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Digital firm promotes musicians around the world

A wall in the conference room at Symphonic Distribution is covered by photos of famous musicians and artists.

There is a portrait of Andy Warhol and a shot of an explosive Nine Inch Nails show.

There is Johnny Cash’s snarling, infamous one-finger salute to the country music establishment, a photo of John Lennon with Yoko Ono and one of the late Kurt Cobain crowd-surfing.

The independent artists served by Symphonic Distribution, founded by Jorge Brea in 2006, have not yet gained the fame and fortune of such icons, but Brea has made it his business to help them get there.

“I love music. I started DJ-ing and producing a little bit, and I wanted an outlet,” Brea said recently, as he prepared to attend Midem, a music industry conference held in Cannes, France.

“I didn’t have the resources to put out vinyl or CDs,” he said. “Digital music was on the rise, so I created a digital label that published music out on MP3.”

Brea, 30, is growing what has become a global business from a 2,000-square-foot office in a new office park off State Road 56, just east of Interstate 75.

He runs Symphonic Distribution, now representing roughly 15,000 artists from around the world, with wife Janette Berrios and older brother Julio Brea, who handle marketing and sales, respectively.

“The problems (musicians) have with distribution is that you can’t get it out there easily on Spotify, Pandora or iTunes,” Brea said. “You need to be in a category they’re looking for and you have to deliver (the music) to their specifications. You can’t just give them a CD.

“You have to be technically advanced. If you get us your music, we’ll get it in the right format.”

Brea’s business can also help independent artists collect royalties, license music for television, films and video games, help “monetize” YouTube videos and protect music from file-sharing sites and piracy.

The company also does vinyl and CD distribution, as well as promotion and marketing work.

Marjorye Henry, manager of Clearwater blues-rock band WD-HAN, said the group has worked with Symphonic Distribution for about a year. While the band plays mostly around the Tampa Bay area, they have traveled as far as Taiwan and Australia, Henry said.

WD-HAN has embraced Symphonic Distribution’s “Become Major” campaign.

“It’s a way to connect independent artists to overcome the major labels and band together,” Henry said. “If you have enough people with enough push, you can become major.”

Henry said the band’s relationship with Symphonic began with digital distribution but has grown to video distribution, online promotion and generating “support from the community.”

“They also do a lot of online sharing and posting about events that we have coming up,” Henry said. “Also, their process is so easy. Our music was up (on Spotify) very quickly. We send people to Spotify all the time. It’s very useful to have it up in all those places.”

Symphonic Distribution gets a percentage “of whatever we sell for the year” through various digital outlets, she said.

Brea said the company offers various fee-based pricing models. But generally, he said: “However your product performs determines the profit.”

A former club disc jockey known as “Viro,” Brea now has 11 full-time employees, but he said the business keeps growing. He enjoys working with his wife and brother, he said, because they can relate to his passion for music.

“I was a little concerned at first,” Berrios said of working with her husband. “But with us, there’s no room for holding onto (petty grievances). The ultimate decisions are Jorge’s, but if you have an opinion, voice it. If we disagree, we disagree.”

Berrios has a financial background but said she has long been involved with the arts.

“In this industry we can be creative,” she said. “It’s been a good balance.”

Across the conference room from the photos of legendary artists is a wall dominated by a long chalkboard on which a large peace sign and blooming flower are drawn.

There are also quotes scrawled by Symphonic Distribution employees.

“You determine how hard you will work,” reads one.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” reads another, attributed to hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

A Dominican Republic native, Brea said working with family is beneficial because each member has a vested interest in the company’s success.

Plus, “They all realize how much this means to me,” he said.

Maddie Pfeiffer, singer with Clearwater band Lions After Dark, was grateful for the business’s dedication to her group.

“We re-released our last album with them and they got it onto a whole bunch of online music platforms, like 300 different platforms: Spotify, Google Play, Pandora,” Pfeiffer said. “You know, places people go to buy it, and they collect the money for us, which is awesome. As an artist on your own, you don’t have access to all these different platforms.”

An alternative rock group, Lions After Dark is also utilizing Symphonic Distribution’s electronic press kit.

“It’s a platform you send venues, bookers and other bands,” Pfeiffer said.

Pfeiffer said the folks at Symphonic Distribution seem as driven as she and her band mates.

“They’re very personal and super-nice,” she said. “I don’t know that I’ve interacted with that many people in the business that actually have a love for music and helping people. It’s a nice change.”

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