“I certainly didn’t think it would become a career,” says Seattle Music Commission Vice Chair Nadine Zgonc, referring to her first-ever desk job, a gig at AEI Music Network. She started out in customer service (“which I really sucked at”), but the job was the first step in her career in the music industry.
When people hear “music industry” they might first think of performing musicians, and less about companies like AEI Music Network and PlayNetwork, where Zgonc is currently Head of Brand Strategy. Maybe you haven’t heard of these companies, but you’ve definitely experienced their work: these music providers and others supply in-store soundtracks and more for clients including Starbucks, MAC Cosmetics, Tory Burch, Under Armour and NARS.
Zgonc has spent a lot of time in her career battling the idea of “muzak,” or the notion that “music in public space environments [is] background music.” In both her professional career and her work on the Music Commission, Zgonc seeks to bring high-quality music into the public sphere, not as background but as a way to enrich lives.
In the world of the Music Commission, this mission has translated into the “Experience the City of Music at Sea-Tac Airport” program, which has been introducing millions of Sea-Tac visitors to our region’s music culture since 2012. The Music Commission approached PlayNetwork to be a partner in the program, which was Zgonc’s introduction to the Commission. The program includes live performances seven days a week from local musicians, overhead music exclusively from Northwest artists, and video clips showcasing Seattle’s music scene and history that play on monitors across the airport.
You also might have noticed some familiar voices last time you waited in the security line. “The fun part was digging into all of our rolodexes to reach out to local artists and have them do the TSA announcement reads that play overhead,” says Zgonc. “I was like kid in a candy shop, you know, getting in all these message records from Jerry Cantrell and Macklemore and Sir-Mix-A-Lot and Ann Wilson… So that continues to be a really fun project, where we get to connect with not just big names, but also emerging names. Tacocat did some recent messaging updates.”
Zgonc and the Music Commission are looking for ways to expand the Experience the City of Music program beyond the airport and make live music more integral to everyday life in Seattle, while at the same time providing more work for local artists. The Commission is in conversation with the Washington State Convention Center about making live music a bigger element of their events, for example, and is looking to work with local businesses, sports teams and more.
Having worked in Seattle’s commercial music industry her entire career, Zgonc has had a bird’s-eye view of our music culture. “From an artistic perspective, we’ve had an incredible caliber of music that’s come out of our little pocket of the world,” she says, pointing to artists like Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix, as well as the ’90s grunge era and more recent indie and hip hop artists. “Music is in Seattle’s DNA, and I think my greatest fear, like many of us, is based on the continued development and growth our city is having, how do we continue to preserve music as a pillar of our city?”
The Music Commission is working with the City and other partners to help answer that question—in part through their work expanding and improving programs like Experience the City of Music. Zgonc is also optimistic about opportunities such as the Upstream Music Festival and Summit, which is “helping emerging artists try to understand how they can make a living and foster a path and navigate the music scene.”
You can contact Nadine Zgonc and her fellow Music Commissioners at firstname.lastname@example.org.