauer is based in New York and manages sales, marketing, and investor relations for Magisto. And he credits his long career in the music industry for preparing him for a job as a tech entrepreneur, especially for mastering the skills of artistic compromise.
“Done well, decision making through creative collaboration yields fantastic results.”

“As a songwriter, sometimes I agree to give on the bridge to a song being in a major chord even though I would prefer it to be in a minor chord, for must haves–like the groove, which I feel is crucial to the song,” Genauer said. “Done well, decision making through creative collaboration yields fantastic results.”

To Genauer, music and tech are a natural fit. The music industry and the world of tech startups are all-consuming industries that attract passionate, driven, and creative minds as well as a few crazies, Genauer said. “There is a certain anti-authoritarian air to both types and the belief that a small number of people can have a massive impact on culture and society,” he said.

Growing up, Genauer only wanted to be a musician. He started writing songs in middle school. He went to school at University of Vermont in Burlington, graduating with a degree in environmental science. But his great love was music. He spent the 1990s writing songs and performing with Strangefolk, a popular rock band that drew quite a following. The band followed in the footsteps of another Burlington-bred rock band, Phish, and toured all over the country, attracting crowds as large as 5,000. The group made four albums together, including one under a Disney-owned label. After about 10 years, Genauer grew tired of life on the road.

“I was starting to feel burned out. I noticed a lot of my musician friends were subsidizing their income in other ways, and I had discovered a role for entrepreneurship through growing the band,” said Genauer, who oversaw efforts to get band members health insurance as well as a band newsletter that went to some 50,000 subscribers.

The band continued on, but Genauer dropped out to go to business school at Cornell University. Business school was quite a shock at first, he said.

“I went from Budweisers and broken-down vans to a world where guys wore business suits with cufflinks,” said Genauer who got his MBA in 2002.

Genauer took a six-month break from music. Then, while on summer internship at Timberland in New Hampshire, he formed a new band called Assembly of Dust. He has continued to perform and record albums with that band in his spare time over the years. After graduation, Genauer worked marketing jobs at Fox Mobile Group, eMusic, and Snapple.

Magisto executives found him back in 2012, in their quest for a marketing guru seeped in creativity to run their U.S. operations. Genauer opened their New York offices, first in his own apartment and later in midtown Manhattan.

Over the years, Genauer has leaned on his collaborative experiences in the music industry in his duties as chief marketing officer. For example, he oversaw the launch a branding program with big companies like Discovery and Zappos sponsoring movies that users make.

He had to balance the wishes of companies wanting to be featured prominently within highly personal storytelling. Genauer and his team ended up pairing back the promotional titles until the end of the movie.

“We’re meeting the brand’s desire to be woven into these personal stores but doing it in a way that is user-friendly and contextually appropriate,” he said.

And every once in awhile, his business and music lives collide.

Genauer was working behind a Magisto booth at a tech conference when he overheard a conference attendee ask if the person associated with the “Reid Genauer” business cards on the table was the very same musician he had seen in concert. The attendee, a tech recruiter, was star-struck when he got a chance to talk with Genauer.

“As he telling me how meaningful the music I made was to him, his eyes welled up,” Genauer said. “It was amazing for me–a great coming together of my two worlds.”

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