Watch Episode #90: An Industry Q&A with David Frangioni
An Expert´s View on How To Grow and Survive in the Automation Industry
About David Frangioni
David Frangioni, an award-winning veteran of the music industry, has expertise ranging from being a drummer and producer to an artist development & label founder, audio consultant, music technologist, integrator, author & engineer.
He built a ground-breaking music tech consulting business working with Aerosmith, the Stones, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Sting, Bryan Adams, Journey, Styx, Phil Collins, Shakira, Pat Metheny, Rascal Flatts, Ozzy Osbourne, Chick Corea, and many more.
David has authored 3 books including Icon and Crash, along with founding Frangioni Media, Audio One based in South Florida, All Access IDA, and his non-profit Frangioni Foundation. In 2019, David became Publisher of Modern Drummer Magazine, the world’s #1 drum magazine.
In this conversation, we discussed:
- His experience working with leading artists like Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne
- Creating strong connections through trust and consistency
- What to expect from Modern Drummer Magazine 2020 publication
- How David shares his passion for music through his non-profit, Frangioni Foundation
Ron: Hello everybody. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged today. Today is Wednesday, October 23rd. This is Episode 90. Those of you that have been watching me for some time or listening know that I'm coming to you from my new office. Getting a little more figured out here. You see the bookshelves in the back and my chair and whatnot. We're moving along here nicely in the new house and the new studio, still looking to upgrade my audio equipment so just bear with me on that. But you know, doing our best.
I number one want to mention to you that are watching and/or listening, some very exciting news about Automation Unplugged. You've heard me talk about this for the better part of this year and we finally made it happen. We are available as a podcast! If you go out to Apple and go to your favorite application for consuming podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio -- I personally use Apple Podcasts or Google. Search Automation Unplugged and voila, you're gonna see the show. We started at show 87. That's the show you see live. We've got 88, 89 already produced. You'll see those drop here shortly. Then today's show of course show 90. Moving forward, we're looking at about a one-week turnaround to get that content live.
Again, thanks for listening and watching and being patient with us. I'm super excited to have the podcast. Subscribe and check it out. Without any further ado, I know my guest is on a very tight schedule and I'm going to bring him in here.
Ron: Here we go. What's up, Mr. David?
David: Good to be here Ron.
Ron: Oh man. Ha. How long have you and I known each other David?
David: Over 20 years.
Ron: 20 years. Isn't that crazy? It makes me feel old. I know you still look as young as the day I met you.
David: And likewise. It's been quite a journey. Much has happened. But you know, it's always a privilege when you have a grown a friendship over many years as we have. It's a really great honor.
Ron: Likewise, my friend. David is actually one of the first integrators that I met when I joined the industry 20 years ago. I'm trying to remember the good Lutron salesperson, Warren Lanza brought me in to meet you in your super cool office down there in Miami. And the rest is history. David, you are a man of many talents. You are one of the more colorful, interesting, passionate, talented people that I know. And I'd love, if you don't mind, to start with your background. Tell my audience about your background, keeping in mind a lot of our audience is from the AV industry and automation industry. Tell us where you came from and how you found integration and everything else. And then I've got some topics.
David: I'll make the long story very short so that people can get as much as possible from this. I grew up in Boston and as a child, I ended up getting retinal blastoma, which is cancer of the eye and I almost died. And to save me, they had to remove my right eye. I had a really trauma filled childhood dealing with that. But what ended up happening is the blessing of that is lost. But gained a lot more insight actually because my senses and especially my hearing was very, very heightened. And I found drumming and music at a really young age at two, three years old, right around the time I was dealing with cancer. It took me through my childhood.
My dream and goals were to be the world's greatest drummer. I took it very seriously. I got great teachers, I played gigs, I led bands. I was like on a path to spending my life as a drummer. And I found music technology and ended up loving that as much or more as I love drums. And that ended up becoming my career. I started working with a lot of artists, one of the artists was Aerosmith and we've been together now 30 years. I've been working with them, helping them make records, put studios together, and kind of do all things behind the scenes. As my career was growing and I was working with more and more artists, I was building recording studios for them. I was helping them put technology solutions together to make records and put tours out and all of that stuff. And I personally really was passionate about home theater.
