by Justine Souchack

The Music People, an audio equipment distributor and the home of Onstage Stands accessory line based in Connecticut, is exactly what the name offers: nothing but the best quality of customer service to sustain the needs of music professionals globally. President and owner of the company, Sharon Hennessey, states that what makes The Music People is the people. With an innovative, hardworking staff, it is no wonder that The Music People has won the title Top Work Places twice by the Hartford Courant and is ranked #38 in top supplies worldwide. 

Behind the scenes of this small, but prosperous company is Hennessey. Whether it is handling everyday business operations or running projects, her favorite task is always reaching out and connecting with partners. Hennessey is also confident in women in the industry and has high hopes for the future. 

WiMN: Your father started the company…did you always think you’d move into a leadership position there? 

SH: No not quite. I went off to college pursuing a degree in Education with an emphasis on Special Ed, thinking at that time I wasn’t going to fall back on the business. But I will say my father was brilliant in persuading me with an introduction to my first WNAMM tradeshow back in the 80s. At that time, I didn’t have to work the booth, could lounge by the pool at the hotel (I’m an East Coast girl… the balmy January weather was sublime) and hang out with rock stars at night – it was the perfect plan to expose me to the music industry. 

It was at that show that I distinctly remember the Peavey booth. The line to the booth wrapped around the entire hall as people waited to meet Eddie Van Halen and purchase the coolest Peavey t-shirts and swag. Something resonated with me when I saw this. Having drank the Kool Aid, I returned home to Connecticut and told him I’m coming to work for The Music People (TMP).

WiMN: What’s it like supplying local companies versus bigger stores such as Guitar Center or Sam Ash?  

SH: As you may imagine, supplying product to smaller stores versus bigger stores would look very different, but actually, it isn’t. At The Music People, we strive to create strong relationships with clientele who have big or small operations and we are grateful for the opportunity to receive the business from all our customers. TMP has been around for close to 40 years now, and over that time we have created many systematic processes and put them in place to easily service large and small companies alike. This means we can give the same attention and service to all our customers. 

WiMN: What do you think makes The Music People special?

SH: Honestly, it’s the people. It is one reason the company got the name, “The Music People.” Although we’re not a large company, our business touches multiple sectors of the industry. TMP is multidimensional, consisting of Pro-Audio distribution through “TMP-Pro,” as well as “On-Stage” which manages and develops our own accessory and stand line. Our knowledgeable, hardworking staff is the face of both divisions and the reason why we are so successful. It is the people that make it possible to manage a large catalog of products, develop and patent great ideas, and provide top service while creating lasting relationships with our customers. 

WiMN: The Music People is a family business, is working with your family ever challenging for you? 

SH: I chuckle when I consider how to respond. My father Jim and brother John are very passionate people and so am I; it makes for a very interesting combination.  It wouldn’t be unusual to see us in a passionate discussion in the NAMM booth over a mic clip or some other product.  Our customers always love the experience of our family dynamic.  Either Jim, John or I will often challenge one another to get our word in on how a feature, benefit or specification should be considered when doing a sales pitch on a product. We love what we do and the product we provide. 

WiMN: I see you’re always looking to expand The Music People team, what type of people do you look for when hiring?

SH: There is a motto that we like to use at TMP for our employees: “Get it and get it done.” The mentality behind this saying is that we believe our employees to be the best in the industry. They are adaptive, hardworking and do what is necessary for the company and their co-workers to succeed. It’s always an exciting time to come in and join the TMP team. We are continuously adding partnerships with the industry’s biggest brands and manufacturers and expanding the crème’ da le crème’ line card offerings through TMP-Pro, developing and creating new product through On-Stage and continuously finding ways to connect and celebrate our employees. 

WiMN: Tell us about a typical day at work for you…(if there is such a thing!)

SH: After 28 years, my typical day will always be evolving. As a rule, I handled many of the strategic On-Stage customers both M.I. and OEM, and still do in combination of running the day to day business operations. On average, a typical day is getting a big picture overview on all aspects of the business from a project management perspective and meeting with the different departments to review our top-down priority projects; many are directly linked to the company’s goals and identified initiatives. Often, there are a variety of sales trainings conducted by our TMP-Pro distribution partners and business clientele. In combination with the day-to-day operations, I go out of my way to connect with our partners. That’s a real highlight for me. It is always enjoyable to connect and share some laughs; many of us have grown up in this amazing and unique industry. As the years go by, we gain insight from all our history and learn to apply that insight to our business as we move forward. 

WiMN: What do you like most about what you do?

SH: I like that TMP is a relatively medium-sized company. We are grateful to experience many benefits of a Fortune 500 company. We are in a  place where we are still small and agile enough to take a right turn today even if we have been taking a left for so many years. I have been doing this job for quite some time, and I always look forward to engaging with long term relationships I have created through the years.  I love learning and applying fresh ideas to the company to keep it ever-evolving and sustainable. I feel like the music industry is one long vacation where you get to spend time with people you connect with on so many different levels and design products together that meet challenges and provide solutions.

WiMN: Have you ever faced challenges as a woman in the music industry? How did you address them?

SH: Personally, I have not. Quite the opposite. Many of my mentors over the years have been men. I think the music industry is unusually welcoming in comparison to other industries. I think that women can excel in our industry and tap into the many resources available to them. Music Trades comes out annually with its industry top suppliers worldwide. I’m very proud that TMP ranks #38 worldwide (11th by revenue by employee), and when scanning #38 up to #1, I am pleased to be one of two female Presidents and the only Co-President of a family-owned and operated company. I am excited and inspired seeing that anything is possible. I encourage women from not only the music industry but all industries to have the self-confidence to pursue their dreams. In addition, I’m an available contact and resource through NAMM YP and its empowerment of new generations. Male or female, it gives me great satisfaction when they reach out for guidance in pursuing their careers in the industry.

WiMN: What’s in the future for The Music People? 

SH: As we approach our 40Th Anniversary, we have never been more energized.  We are clear in our vision and excited to embark on the next 40 years of exclusive partnerships, continued patented innovation and strong relationships that span the globe.

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Sharon is pictured above with Chuck Surack’s daughter (owner of Sweetwater), a new exec in training!