Anna Acquistapace On The Zoo Labs Music Residency #SAtN

AAnna Acquistapace is a design strategist, researcher and producer with over 10 years of experience making creative projects come to life.

As a Co-Founder and Director of Zoo Labs, she is building a place to explore the future of music and music-tech, exemplified by the Zoo Labs Music Residency (ZLMR) – an immersive incubator for music teams.

In this Stand Above The Noise conversation, Anna explained how the Zoo Labs Music Residency works, why such support is important for any musical project and the reason they don’t accept solo artists without teams to their program. You can apply to Zoo Labs at

00:00:24 – Anna Acquistapace & Zoo Labs introduction.
00:00:57 – Has the amount of artists who realise they need such support increased lately?
00:02:01 – Does a band have to handle business on their own?
00:03:34 – Even if you are a solo artist, you need a team.
00:04:20 – Where to look for support if you are a musician?
00:05:24 – How to apply to Zoo Labs

Full transcription:

Anna Acquistapace

Anna Acquistapace

I am Anna Acquistapace from Zoo Labs in Oakland, California. Zoo Labs is a music accelerator. We work with musicians to advance their music creation and also their business planning. So we take musicians, teams of music makers, and give them two weeks in the studio to record new music. We also give them workshops and mentorship to create a strategic plan for how to really propel their project forward, make it the best it can be.

I think in the last ten years or more, as the music industry has really been in flux and so many things have been changing, the systems of support for musicians has been changing so much. You don’t have record labels anymore doing as much artist development from the ground up, as we saw in the past.

So I think it’s been a slow change for the last decade. But I think more and more artists are realizing that they really can take responsibility for their music career with all of the tools that are available to them over the internet, and that’s been changing a lot.

The people that we meet, the musicians that we meet, are doing these things already. They’re already running their own business, and they realize that there’s tools they can use to make that more effective. So that’s what we’re bringing to them, is that toolbox and ideas on how to maximize their potential in what they’re doing.

Our approach is really to focus on the team of music makers, so it’s never just one person. I think what we’ve found is that when you work with a group of people, each person has their own strengths, and that really is what’s so important. So there may be someone who’s the creative genius of the group, the real visionary, and they might not be the one doing the tour management or doing the booking for concerts. But someone else on the team might be doing that.

I think, really, one of the things that we really talk about a lot is team dynamics, and how you can make working together in the collaboration really effective and strong for organization. That, I think, is something that we do have to explain, and I think it’s also the other side of it that’s really interesting, is that the creative visionary, he may have, or she may have, a lot to offer in the planning of how you do a music tour, but maybe just the experience side. Maybe not the financial side.

I think bringing everyone to sit at the table together and making that a process that they’re more comfortable with, having the dual focus on both art and business, that’s been something that we’ve been trying to promote, and that’s something we explain. Because yeah, a lot of times it’s intimidating to do business. It feels uncomfortable to make a strategy plan, so we spend time working on that, so that it’s no longer a mystery.

One of our requirements is that the people who apply to our residency are on a team, so we don’t accept solo. It has to be between at least two people, between two and five people. I think even solo artists usually are working with someone. Maybe it’s a manager, maybe it’s a producer, maybe it’s just a creative collaborator. Oftentimes, I think for a project to really be sustainable on the long term, they need someone, oftentimes, even if they’re behind the scenes.

That’s sort of one of our requirements. We’ve met a lot of people that ask us, “Well, I don’t have a team. Can I still apply?”, and we say, “Well, maybe you’re not ready to apply then to our program.”

I think it varies immensely from country to country. We have a dream of making a world map and putting in each country all the resources for artists, because that’s what we believe in. We believe in providing information to support their music creation. It’s a very good question. There are a lot of tools on the internet. I think, for us, one of the big things that we promote is mentorship, and so I think really when you’re starting out, one of the best things that you can do is just get people to advise you, people who have more experience.

Then you just have to hustle. You have to get out there and go for what you want, and not give up. That’s probably the biggest risk, and one that we’ve heard a lot from the musicians that work with us, is that the first and biggest risk is just giving up. So for us, the future that we want to see is that all the artists we work with are still making music in ten years. That’s our dream.

We have an application online, so you must fill out all the questions. It’s pretty in-depth, but we find people enjoy doing it. There are interesting questions, so it makes you think. You have to have made music together, or in the past have something. Then what we look at are three things. We look at the music craft, so really the level of musicianship. We expect it to be good.

We also look at team dynamics. How do you work together? What have you done together? Then the last thing is this idea of hustle. It’s an idea of resource magnetism. How have you managed to achieve the goals that you’ve set for yourself in the past. Those are the three things.