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Making a Career on Rock n’ roll Memorabilia

Posted on 19 February 2009

If it’s Tuesday for Barrie Lapins, this must be London–or some other great city where she gets paid to buy cool stuff. Her exact title is Memorabilia Acquisitions Manager for the Hard Rock Cafe. She purchases expensive items from rock stars for display at one of the chain’s 105 international locations.

With the company celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Hard Rock inventory now includes 63,000 items valued at nearly $32 million. As part of a promotional sweepstakes, the cafe is even offering the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour bus.

The Hard Knock Cafe
Lapins came from a commercial–and much less glamorous–side of the music industry: She was a long-time manager for Camelot Music in Orlando. “I knew and liked my customers and they knew me,” she says. “It gave me great pleasure to suggest music to them or find an obscure recording for them.”

Going back to school as an adult was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

She always loved to write, and envisioned penning pieces about the musicians who influenced her life. After 11 years at the music store, at age 28, she began to pursue a journalism degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago. “I chose Roosevelt because, at the time, it was known for its older students,” she recalls. “As an older student, I didn’t spend as much time playing as I did studying.”

She returned to Orlando and got a temp job with Hard Rock, landing in the memorabilia department. She used her traditional skill base to research and compose reports on potential items for acquisition. “I worked so hard, hoping someone would take notice of me. I temped for four months, and when my time was up, I gave the director of the department my resume.”

It worked. He drilled her about her knowledge of music and, of course, she aced the exam. Thanks to the music store experience, she also had considerable experience in hiring, training, inventory control, and other relevant needs.

Party All the Time?
In May 1999, she was brought into her current job. Of course, Lapins tends to play down the exotic parts of her job. “It’s not all rock stars and parties and traveling to exotic locations,” she says. “Don’t believe the hype.”

But if you push just a little bit, she coughs up the truth: It’s a great gig and she ends up buying some very interesting goodies. “Among my favorite acquisitions are the blue cape worn by Jimi Hendrix, the acoustic guitar used on MTV Unplugged by Lenny Kravitz, and a leather mask worn over Madonna’s eyes. Also,” she adds, “Hard Rock recently acquired 22 KISS memorabilia items valued at $300,000, including a set of four life-size mannequins dressed in black leather from the group’s Psycho Circus Tour.”

Opportunities Everywhere
While there aren’t a lot of openings in her line of work, there are many jobs available in the music industry. And they don’t necessarily require working a counter at a music store. Lapins proves that, if you really have the drive, anything is possible–no matter how old you are.

“Going back to school as an adult was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” she says. “It opened up opportunities for me that did not exist before. And, believe it or not, museums, traveling exhibits, and recording artists do look for people who are knowledgeable to archive and expand on their collections. You just have to know where to look.”

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  1. The Soul of Rock and Roll - Rock, Blues, Folk and More About Music » Carnival of Rock and Roll March 1st (2nd), 2009 says:

    [...] Khan from the Higher Education and Career Blog sent along something pretty cool about an individual who makes their living sort of indirectly in the music industry… an interesting read to say the least: Making a Career on Rock n’ roll Memorabilia [...]

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