At first, it was just home theater and I learned a lot about it, build my own little system and got asked to put together home theaters for other artists and in really understanding and learning what was going on in the early days of doing it. I would've never done it as a business because I just didn't think home theater in the early to mid-nineties was really ready. But when Runco really to get into high gear and the video processing, then I found Crestron and I saw the path to like, "Okay, this is how you can actually do this as a profession." This is what I'm doing with studios, what I'm doing behind the scenes, what I'm doing with bands, with Aerosmith and Elton John and whoever else starts working with. Now I can do that in the homeworld because the tools have finally caught up. That was the real roadblock for me, the tools just weren't there. Everything was just kind of Frankenstein together, which I didn't feel was anything I wanted to offer as a business.
When that happened, the first thing I did was I went to New Jersey, I got in touch with Crestron, and I started learning programming of systems. At that time, Crestron was a programming system that you built-in DOS and then you uploaded it to the processor. The early days of the CN rack, etc. Before it was migrated to Windows, I did programming. I became a certified programmer and I learned all aspects and I already had the sound side of it down really well. I just had to really get my surround chops together and that was the beginning. That brings us into the nineties and that's the beginning of when I started doing home automation and theater.
Ron: And you not only would do home automation, for example, the typical integrator, but you are doing the recording studios. You mentioned a lot of big names, a lot of big bands and groups. I go back 20 years. When I first walked into your office, you had gold and platinum records on all of the walls. Yeah. Can you -- oh look at that! We're going to get a shot. How does one get gold and platinum records? What was your role in the recording of it?
David: Wait, hold on. We have a world-famous drummer here visiting my drum museum today where I'm doing this from. I don't think he realizes that it's not soundproof. This is the beauty of live, right?
Ron: Right. Alright. Can you say who the famous drummer is? That's on the other side of that?
David: Dom Famularo. Google Dom, he's a world-famous, most famous drum instructor in the world and one of the greatest drummers anywhere. Testing out one of the drum kits, I don't know which one. Hold on a second.
Ron: Holy Moley! Anyway. wait, we're getting some live music guys. Oh, that's hilarious. All right, well while we're doing that, we're getting some people that are throwing shoutouts here. David's story is "David's story is SO cool, I can't wait to learn more."
David: Thank you.
Ron: Then we got Alison who says, "Pumped for the interview." Then we have Kendall, you know Kendall. She says, "Excited for the show and to learn a little more about you." Luis says, "Hi Ron!" Hey Luis, how are you, sir? Thanks for thanks for watching. Alright. I'm curious.
David: So how you get the platinum records. You contribute to the project in some significant way. For me, it would need to be engineering or putting a technology system together or building the studio that they ended up doing the record in and then the record goes gold. They give me an award as, it's really a thank you in a lot of cases, and recognition.
On every record, there are the artists, there's the producer, there's the engineer. I call them the big three. Those people, of course, are doing the heaviest lifting. A lot of projects I've done what I would call ancillary lifting. I love the credit. It's wonderful to get recognized and I love being a part of these major amazing projects. I'm on the technology side of the records going together. I'm putting together the samplers and the systems and the studios and the rigs and a lot of times whatever the technology components of making the record are. I'm supporting those big three and I've worked on enough projects that I've gotten a lot of gold and platinum records and recognition. Which is great. I mean, my dream starting out was to have one, so to have dozens is beyond the dream. That's like a pinch me.
But it's funny after you get the one, then everything just changes focus again. Then you realize that the drive to get you to one now has to shift up a few notches. It's not about getting that record anymore, cause you did it. It's about doing all of these much bigger and greater things. So just keep going. The steps just go and higher and you never reached the top.
Ron: And I know that you do have your guests there and I'm mindful of the clock. We're going to keep this interview hopefully tight and impactful. In the mid-2000s or early-2000s, and this is more of a side story because I think it's neat and my audience might appreciate it. For those that watched MTV, there was a TV show called The Osborne's where Ozzy Osborne and Sharon, Jack and Kelly. They would go through the life and follow these folks around. And you were actually on that show for a couple of seasons because you were doing technology. Can you tell the audience a little bit about that story?
David: Oh man, we could do a whole show just on The Osborne's. Everybody out there, if you're that interested, let Ron know and we'll do an Osborne's version of the show. But the long story short is that I was referred to Ozzie and he called me up and asked me if I would build a studio for him and his guest house in Beverly Hills. I did and it came out really well. Then, as does happen quite a bit with a lot of my clients, when the studio comes out good, then they ask, "Okay, can you fix all the automation? Can you upgrade the theater?" And that's how, really, Audio-One was born, was from these three elements. All kinds of converging, project by project, client by client. And Ozzy and the Osbourne's were amazing. You know, great family. I got to know them really well and became friends of theirs and worked on a lot of projects for them.
