Alumni Spotlight

Exceptional Alumni: Indie music business pro John Guinan

Head of content and operations for an independent label and co-founder of another, this 2016 grad has seen his star rise in no time flat.

–By Sarah Hernandez for FIU News

School of Music alumnus John Guinan (@jay.__.peh) graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s in music business and has been steadily making a name for himself in the industry ever since. He currently serves as the head of content and operations of InnerCat Music Group (@Innercatmusic)– an independent record company based in Miami – and co-founder and head of operations of the rock and metal band record label, Apocalypse Records (@apocalypserecordslabel).

What path did you take to attain your current position in your career?
I started out of high school in a band that contracted a manager. The band did not last, but I did end up becoming very close friends with our manager, Paris Cabezas of InnerCat Music. Paris has become a very close and important associate in my other music business endeavor of Apocalypse Records along with my partner Mariano Aponte, who was a producer for the band I was in.

What has been the coolest thing about your job so far?
The coolest thing has been being at the forefront of the industry as it changes and adapts. Many of these mid-to-large indie groups’ size allows them to incubate many great ideas or artists and quickly move them out into the world. We work at the same tier as the majors but without the weight of the upper levels of the company slowing down decisions.

What made you decide to work in the indie music business field?
One of the bigger deciding factors was my relationship with my friend and business partner Paris Cabezas. He supported my ideas and goals rather than pushing me to seek work stability. I feel like there is not enough of that kind of support nowadays, and it prevents very capable creative people from achieving their goals in a timely manner.

I was lucky, more than anything, to have the opportunity I did so early in my career and it’s clear now that more of these opportunities exist than when I first started almost eight years ago.

john-guinan2.jpgHow have your responsibilities shifted since the pandemic, and how have you been managing all these changes?Around the world, for the first time in a very long time, artists are unable to perform live in front of an audience and are using this to their advantage at a creative level by recording new content. The uptick in not only creation but consumption from those unable to work and stuck at home means we have been working almost double what we did last year to keep up with the demand to push content.

Also, since many of the consumers are unable to pay for the premium services they have moved to free services, which carry a lower payout across most territories. My job is to find ways to bridge that already existing gap and economic pressure.

What has been the biggest influence on your work?john-guinan.jpg
This city and its music community have been at the forefront of my career development and shaped many of my decisions. Despite it being so underserved, there is still a substantial group of musicians and artists that call Miami their home. I chose to create a label that specifically serves Miami bands because I know what kind of talent is here. I pride myself on being from Miami and defining my career as having helped this community is my ultimate goal because of how influential it has been in my life.

What are some well-known bands have you worked with? Which are some successful projects have you produced?
At InnerCat, we have worked on projects for artists like Gilberto Santa Rosa and Charlie Zaa as well as Albita (one I personally had a hand in) and Jose Luis Rodriguez “El Puma.”

Most notably, though, we have had our hands in working with artists and their labels to create foundations for exponential growth. Some examples of hands-on, ground-up, development are Farruko’s Carbon Fiber Music label where InnerCat helped them become one of the quintessential indie Latin hip hop labels in the world launching acts like Lary Over and Menor Menor.

We started off Tainy and NEON16 with the marketing of their keystone products leading up to and including “NEON16 Tapes – The Kids Who Grew Up On Reggaeton” featuring tracks from artists like Sean Paul, Kali Uchis and Dalex. We have also worked alongside Sony U.S. Latin to market products when they needed extremely detailed campaigns deployed.

How does your job connect back to your time at FIU?
During my time at FIU, I was just beginning to work in the music industry. I started at FIU in 2013-2014, which marked my first year at InnerCat Music Group and a very crazy start to my life outside of performing music. Every memory I have of FIU is connected to my time spent in the office, at the studio recording or spending time with friends talking about my day, which was consumed by music. It was at FIU that I realized I wanted to focus less on performing music and more on the creation and development of artists and music.

Were there any classes or professors that influenced where you are today?
Professor Karen Fuller was definitely a key influencer in my time at FIU. She took every part of what I was doing outside of school into consideration and always pushed her students to incorporate that into our studies. This really helped hyper-focus my goals.

A standout moment though is something Professor Jamie Ousley said to me after I said I didn’t think I had any more time to do something. He said, “Whatever you need to do to get better, start it now because you’ll never have more time than you currently do [in college].”

Right now is the time you have, and you don’t get more of it. So, capitalize and always progress.

How did your music business degree help you excel in what you’re doing today?
FIU’s music business program was pivotal in helping me understand what kind of path I wanted to take in my life when it came to music. Getting to familiarize myself with aspects of the industry in a controlled environment allowed me to experiment and take what I learned into the field knowing better what kind of outcomes I would expect. I didn’t waste any time wondering what I wanted to do, learning in those courses practically handed me my career goals. There really is no better way to kick-start your path.

What advice do you have for students who will be entering the workforce soon and are interested in a career in music business?
Finding that starting point in this business is not always easy. Finding exactly what you want to do in the industry can be even harder, but never stop looking and do not let it out of your sight when you find it.

You will not always move quickly, and you might feel like you fell off somewhere at times, but please just don’t give in to that part of you saying, “stop.” There is work, money to be made and success available in this industry to everyone.

Remembering that you are always within that grasp of whatever it is you want or need from this industry will keep you looking up and moving forward.

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