Creative musician finds the corporate audience

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He’s a pianist, composer, author, producer and recording artist – and as president of Source Music, Steve Barta is constantly adding new dimensions to his multi-faceted career. In the past six years, for example, the popular local jazz pianist and performer has found ways to integrate quality music into corporate America through commercial songwriting and scoring.

Barta and his wife, Anneliesa, operate two record labels, Source Music: Your Custom CD Source and Steve Barta Music. “Source Music caters to corporate clients using music specially packaged to meet their business gift giving and promotional needs,” he explains. “The Steve Barta Music label caters to the discriminating music lover – and includes 13 recordings and five books for piano.” In both cases, the composer lends his talent to symphonic orchestras, jazz ensembles and classically-influenced solo piano – and is best-known for fusing classical, jazz and Brazilian influences to create his own signature sound.

His career began in Colorado Springs in the early 1980s where he supported his first love – music composition, arrangement and performing – by creating musical pieces used for advertisers ranging from the Colorado Lottery to the Red Robin holiday theme. “It was really a challenge to work with ad agencies or clients who commissioned me to write original music for their television or radio spot. I would spend hours coming up with a beautiful piece of music, but a creative director might reject the work because it just wasn’t what he had in mind.” Though Barta was able to make a good living through his commercial clients, he longed to write music that was longer than 29.5 seconds in length.

But the life of a grassroots composer-marketer-author-and-recording artist left little time to solicit commercial clients who paid the day-to-day bills. Fortunately, by 1993, Barta had met his wife and partner, Anneliesa, and the two began to craft a new approach for Source Music. The result has been successful, not only for Barta who now has more time to spend on original compositions, but for Anneliesa, with an MBA in marketing, who also operates her own graphics and website design service for her own clients through BravoDesignAlliance.com.

She has been able to expand the two companies’ marketing reach and has developed an impressive 15,000-customer database that generates ongoing sales for Steve Barta Music and for Source Music. “People tend to think that all you have to do is make good music, and the business part of it just takes care of itself,” she notes. “But as Steve says, you have to be just as creative in marketing music as you do in creating it. We do brainstorm, but most often, I take the client’s ideas, combine them with the right visuals and artwork. That leaves Steve free to create the kind of music his clients love.”

Anneliesa not only manages the customized CD program, but is actively involved in distribution of Steve Barta Music into boutique and gift shops specializing in high-quality items. “We don’t focus at all on traditional retail music distribution channels,” she points out, “because as a small record label, it’s just not practical. Our audience looks for us – and the website generates increasing sales every year.” Anneliesa is also credited with adding the tag-line “Your Custom CD Source” to Barta’s Source Music moniker.

As a result, Barta has produced customized CD music products locally, regionally or nationally for such companies as State Farm Insurance (now for the fourth year), Junior Achievement, Vectra Bank, The Village at Breckenridge and The Broadmoor. Collaborating with Anneliesa, Barta can also generate enhanced marketing CDs for companies which want to combine a visual marketing presentation with a music CD.

In 2001, he created the second of two CDs for local auto dealer, Gunnar Heuberger, entitled Java Kat Kafe, featuring twelve selections arranged and performed by Barta, Herbie Mann on flute and a dozen top-drawer jazz musicians.

“One great thing about working with clients like Heuberger,” Barta notes, “is the way we created a lasting gift that really says ‘thanks’.” The Source Music customized CD program includes development of a theme, customized artwork (including all pertinent information about a business such as phone number, address, and Web address). The CD packaging is also useful in driving hits to client website, he adds.

With more than forty jazz festivals, concerts and special appearances on his performance resume, Barta has played all over the world. From Prague in 1991 to Sante Fe in 1997 (where he jammed with jazz great, Herbie Mann) to local concerts at the Fine Arts Center, the Pikes Peak Center and the Smokebrush Theater, he has earned a reputation for a broad range of original compositions and jazz-inspired arrangements.

The pianist, officially endorsed by Steinway & Sons, as a Steinway artist, also authored The Source, a dictionary of contemporary and traditional scales in 1986. This work, a single collection of information useful in the study of jazz improvisation, includes sections on scales, chords and fingerings. Today, Barta’s work is considered the primer for instrumentalists interested in learning new scales and chords. Now in its 10th printing by Hal Leonard Publishing, the leading music publisher in the U.S., the book is distributed in English and Japanese. Barta jokingly refers to his publisher as specializing in “Beatles, Beethoven and Barta.”

On the heels of his first release, “Rossport” in 1991 (which has sold more than 20,000 copies), Barta continues to compose new works and is creating a future CD entitled, Another Life: Brazil. Other CDs on the Steve Barta Music record label include: Moments in Movement (and its accompanying transcription for solo piano); Blue River; Follow Your Heart; and Live! At Home.

The secret to his success with both Source Music and Steve Barta Music, says the composer, is that all the recordings are original and are not licensed to anyone else. “Our catalogue is smaller than those produced by Sony, for example, but our custom CD customers can choose from first-rate musical compositions – none of which will appear anywhere else in the commercial market.”