Of course, when we first started going to the studio, his show wasn't taping. Season two had finished, but right as we were finishing the studio, season three was starting to be filmed. that's how I ended up on some episodes. And then that spilled into season four as well. It was just an amazing experience. I mean, just once in a lifetime on many levels. I love geeking out in the garage where they had all the production equipment and watching all the editing and assembly. And then I loved, of course, even more than that was being with Ozzy and the Osbourne's and spending time with them and being part of a lot of the fun moments. It was just incredible.
Ron: Now for again, for my audience, just because this is fun, I've got a lot of fun stories as it relates to Dave and I knowing each other for 20 years back. Again, later in the 2000s, you called me one day and I did not know it immediately, but you had someone else on the phone and you said, "Ron I've got a very important customer and he's having an issue and we need your support as it relates to Crestron." And this was when I was with them. Then the other person starts talking and telling me what his issue is. And it's no other than Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. You did the technology, or you do the technology, and you've been involved in their music?
David: Music first, the technology came later.
Ron: Can you talk about the music side and kind of what your role with Aerosmith has been and then how that bled into technology?
David: Absolutely. Aerosmith is a huge part of my life and career. I started with them in '89 as Pump was being finished. I was the kind of the one-man show that was in the studio during some of their records in the '90s, I guess all of their records in the 90s. Just watching literally from an idea being scatted to finished songs. Songs like Crazy and Crying, Falling in Love is Hard on the Knees, and Jamie's Got a Gun, all these amazing songs that I was able to be a part of. That's really always been my approach to our business, the business of automation and theaters.
I understand, being a guy that's worked on a lot of what I'll call source material, that every integrator should have demo material that they bring with them everywhere. That's how they know what that particular space sounds like and looks like because they have this really solid reference. And in my case, I'm able to take reference material that literally started at the source of recording it and mixing it, mastering it, engineering it, being a part of it, whatever. I'm deep into the source. And then as I take that along the journey from a record being made to playing it back in a system that I just did, I have a really great frame of reference to be able to say, okay, this is how this really sounds and this is what we need to work on and make it sound better and look better. That's always been kind of my unique perspective and a real benefit of being involved on all sides of it.
Ron: You're clearly acting in a way with your customers to where these world-famous musicians and artists are not only satisfied with you but they're referring you and your network. At this point, you could rattle off world-famous people that you're on a first-name basis with or speed dial basis with that would blow a lot of people's minds. How did you do that? I mean, is it your work ethic? Is it the way that you, I don't want to put any words but like how is David, David? And earning this reputation that you've earned, which is really just simply amazing.
David: Well, it's a combination, right? And the outcome, the results. What of my favorite sayings is, "Results not reasons." And I think that that's really the key. In answering your question, how do you get those results or what's the formula for the results? I think the key things are, first of all, hard work, second of all, consistency, which means consistent hard work as well as then producing consistent results. I think if you had to sum it all up if you had to take like a thousand stories we could tell about all these systems and all of these amazing people that have you know, big collaborators, clients... it would come down to trust.
I think that when you're dealing with the level of client that I deal with every day, and I'm not saying that in a boastful way, I'm saying that to put context to it. 'Cause there's all different kinds of client levels and types and systems that are needed. The ones that I do and specialize in and have for most of my career are high level. The people are at a high level. And they expect their experience with me to be a high level. One of the key things that they look for in that relationship is trust on all levels, not just price point or the kind of obvious stuff. But deadlines, quality work, how well the system is put together, and the fact that there's just going to be a lot of results, the way that they expect and consistent execution. It's hard work. Two easy words to say, but to actually live by doing the hard work every day for years and years and years as life's coming at us from all these different angles.
Technology is changing a mile a minute. And all the other things that happen in our daily lives, hard work can be challenging because you really have to stay focused and have a good routine. I'm 35 years into a really consistent diligent hard work routine. I think that that helps with the pay off of getting great projects and clients and maintaining them and getting referrals.
Ron: Oly because time is limited, I want to get out one more fun story between you and me, David. But before I do that, let me just give another few shout outs. Tomas says, "Saludos from Panama. Ron. Very interesting interview." Thank you, Tomas. Then Laura actually has a question. I don't know if you, I'm watching the clock here, but I don't know if there's a quick answer to this, she says, "What would David say to someone who wants to build a DIY home studio?"
