How a Musician Carved Out His Career at One of the Fastest-Growing Music Tech Startups

Name: David Grelle
Where are you from: University City, MO
University: University of Arizona (Business)
Berklee College Of Music (Film Scoring)
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (Jazz Performance)

When did you start working at Tunespeak and how has your role evolved? I started working with Tunespeak right around the company’s infancy. I was performing in a band with cofounders Tom and Rick Pernikoff, when they turned me on to what they were building. I was blown away with the product and immediately saw the value to artists, of all shapes and sizes.

I had extensive experience working in the music industry, as both a professional musician and as a talent buyer. I was brought on board before we officially launched the platform to recruit artists to use Tunespeak. It was a pretty unique team — basically, everyone in the band had a role at Tunespeak. We officially launched the platform with local St. Louis area artists, and within no time, expanded to national acts. We’ve now worked with a wide variety of the top acts in the world — Kendrick Lamar, Maroon 5, Miranda Lambert, Aerosmith, Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Blake Shelton, John Mayer, D’Angelo, Ben Folds and many others.

What are you currently working on? We are currently working on partnering with some of the biggest entities in the music world to add more tools for artists and to enhance the overall fan experience.

We’re also working on a really cool interactive way to share/discover new music across all streaming platforms.

What’s next on your list to learn? I’m always looking for better ways to help musicians understand the importance of recognizing your most passionate fans — the ones buying concert tickets, merch and fueling the proverbial dream.

What’s your favorite part of your job? My favorite part of the gig is working with up-and-coming and local artists and seeing them grow. When we can help these artists engage their fan base in a fun and authentic way, it’s exciting to see the growth in real time.

I also love the influx of fans writing in, sending pics, videos, and messages about their amazing Tunespeak experiences — concert flyaways, backstage passes, meet & greets, soundcheck hangs, signed guitars, etc…

What do you like about working downtown at T-Rex? Well, up until just recently I lived literally next door and you can’t get any better than that, as far as commuting goes. I also love the energy downtown and watching all the new restaurants, museums, and the like, popping up.

As the keyboardist (ranked #1 in St. Louis in RFT) for multiple bands in St. Louis including The Feed, Celebration Day, Street Fighting Band, Funky Butt Brass Band, to name a few, any tricks or mantras you have to manage your time between working at a startup, pursuing a career as a professional musician and being a family man?

Ha! It’s tricky, indeed. I used to tour quite a bit…and I NEVER turned down a gig. Now, because of Tunespeak’s success and my desire to be around my family as much as possible, I try to focus my energy on a few really strong projects vs. spreading myself thin across a bunch of gigs.

I’ve also managed to spin “practice time” into family time. My wife and son both love music so I have the luxury of testing new material out for them.

What feedback or advice would you give to a jobseeker who is considering working for a startup? You better be all in. There’s something special about a team that’s completely in sync with the vision. That energy tends to be incredibly conducive to communication and company growth.

It also helps to have a diverse skill set. A lot of times you’ll go into a startup with a specific role, and if you’re versatile and can take ownership of something else, you can carve out your own space in a startup.

Anything else you want to share that most people don’t know about you? Any upcoming shows we should know about? As head of business development and artist relations, I get to travel quite a bit. It’s great connecting with all our current clients and potential future ones. It’s also very rewarding hearing everyone’s feedback on the platform we’ve built.

Most of our team doesn’t get that same experience so I’m thrilled we’re taking the entire company down to Nashville for a week to work down there, meet some of our top clients, and get a good taste of Music City.

And for the music fans out there… we lost another legend, the heartbeat of New Orleans music, Allen Toussaint. Toussaint produced and arranged for everyone including Paul McCartney, Etta James, The Meters, Dr. John and Elvis Costello. Artists all over the world covered his work from The Rolling Stones to Bonnie Raitt and Jerry Garcia to The Doors.

I’ve put together a show, with some of St. Louis’ heaviest hitters, to pay homage to the Funky Genius himself. The lineup is stacked for what is sure to be an incredible night of music at Old Rock House. All proceeds will be split between Toussaint’s charity — New Orleans Organization for Artists Against Homelessness and Hunger (NOAAHH) — and St. Louis’ own Play It Forward charity, helping ensuring each child in St. Louis is provided with the opportunity to discover his or her musical talents. Mark your calendars for December 11th– I hope to see you at the show!

Interview by Colleen Jenkins