“Music, arts, that’s the soul of the city,” says Seattle Music Commissioner Ricardo Frazer. Best known as the manager for Sir Mix-A-Lot, Frazer has been serving on the Music Commission since 2015 and is a pioneer in Seattle’s music industry.
Frazer started his career in a pretty non-musical direction. Having emigrated from Costa Rica and grown up in New York, he first went to school for electrical engineering and joined the U.S. Air Force. After moving to Washington, he started working on a degree in communications from Evergreen State College. “I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t rap, I couldn’t play anything…” Frazer ticks items off a list of reasons why he thought he wouldn’t have a career in the industry. “But I worked my way up.”
While at Evergreen, Frazer began DJing for the college radio station, playing mostly “out there” jazz. He steadily picked up more experience and “became part of the scene,” he says. Frazer worked internships at local radio stations and even got his first job with Seattle Theatre Group as a custodian at the Paramount. (Frazer is now President of STG’s Board of Directors.)
Frazer also began his career as a manager during this time, first working with a reggae group. A turning point was getting the offer to manage Sir Mix-A-Lot in the early 90s, an offer that he was at first hesitant to accept. “Mix asked me to manage him, and we were on the phone for about an hour. I was kind of grilling him,” Frazer remembers.
Ultimately, Frazer took the job and went on to grow his influence in the scene during what he describes as an “incredible time” in Seattle’s music history. Frazer became Manager and President of RCR Records, working with artists like The Presidents of the United States of America. He’s also an experienced entrepreneur, having served as VP of Business Development/Artist Development at hardroad.com as well as President of MeMusic. Frazer’s most recent venture is the creative agency/production/entertainment company ZakiRose, which he co-founded.
The Seattle Music Commission is one of the city’s newest commissions, and Frazer sees its creation as hugely important to the future of Seattle’s music culture, particularly as the region continues to grow and change. “It’s so important to have a seat at the table for musicians, and getting that was such a seminal moment.”
He stresses the importance of recognizing the music industry as a key part of the local economy: “When you look at the [Seattle] Chamber’s categories, you have technology, you have aerospace. What about music?” In his work on the Commission, Frazer has focused on addressing the question of how musicians and artists, who are vital to Seattle’s culture and character, can afford to live in the city. The Commission, in partnership with the City and others, is working to address that question through both expanding existing programs and exploring new policy solutions.
Frazer advises those who are new to the industry to know their worth and not to undersell themselves: “Young musicians need to understand, there’s value in what you create.” While it’s often difficult for artists to make a living in an increasingly expensive city like Seattle, Frazer is also adamant that young people should “follow their passion.” Having switched career paths and working his way up through Seattle’s music scene over many years, Frazer knows first-hand, “There are lots of jobs out there.”
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