David: I would say, look at modular studios. It's a brand new technology that's being launched now. It's just literally as we're on this interview going live within the next few weeks you'll start to hear and see more about it. It's really a 2020 initiative. But what's going to happen is you're basically gonna have a truck back up to your house and a bunch of boxes. Flat boxes are going to be on it. They're gonna get unloaded and you and a friend in about 10 to 12 hours, can finish putting this big Lego set together and it's going to be an actual, proper acoustic space. You can use it as a studio, a rehearsal room, a yoga room, wherever you need a proper acoustic space.
Typically, it is a recording studio or practice room. And we're talking high level. We're talking about what costs hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars and requires a lot of expertise in three to six months of time, takes one day. Once all the parts show up and you have a finished studio, you just add your equipment, hire an integrator and boom, you're working. That's what I would tell you. And thank you, Laura, for the question.
Ron: Are price points of that modular studio concept or product, is that public information yet? Are they out there?
David: It's just starting to, but you're going to find that it's less expensive than a traditional studio bill, but more importantly, right. It's not more expensive, it's less expensive, but it's not the price point. Even though that's always really important. The payoff here is the fact that you're saving so much time. And as we get older, Ron, we realize that time is more valuable than money because with time and health, right? I mean I don't want to overlook health, cause that's number one. But with health the next most important thing is time. And what you do with it, how you use it, and from there you'll have the opportunity to make as much money as you want. But it really is, those are the keys.
This just saves you so much time and it's not only the amount of time but within all that time that you've saved while this thing is being put together and ready for the Lego set off-site, you have all that time free. Well, what would the alternative be? A traditional studio bill trades going in and out of your space for three to six months. The aromas that go with all of the glue and the materials and the noise and the dirt and the cleanup. I mean there's much that goes into it and yes, there will still be traditional studio bills. There will still be the need for that in custom applications, but there's a lot of need for non-custom applications where the space is really the outcome.
Not having the more elaborate or fancy or custom sizes, materials, and look and feel that will always be in demand, cause there's always going to be people that want their own thing. But you know, we had an order, for instance, modular studios is an endeavor with which I'm involved. We had an order for somebody who has 15 of these and they literally have a warehouse and they're going to put 15 of them in and overnight they're going to have a rehearsal business and they're going to rent every one of the 15 rooms out bands and artists can come in and just say, "Hey, I need to rehearse for two hours," and we're going to go into one of these rooms and do it. Boom. It's up. I mean there's a lot of application for it. I'm very excited about it.
Ron: Awesome. Thank you for sharing that. Now, one last topic. You said that you are in the drum museum and I also happen to know that you are the Publisher of Modern Drummer. Can you tell us what is the museum and what is the magazine?
David: Well, Modern Drummer Magazine is the number one drum magazine in the world and has been around for over 40 years. It was founded by Ron Spagnardi and it is the brand of all things drumming. Anybody out there who's listening or watching and knows drumming absolutely knows Modern Drummer. I was honored to be asked to be a publisher, it's the third publisher basically in history. Ron passed away in 2003. Bill Miller seceded him. Bill Miller passed away. They had been working kind of internally with their team, who for the most part had been there over 30 years, and wanted to take it to next level and let their team really focus on what they do past in the editorial and the drum article and education world. They asked me to be a publisher.
Talk about full circle. We talked about how at two years old, three years old, I find the drums as my healthy outlet. And as my answer to trauma and stay with the drums. Literally my whole life transitioning from wanting to be and working on being a professional drummer, played over a thousand gigs as a drummer by the time I was 17. And staying in music, taking all I knew about the drums, and bring it into a technology field. Then coming back full circle and taking all I know about technology and bringing it into the drum field. Now we got some fun starting, Modern Drummer Magazine 2020 has some incredible things in store for it. It's a great honor and I take it very, very seriously. You know, how much responsibility that I have and my team has to stay number one in providing drummers with all the things that they need, all the resources and everything that you and need as a drummer, Modern Drummer has it for you.
Ron: Awesome. And your museum?
David: That's a private museum part of the Frangioni foundation. Anybody whose heartstrings are pulling go to frangionifoundation.com and help us out. We have a private museum. We work with other foundations like Make-a-Wish and Jason Taylor Foundation, Little Dreams and all of these different foundations where we can bring a child and have them be inspired in this incredible drum museum where you're able to see stage plate kits, and we bring the drummers in like today with Dom Fomularo, world-famous drummer and drum educator. We bring a child in, he meets Dom, he gets a lesson. Their life has changed forever. We're doing some really cool things with helping people and inspiring people. And that's what we're doing in the museum.
