When students decide that they want to work towards a future in the music industry, they come to Berklee’s Boston campus or enroll in online courses to earn the credentials that can help them take their career to the next level. For many who are already working in the industry, Berklee Online’s flexible courses allow them to learn new skills to put towards future jobs without needing to disrupt any current gigs. Matt Chirichillo is one of these students. In between tour commitments with former Eagles members Joe Walsh and Don Henley, Matt works on coursework for his Artist Management class.
“I’m originally from Toms River, New Jersey,” Matt begins when asked about his background. “I moved to Half Moon Bay, California with my parents in 1997. My parents are in the wine industry, so that was the reason to uproot us and move west – which was a great decision. I thank them for that. I went to school [in Half Moon Bay] and started to really get into music. Towards my later school years, I started dabbling in the guitar and other instruments, just really focusing my life around music.”
After graduating from high school, Matt enrolled in Santa Barbara City College, intending to study business and eventually follow his parents into the wine industry. He quickly learned that wasn’t the right career path for him. “I presented it to my mom and dad and said, ‘Hey, I’m kind of into music. I don’t necessarily want to run the family business.’ And they said, ‘All right, what do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘I want to become a musician’,” Matt recalls. With his parents’ support, Matt switched majors from business to music, enrolling in theory and piano courses, and even joining the school choir. After picking up a Pro Tools rig, he enrolled in a music production course and discovered that his talents lied behind the mixing board instead of on stage. Matt left Santa Barbara City College for the School of Audio Engineering in Los Angeles.
Once in L.A., Matt reconnected with a childhood friend from New Jersey, Julian Bunetta (known today for his work with mega stars like One Direction and Fifth Harmony). Matt became an intern at Julian’s studio, responsible for everything from coffee runs to assisting recording sessions. “I was paying my dues, just putting in my hours,” Matt explains. “At that point, I thought I wanted to be a studio cat. I wanted to mix, master, record, and produce.” But just as Matt was settling into studio life, he got the opportunity to join a Playing for Change tour as a drum tech. He’s spent most of his time on the road since.
Matt has built an incredibly impressive tour resume, working with artists such as Avril Lavigne, A.R. Rahman, Johnny Reid, New Kids On the Block, Ke$ha, Christina Aguilera, and Mariah Carey. His travels have allowed him to see the world, from Australia to the Philippines. He’s held various roles on these tours, including tour manager, violin tech, and production manager – further solidifying his place in the industry. Whenever an industry contact needed someone for a tour, Matt found himself being recommended. Eventually, he ended up becoming the Eagles’ tour manager. “Learn various skill sets,” he tells aspiring tour managers. “Learn logistics. Learn how to properly organize things, book cars, flights, and hotels. Make yourself a well-rounded person. Have knowledge in different areas, whether that’s learning how to tune a guitar or how to work well in Microsoft Excel. Don’t be scared to build relationships or introduce yourself to new people. You never know something unless you ask.”
Matt is a strong believer in continually learning and never allowing your skills to get rusty. “I think that educating ourselves is the most important thing we can do,” he says. “I never want to stop learning, ever. I’m always interested and want to keep expanding my bank of knowledge.” On the Eagles tour, Matt asked the tour accountant to show him what his job entailed. “Every good tour manager starts out as an accountant,” he explains. “They’re good because they understand the business side, where the money goes, and how deals are structured.” These new skills led to Matt being hired as Joe Walsh’s tour manager/tour accountant/road manager and later, Don Henley’s tour accountant.
“At the end of the night, I get the box office statements and ticket audits and see where the gross income is, then deduct to get my number and subtract the expenses,” he says. “Whether it’s a box office deal or a guarantee or a combination of both, it’s up to me to determine what is the right thing for the artist to walk away with. I’m representing the tour and the artist and then work with the promoter. At the end of the night we each have our spreadsheets. I make sure that all my expenses and numbers match the promoter’s. Then we balance it out and say, ‘All right, your numbers match, my numbers match, here’s what you owe us.’ And I make sure the artist gets paid.”
But as rewarding as life on the road can be, Matt is quick to say that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. “I’m away from home nine months out of the year,” he admits. “It’s just touch-and-go. Stop at home for about 48 hours, do some laundry, sleep, and then pack for the new season. I would like to get off the road one day. It’s not really conducive to a relationship or raising a family.” By learning more about artist management with Berklee Online, Matt hopes he can gain the skills necessary to work closer to home, only hitting the road occasionally. Despite his busy schedule, he finds it easy to work his classes into his routine. “It comes down to discipline,” he explains. “Being a good manager in anything is just knowing about prioritization and time management.”
Matt offers one final piece of advice to his Berklee Online classmates and anyone else who wants to break into the music industry: “You can do anything you want in this world. Just stay positive and you can put your mind to anything and achieve it.”