Jazz vocalist attributes success to interdisciplinary career focus

Kathy Kosins feature image

Kathy Kosins (left) discusses her business model for jazz musicians in the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, room 229, on Monday, May 9, 2016. [photo by Jessica Johnson]

Successful R&B and jazz vocalist, painter, and jingle writer, Kathy Kosins, gifted University of Denver music students with her interdisciplinary business model, or as she called, “the art of hustling the gig,” in her anecdotal lecture in the Lamont school of music on Monday, May 9, 2016.

Kosins was inundated with musical influences from the time she was very young, through her father’s clothing store, Kosins Clothes.  According to Kosins, the high-profile patrons of the clothing store that she met, including Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, incited in her an interest to be a performer.

However, it wasn’t until Kosins was 18 years old that she actually seized the opportunity to become a performer, after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper for an audition for lead singer of a Top 40 Band.

“I went out for this audition and I was pretty bad, but they hired me,” said Kosins.

Though musical performance allowed Kosins to begin earning revenue, she decided to supplement her musical endeavors with songwriting by becoming a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

She not only wrote songs, but she experimented with writing promotional product jingles as well.  Kosins relentlessly went door-to-door to studios with a demo tape of jingles until she eventually got the job singing for a Hoover vacuum advertisement.  In sharing this anecdote, Kosins emphasized the importance of being persistent in finding success in the music industry.

“I’ve never let doors closing in my face stop me,” said Kosins. “I’m like the energizer bunny.  I keep going”


Kathy Kosins features her website as an example of how to market as a musician, on Monday, May 9, 2016 in the Lamont School of music, room 229. [photo by Jessica Johnson]

Her advertising debut for Hoover catalyzed a domino effect, and she was inundated with several job opportunities for other advertising jingles.  According to Kosins, she made $250,000 in just 18 months singing for Cadillac.

Though she found great success in the jingle-writing business, Kosins talked about the importance of not pigeonholing her career by sticking to one skill.

“I never wanted to sit back and rest on my laurels,” said Kosins. “I was always wanting to see what’s next.”

Because of her interest in songwriting, Kosins received a record deal for her first album with Schoolkids Records, even though she had intended for the songs on that record to be farmed out to other artists for use.

“Jazz found me as an artist,” said Kosins. “I didn’t go looking for it.”

In addition to writing and recording music, Kosins also became an abstract painter, furthering her brand.  In recent years, she has also worked as a guest lecturer at several universities to teach music students about how to become an interdisciplinary portfolio artist.

According to Kosins, the key to a successful career in music is a willingness to work in several different sectors of the music industry, and not having too narrow of a niche.

In an interview with Forbes magazine, Berklee College of Music graduate and owner of a Boston nonprofit recording studio, Matt McArthur echoed this same importance of being flexible in the industry, and said, “The most important thing is to be open to the possibility that what you’re going to be doing professionally isn’t exactly what you imagined.  Those of us that have the fire in our belly will ultimately make the transition, and the personal artistic goals will swallow the others.”

This is especially important in the jazz music industry, given that jazz has become the least popular music genre in America, according to the Nielsen Music U.S. Report.

Because of this, Kosins said that the money she made television and radio advertisements paid for the creation of her albums.  Her album sales themselves didn’t allow her to make a living, requiring the multidisciplinary approach of using other musical avenues to garner profits.

“I’m telling you, there’s no magic bullet, there’s no secret formula, there’s no rhyme or reason for how I got here,” said Kosins. “Everyday I made a new opportunity for myself. You have to make opportunities for yourself.”





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