Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vinny Ribas (IndieConnect Founder/CEO) Interview Part 1

In typical generous Vinny Ribas fashion, he insists that he pay for his own coffee and breakfast. I haven't known Vinny long, but I had heard about him. It was my pleasure sitting down with the man at the forefront of the indie scene for artists and executives alike. In casual conversation, you'd never know that he'd worked with superstars such as Garth Brooks and many others. He is the man responsible for so many artists and entrepreneurs being able to spread their wings and fly overhead the chaos that so often encumbers those starting out in new endeavors. I set out to talk specifically about IndieConnect, his organization that helps connect artists and industry leaders. As I talked to him, I couldn't help conclude that in order to understand his influence and success, it was first necessary to understand his passion. I was fully engaged as I saw someone 40+ years strong in the music business just as passionate today as he was when he got his start at age 4 playing in his first band. Today, we will get to know Vinny Ribas, the backstory...

I’m not a really great instrumentalist, so when I’m writing, I’m kind of-and I’m not a singer ok, so I’m very constrained to what I can do on guitar on piano and stuff-as opposed to somebody who just comes from a vocal standpoint saying this is what I want the melody to be. They can do all of the embellishments and everything else and then have somebody come in and put the chords in. You still own the song. You own the melody, you own the lyrics. You’re just having someone come in and do the chord changes and do the accompaniment. And so, there’s a huge advantage to that. Because if somebody only knows a dozen chords on the guitar that’s where they’re stuck. They have to stay within that realm if they don’t know how to do the embellishments or change keys or do this or do that. A lot of the best songwriters will tell you to write your songs without an instrument.


If you’re a singer, write it without any instruments. Come up with your melody. Add the lyrics. Come up with the framework without any instrument. And then get somebody really good or if you can accompany yourself to go ahead and do the music part of it. So don’t ever feel like you’re just a lyricist because you don’t play an instrument. You can still come up with those melodies and that’s all yours, and when you record it that’s all yours, you own the song and you’re just paying somebody else then to come in and put the chord arrangements behind it.

Well that’s encouraging for artists without a professional music background.  I must admit, at one point, I was afraid to let people hear my music (because of my lack of professional music training). I wondered, "is this even real music?" I had always been a storyteller but I just didn’t know how to put the music with the story. I’m sure that piece of knowledge will get many new artists out of a rut, right now, knowing this... So how did it all get started?

It was a mistake [he laughs]. Well indieconnect was. I’d been in music. I started playing when I was five. I had my first band when I was seven.


A paying band. So I played for years-

A paying band? At a age 7? How did that happen?

I wasn’t the leader of the band, it was a, uhm, we belonged to this little community country club. I mean it was just this one little building, it wasn’t anything fancy or anything but there was a band that played there all the time. The saxophone player had a daughter who played cordovox and, are you familiar with the cordovox-


It’s an accordion that sounds like an organ-it’s electric- and then a son who played trumpet. And they were both 8 yrs. old. And he had taught them how to play and sometimes he would sit in with them. And so one day they let me sit in on drums…’cause I’d been playing drums for 3 yrs by then-

-At age 7 you had been playing drums for 3 years?

Yeah-and so they liked what they heard, so we formed a band. It was the dad and the two kids and me.

So did you come from a musical family?

No. there was no music anywhere.

So this was just a friend and you all got together. They’d been playing music and it somehow just clicked in you…and you knew from that moment?

Yeah, yeah…I loved it and I played music full time, for a long time, uhm, mostly in a duo but I had my own band. When I was not booked enough, I started my own booking agency. I became an artist manager. I used to be the entertainment director for the Nevada state fair. I did that for a couple of years. I did everything in the industry. I was producing, had my own little studio-this was back when 4-tracks were around but still I was the only one in my neighborhood with the 4-tracks so... it was great. I did it for years. I got to travel. I worked a lot on cruise ships. I worked at resorts. This was back when you could go to, like, Holiday Inns and work for two weeks at a time. You didn’t have to do only one night at a time at all these different places or just weekends. So it was really easy to stay on the road and I was on the road probably about 44-46 weeks out of the year. But I loved it. I loved it! Most of the time it was with the duo. So it was just the two of us. We got a long great so there was no egos to deal with, no challenges, and ah, the gal that I was working with, Linda Collette, she sang like Barbara Streisand. She was beautiful and people loved her. And like I said, I wasn’t the greatest keyboard player by any means, very sloppy. But she was an amazing singer, and I wasn’t a great singer, but I was really good at accompanying her-doing the strings. I played bass pedals and rhythm guitar so we just made a really good combination.

So, let’s back up a little, you started playing at age 4. Were you self-taught, did you play by ear?

I actually started taking lessons. I started on accordion at 4 and I graduated to the big accordion but it was too heavy for me to carry, so I decided to switch to drums at 5. Took lessons for 5 years.

Now when did you start going out on the road?

That’s such a good question. Uhmm I was probably 21, 22. Before that I’d been playing a lot of local things-mostly rock bands. But I’d played in a country band for 5 yrs actually, from 18-23…so I was 23. Then I got a call one day from a country band that I had never heard of, and I’d never heard of country. I’d never heard any country! I was in Connecticut and we didn’t have any country stations.


But they needed a drummer that night, their drummer had quit and so I filled in. Fortunately I had enough of an intuition about what I was doing to fit in and they kept me.

So what kind of music did you start off with before you went country?

Top 40

So you didn’t come from a musical family, were they always supportive of your choice, then?

Until I quit college to be a rockstar!


Yeah, but then once I was able to take my parents out to resorts and stuff like that…

It became a great career


So where are you from, originally?

Originally from Connecticut, then I moved to Reno-because in Connecticut there are no full time gigs there-so I had to be on the road. You know, you can’t have a relationship really when you’re on the road that much. And so I moved to Reno because I thought that would be a great place to be in one place and get a house gig and be able to stay there. I had some of that but it wasn’t as much as I’d liked to have had, so I ended up on the road. Because a lot of casinos will tell you, you play here and then you can’t play within 50 miles for the next 60 days. So you gotta be on the road and then come back.

 Exclusive Contracts.

Yeah, but I was fortunate enough to grab some 3-month, 4-month contracts at the same place in Reno, so…

Now were you a booking agent at that time, were you setting all of this up or did you have someone-

I had my own booking agency in Connecticut, but when I moved to Reno I didn’t have my own agency until things got kind of crazy where I wasn’t being booked enough again. So I decided to start it up again.

You experienced the typical frustrations of most artists-wanting to play out more and just not getting enough gigs. So now your entrepreneurial spirit kicks into high gear. More and more I find, that if there is a particular area in your life that frustrates you, and you’re passionate about that area, rather than complain about it, you’re probably the one that should do something about it to change it. You did that. You became a CEO, this eventually leading you to helping other entrepreneurs in their businesses. How did that come about?


On the next post, Vinny lets us in on how his passion took him from Artist/Mangager to CEO and author, how this move lead to the formation of IndieConnect, why IndieConnect is so vital now and thriving (currently in three states and still expanding) with the changes in the music industry today, what he's planning next, his views on "Purpose" and how you can GET CONNECTED!


  1. Loved it...looking forward to part II!

  2. Thank you for tuning in and taking the time to comment. This is the first of several industry insider interviews. I hope you stay tuned in and help support us by spreading the word!