When I was younger, I often wondered: “how does one get into the music industry?” I went back and forth between wanting to make music, write about music, or work at a record label. I have tried the first two — I decided to give up on the first one because I was not very good at it, but I’ve never gotten to the third one. I don’t know if that time will come, but I used to think it started out as interning and working your way up. Or maybe you don’t have much experience, but you have a great reputation that makes up for it. However, after writing about music now for over eight years, I’ve come to learn that oftentimes people wind up working in music unintentionally.
A great example of that would be Eric Tobin, who is currently the EVP of Business Development and A&R at Hopeless Records. When chatting with Tobin, one of the first things we discuss is his career path, and how he wound up working with Hopeless. “It’s interesting because I didn’t expect to work at a record label,” he states candidly to Substream. While April 2019 will mark his fourteenth year anniversary, his path to his current position has been a wild one.
When discussing his upbringing, Tobin points to his high school days and how he played trumpet, piano, and sang. While he spent a lot of his young life in and out of hospitals (more on that later), he still gravitated towards high school band. “I met some kids there that were great. They liked punk rock music and I didn’t know anything about it, and I just wanted to be part of something and belong,” he shares on his time in band. As things went on, though, his friends all learned to play guitar and he was left behind with an instrument not necessarily having a place in punk music.
Tobin adapted, and began promoting shows and doing some studio recording. It’s the latter part of his experience where Tobin’s path to Hopeless Records and a lifelong friend begins. While attending a high school battle of the bands, he met a Third Eye Blind cover band which featured Dave Shapiro as their drummer. Tobin offered Shapiro the option to allow him to record some songs of his band, and their connection was immediate from there. Shapiro often introduced Tobin to new music like Drowning Man and The Agency (one of Chris Carrabba’s first bands). He also convinced Tobin to drop everything and start going on tour as a full-time job. His first gig was with Shapiro’s band Count the Stars (signed to Victory Records at the time), and then eventually with Hopesfall for a couple of years. “I didn’t have any place to go really. So I ended up doing tour management, live sound, guitar teching, accounting, merch design, anything that would keep me moving and on the road,” Tobin explains.
Tobin explains his move to California was inspired by his brother’s desire to move out there, as well as Shapiro’s encouragement to join him as well. With an initial game plan of only being in California for six months, it was time to find a job.