Interviewer: This is not painful at all. In fact, it's quite fun.
Reid Foster: Cool.
Interviewer: So, just to start, who are you?
Reid: Reid Foster.
Interviewer: And what do you do?
Reid: I manage Reggae bands, and I manage a company called Rootfire that produces some music festivals, runs a nonprofit record label, and operates a media business with various different elements to it.
Interviewer: And it's all based here?
Reid: I'm based here. The parent company's actually in Oakland, so I work remotely here.
Interviewer: How did you get started in the field?
Reid: I've played music all my life, violin and piano when I was younger, and then got interested in drumming as a teenager. Started working in a drum store, in a drum shop. A place called Skip's Music in Sacramento. This guy asked me if I wanted to be the drummer in his band. I was like, "Well, I've got to figure out how to play drums, but sure."
That eventually led to, somewhere around 20 years old, I found myself playing with this new band. I was the dude with the checkbook and a calendar, and I was the guy who just started picking up the phone and calling every bar in town, and being like, "What does it take to play at your venue?" That just kind of continued, and I pursued my rockstar dreams for about eight years of sleeping on couches and going through a couple of different vans on tour. After doing that for so long for my own band, I realized that it was not going ... I wasn't going to be the rockstar that I thought that I might be-
Interviewer: It wasn't the Jeff Tweedy story.
Reid: It wasn't the Jeff Tweedy story, yeah. So, I went on a little bit of a walkabout, to try and figure out who the hell I was, and I found myself sitting in the jungle in Costa Rica, still talking about bands and shows that I wanted to book. That was kind of the, yeah, like ... this is probably what I'm doing. Before that, many years before that, there was an epiphany, a similar epiphany, sitting in an accounting class at community college.
I had been really on the fence about ... I had always been kind of like a halfway into it type of student, and I had been really on the fence about whether or not to transfer on to a four year school and get my bachelor's degree or not. At the beginning of that semester, I had decided, yep, hunker down, get it done with. And then about halfway through that semester, I, at the end of this accounting class one day, I realized that I had spent the entire time making a list of things that I needed to do for my band as soon as I got out of school. That was kind of the first big, "Don't waste your parents' money. This is what you're doing," and I think I was like 22 at the time.
Interviewer: Wow. Well, that's a good segue. I was going to ask what you're most passionate about, and if that plays a part in what you do? It sounds like it does.
Reid: Yeah. I think there's kind of no two ways around it, it's just like I'm passionate about music and the business of music. I stay up at night, thinking about it. For better or worse, you know?
Interviewer: What specifically?
Reid: Well, part of the nature of the industry is just that there's kind of like a never-ending list of things that, if you did this, maybe this would be better, or if you do this, then this. So, there's kind of like ... There's kind of just this never-ending mental to-do list, and sometimes it's hard to draw the balance between do it now while it's fresh in my brain versus, dude, chill, you know?
But, outside of that, my passion is friends, like building relationships, and that's so interwoven in the music industry, and I think really any industry. So, yeah, I'm passionate about people and the way people respond to things, and dissecting that and trying to do a better job of communicating and sharing things that I'm excited about. I go on and on and on about stuff that I like. People tell me to shut up half the time.
Interviewer: Well, you don't have to shut up here. Can you share a story, being out on the road, or just that is memorable, that stands out to you?
Reid: Well, I can say that ... I've been on the road for the better part of like 15 years, and without question, the most insane experiences of my life have almost all been tied back to being on a tour. It's like highs, and the extreme highs and extreme lows. You're playing people's weddings and seeing that special moment, then literally going to jail. There's that also.
But, there is one kind of like, not acute specific situation, but just kind of like a bigger story around being on the road in recent years, is just going through the door of sobriety with one of the band members in particular has been a really powerful life experience.
Interviewer: Yeah, I bet.
Reid: You know, just seeing somebody's transformation through that, and starting at like, "Oh my God, this guy's going to die. This is bad," you know, to having him recognize that and do something about it, and come out of rehab and just be this amazing person that had been underneath the surface all along. I was getting to know him in a different way for the first time, and it's just like wow. And then being on tour, there's kind of a very protective shepherd type of hat to wear when you're tour managing, and it's like doing an entire tour and having no alcohol backstage. That's a big deal, you know?
Reid: It was a challenge for me too 'cause I like to drink, but it's ... There are relationships that build over time on tour, and, similarly, there are just kind of these satellite relationships that you have, 'cause like I stayed on that person's couch in 2007, and every time I go back through Portland, Oregon, they come to the show and bring cookies or something, you know? So, there are really special relationships that build through the process of touring.
Interviewer: So you have a family around the country.
Reid: Totally. It's like, "Hey, we're going to Dallas. I've got to make sure I contact these people." "Oh, we're going to be in Madison, Wisconsin," or like Orlando, San Diego. It's just like, at some point, I had to start putting people's names and phone number with the city first.