Ron: David, I have up on the screen right here where the audience can see it. And for those that are listening later on to the podcast, I just went to davidjfrangioni.com. Is this the best place that you would want someone to go and learn about you? We've touched on about a fraction of 1% of all the things that you're involved with. I'll just mention to the audience real quick here. You're the author, a bestselling author of -- can you tell the audience real quick about your two most recent books?
David: Clint Eastwood Icon, revised and expanded edition and Crash, the world's greatest drum kits. The proceeds go to charity, the Frangioni foundation. They're celebrations of all of Clint Eastwood's films as told through his art, his movie, art, memorabilia, and posters. If you love movie posters and you just love Clint Eastwood or you're a collector, it's the book for you. As for Crash, it's all of these iconic drum kits that we have in the museum. We had them photographed by a world-famous photographer, Mark Weiss. He photographed all these kits with me. They're presented with all of their history.
They're both coffee table books, where you don't have to read them, you can just look at them and really be inspired and enjoy them and have a lot of fun with them. Or if you want to go deeper into them, there's a lot of information there for people who want to get into more geeky stuff on it. But they've done really well, which I'm really grateful for. It means that all the time that we put into making them books that we would want to own and read, other people are agreeing with that. Check them out, they're up on Amazon and they're doing really well.
Ron: Awesome. I promised the audience one last story and to make it really quick. I was driving into Miami, I lived North in Orlando, and you knew I was coming to town. And again, this is some time back in maybe '05, '06? And you said, "Hey Ron, what are you doing?" I'm like, "I'm driving." And you said, well, come to the facility. It was at the Knight Center down in Miami, an auditorium. And you said, "Ron, come on by here. You're gonna want to come and join me. I'm setting up the system. I'm recording some music." And I said, "Okay, sure, let's do it." I roll up and I walk in the building, I go past some security and I say, "I'm with David," and they let me back in. There was clearly an artist performing and it was you in the audience with your rig because you were recording the music and it was Sting on stage! He was practicing his full set for his world tour.
David: Oh, right. Yeah. That was an awesome time working with him.
Ron: And you and I sat in the audience and listened to the performance. It was very memorable for me. It was very cool.
David: That's, that's awesome. I mean, what a moment. That's awesome. Sting is, you know, he was great to work with. I worked with him for a few years and that was, I didn't remember it was at night, but I remembered that whole time and the rig. We started in SIR and I think maybe that was the first show.
Ron: You were following him around to his different sets all over the country, all over the world.
David: Yeah, we were doing different shows in different places and put things together and then going online and then working them offline again. But it worked well. And that rig ended up, we want to talk about a next chapter to that story, after I finished with staying I get a call and it's one of the guys who works in Sting's camp right, for Sting, and they're like, "Hey, we need some information on this rig. It's on The Police stadium tour." That rig ends up being with The Police, too which was really cool. That huge reunion tour they did back in '05, '06 whenever it was. And that's the follow up to that story.
Ron: Well, David, I would love to have you back on the show. I know I need to get you back to your guests there in the museum. It was a pleasure having you on episode number 90 of Automation Unplugged.
David: Congratulations. That's amazing. 90 episodes. Look, I'm back. You just say the word. You and I, great friends back a long way. You know this is a great show. There's much for people to learn and to share.
Education sometimes is underrated and the ways that we can achieve education through experiential learning and learning from others and hearing their stories and then applying it to our stories because we're not watching movies here, right? It's not just for the sake of entertainment. It's actually learn something to say, "Okay, well I see what he went through or what she did, but now how does that apply to my world and get better from it and save time and learn." And thank you for what you're doing with Automation Unplugged and what it brings to our industry and everyone in it. And I'll see everybody next time.
Ron: Awesome. David, you're an inspiration, sir. Thank you. Alright guys, gals, there you have it. That was episode number 90. I'm watching my video, I think I might be a little pixilated. For those of you that aren't aware or you're new to the show.
I'm still coming to you from my new home office here in Fort Lauderdale, but I am still at a home without internet, I'm live streaming you know, we must march forward regardless. I'm coming to you from an AT&T hotspot, as funny as that is.
But anyway, definitely check out Automation Unplugged on your favorite place to listen and download and subscribe to podcasts. It was a pleasure spending some time with you and I will see you all next time. Thanks much everyone.
As an award-winning veteran of the music industry, David Frangioni's passion for drumming and music brings a unique perspective to our space.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.
Resources and links from the interview:
- David's two most recent books: Crash: The World's Greatest Drum Kits From Appice to Peart to Van Halen and Clint Eastwood: Icon: The Essential Film Art Collection
- Modular Studios
- Modern Drummer Magazine
- The Frangioni Foundation
- More about David's story
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