Cinq founder enjoying the sound of success
Like everyone else, John “Barry” Daffurn was still leaving burned CDs in his car stereo and playing them on repeat. Cassette tapes were long gone; the vinyl revival was a few years away. But it was clear change was already afoot in music.
Just five years after its inception, Apple’s iTunes Store had already become the largest music distribution source in the world, YouTube had developed a foothold as the leading music-streaming site, and an upstart service, Spotify, had just launched its own platform, too. Daffurn, an early adopter, was already dabbling in all of these.
This was 2008. That year, Daffurn drew the assignment of researching distribution for his “Legal Issues in the Music Industry” course at Chico State. It was clear to him—“being a product of this time,” as he wrote in his research paper—that the future had begun, and it was obviously digital.
Since that moment, Daffurn (Music Industry and Technology, ’09), has embraced the world of digital distribution. Now 32, the Sonoma native is the founder of Cinq Music Group, a Los Angeles-based music and entertainment management company with its finger on the pulse of digital music trends and distribution practices.
“The music industry is a fight for attention, and a big part of our mission is helping artists cut through clutter to carve out their niche in the world,” said Daffurn, who launched Cinq in late 2012 with his then-boss at GoDigital Media Group, Jason Peterson.
“When people say there’s no good music anymore, it’s so wrong—it’s actually that there’s more good music than ever, but now musicians need to navigate new technology and platforms. That’s what we do,” he added. “We help artists solve the marketing problem and make sure their content is reaching people and that they’re collecting their money when their music is being used.”
Daffurn’s typical “office hours” predictably involve a lot of listening; he’s almost constantly got headphones on, or the stereo blaring. There’s also a lot of data parsing: He’s always valued analytics and insights on who’s listening to what, and in which parts of the world.
He gets especially excited about that part.
Where Cinq zigged against the industry’s zagging was in opting to embrace streaming and focus on data, using it to help independent artists who felt the major labels underpaid in royalties for their music consumed via streaming services. That strategy, now ubiquitous, largely started with Cinq.
Since launch, Cinq has brought along some major names for the ride, acquiring the rights to rapper TI’s entire catalog from Warner-Atlantic in 2017, and in 2018 struck a deal to bring on pop legend Janet Jackson, with a new album in the works. Those are just two significant additions to a burgeoning library of content that already included music from reggaeton giants Ozuna and Bad Bunny, Daffurn said, and in early 2018, Cinq added hip-hop influence by naming renowned rapper Master P as its President of Urban Music.
An artist like Master P, well known in the industry for rapping under his own label, No Limit Records, during his ascent in a period where such a feat was incredibly rare, embodies Cinq’s dedication to guide artists through the business landscape of music as it evolves, Daffurn said.
“Technology and tools that are available now allow artists to remain independent, and those are the ones we’ve identified with from the very beginning and have worked with the whole time,” he said. “That’s the real story—now you’re finding these artists on the level of TI and Janet Jackson, who know they can now go away from the major labels and do things independently because of how much has changed.”
He estimated Cinq now has about 70 gold and platinum singles and albums to its credit. His success comes as no surprise to Joe Alexander, the current associate dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and Daffurn’s instructor in the course where the digital distribution lightbulb flashed.
Even beyond the impressions Daffurn left as an eager student, those around him could see his earnestness for the industry. He took multiple recording internships beginning right out of high school, including the student-run record label Wild Oak and a stint as music director at KCSC. He also DJ’d at night for campus fraternity and sorority functions. It wasn’t until he worked on that distribution project in Alexander’s class that all of his experience began to form Daffurn’s direction.
“Barry and his friends in that cohort of emerging digital natives seemed to embrace change and were culturally aware participants,” Alexander recalled. “It seemed as if they had fun, but also enthusiastically read between the lines to prepare themselves to take on the world.”
Though Cinq continues to grow and gain traction in a fiercely competitive industry, Daffurn doesn’t take his success for granted. He points to connections with friends and colleagues through the years that resulted in encounters with stars-in-the-making who hadn’t been discovered yet. An analytical mind for data and a genuine love for music and those who create it remain at the core of Daffurn’s drive.
“It’s not like one day, without having any connection to music, I walked in the room and Janet Jackson’s there hanging out,” he said with a laugh. “But I had been keeping my head down, working hard, so that I would be ready when it happened. Love for what you do comes when you work hard enough that opportunities present themselves to you.”
And even while he’s capitalizing on such occasions, Daffurn said, he still feels grounded, still dedicated to his craft, still as fascinated by the music industry’s fluctuations and revelations as he was back in Alexander’s class a decade ago.
“I still know how hungry I was to succeed in music back in my Chico days, and that is still with me at my core,” Daffurn said. “We want to help artists and labels realize their dreams and make a living making their music, and prospering in huge ways. I’m just happy to be along for the journey.”