Reid: So, I'd be like, "Oh, Denver. These eight people, I said that I would let them know next time I'm through." Then, of course, it becomes a process of stretching yourself too thin and learning how to not do that when you go on tour, and not feel bad when you can't sit down and have lunch with every single person. But, you know, that's just kind of the nature of being on tour also. It's like you've got all these really cool people who have had some special significance, and maybe you get to see them pretty often if you keep touring, but there comes a point where the touring is just too much to stay on top of all the other work that I've got to do. The band members don't necessarily need to be like coordinating all the different stuff, so there comes a point where touring is just ... If you've got anything else going on, touring is like hugely challenging.
Interviewer: And are you in a point of transition right now?
Reid: I've fully transitioned.
Reid: Thank God.
Interviewer: From being on the road all the time to being..
Interviewer: Being home.
Reid: Yeah, choosing the shows that I want to be at.
Reid: For the most part, you know? I still have a lot of travel because I work remotely and the main office is in Oakland, and then we have a festival in Florida, and one in Seattle, and one in Boston, and one in Monterey, California. So, there's still a lot going on. But then there are like really special shows, like The Movement playing at Red Rocks for the first time. It's like I'm traveling for that one.
Reid: You know?
Reid: So, yeah, there's still travel, but I've ... finally, finally been able to find somebody to take that off my plate.
Interviewer: That's awesome.
Interviewer: Where would you ultimately like to be in 5 to 10 years? What would your dream seat be? And I guess the second question that dovetails to that is does it feel like the industry is changing dramatically?
Reid: It definitely feels like the industry is changing dramatically. But, sometimes I actually think that the most dramatic changes have already happened in the music industry. You know, like Napster happened in the 90s, and Spotify came somewhere around 2009/2010, and now we're into 2018 and the biggest changes in the industry have to do with recorded music, I think. Those have kind of ... People seem to have gotten with the program.
But, you know, where I would like to be in five years is continuing to do what I do, and have a staff of people that can help me scale it. It's like I'm in this ... 2017 was a year of pretty significant change for me professional, with the founder and owner of the company leaving and asking me to take the reins on it, and being, "Oh my God." At the same time, I got off the road. In theory, my plate was a little less full, but then it just got ... There's like all of this new territory that I've never tried, and, more than ever, I've realized that if I wanted to continue being responsible for the things I'm responsible for, I can't be the guy who does it all.
For so long, I had to be the guy that did it all. It's like I had to learn how to use Photoshop 'cause we needed an album cover, or I had to learn HTML 'cause we needed a website. I couldn't afford to pay anybody to do it. So, it's been really interesting to try and break those patterns and focus my energy on trying to figure out how to build a team to do these things. So, in five years, I hope that I can have a couple of people that work with me full-time, and we can continue doing what we do and do it better, and build some bands to be able to support themselves, and maybe even put a little money in the bank while I do it.
Reid: And, furthermore, continue to build the genre that I ... You know, I work in the genre of modern Reggae music, and it's a pretty niche genre, but I think that if I do it right, and if I learn to leverage the resources that are there, and create opportunities that maybe need to be created rather than just presenting themselves, I think there's a real chance that we can fundamentally change the landscape of this corner of the industry that we live in. So, yeah, I want to keep doing what I do, and try and do it more and better.
Interviewer: You've been with us here at Studio IX for a while.
Interviewer: Yeah, so you and Seth were here. What is it about just being here?
Reid: Well ...
Interviewer: And you can say it's dirt cheap and I like the coffee. (laughter)
Reid: Those are true. But, no, I was thinking more about kind of the context for how I got here. Seth and I had an office in the Pink Warehouse, and I loved it. It was like, "Oh my God, we have an office. I can go into the office now. It feels so professional." Then I was on tour for like half of the year, and I remember Seth calling me at some point on some tour, and being like, "Hey, man. I don't know, man, the office, it's just really uninspiring when I'm the only person here. Somebody downstairs is smoking cigarettes and it's really stinky. There's this new place that opened up called Studio IX, and I wanted to see what you would think about us moving out of the office and moving into Studio IX." I was just like, "I love the office though." But it was I loved having somewhere to go.
Reid: 'Cause I had spent so many years working out of my kitchen, or in bed, or whatever, like trying to ... Kind of the freelancer's classic struggle of like, "Oh my God. Home, work, how do I separate the two?" But, as soon as we ... Seth was the one paying the bills. It was very kind and generous of him to ask me if I would go along for it, but it was like of course.
Reid: But, as soon as we got here, I remember just instantly being like, "Oh, this is way cooler than our office, actually, because there's more people. There's energy, there are friendly people at the desk, there's coffee out front." There's just a kind of air of creativity and productivity, and specifically the fact that I don't have a dedicated desk here. It's like that means that I can't leave Post-it notes and clutter and a mug or whatever. It's like I walk into a clean slate every day, and that's been really huge.
Interviewer: I've never thought about that, yeah.
Reid: Yeah. I mean, ... I tend to be a creature of habit and sit in the same spot for months, and just today, somebody had their phone plugged in where ... I was like, "Oh, okay. Well, I guess I'll sit some ..." So, there's just kind of like a natural, organic way of keeping it a little bit fresh.
Interviewer: That's it.
Interviewer: Thank you