Music Inc Magazine May 2024

Gabe Dalporto regularly gigs around California in his cover band, The MidLife Crisis, which he helped establish when he was 40 years old.

Growing up in an old 19th century farm- house in the mountains of West Virginia, Dalporto described his upbringing as “un- usual” but centered around music. “My father, among other things, was a musician, and he had taken our entire living room and set it up as a recording studio,” Dalporto said. “We had stuff on the walls to absorb sound and people would come in from all over the state, and they would just play music together and jam until three or four in the morning. At one point, I decided I didn’t need a bedroom anymore, and I made my bedroom the living room recording studio. I just hung out with him, and I slept on the couch. I loved the environment, the musicians and people playing music all the time. Everybody else in my extended family played instruments, so it was just a part of my upbringing. My father taught me to play [guitar] when I was about 12 years old, and I’ve kept that with me my entire life.” Now, the aisles that Dalporto used to shop with his father are his new domain. With plans to enhance GC’s online footprint by tapping into his digital background and a strategy to improve the retailer’s opera- tions, Dalporto said he’s excited for the challenges ahead. “I feel it’s very rare that people get to combine their personal passions with their

professional career,” said Dalporto, who on weekends, plays lead guitar in his cover band The MidLife Crisis. “I spent a lot of time working at companies like JP Morgan Chase, E-Trade and LendingTree. And while these are all great companies, no kid ever wakes up one day and goes, ‘I want to go work in digital financial services.’ It’s really important to me that I can help Guitar Center grow, thrive and achieve greatness, because it’s important to everyone in this country that we do that as music is so impactful. But it’s also important to me personally because of my passion for music.” FROM FINANCE TO FOUR-STRINGS When Dalporto left West Virginia for col- lege he ended up studying nearly the exact opposite of music — nuclear engineering. “I got a master’s degree from MIT in nuclear engineering, and coming from the backwoods of West Virginia to that environ- ment was pretty wild,” he said. “I worked in nuclear engineering for a little bit, but at some point I found my way into marketing and rose up through the marketing ranks in New York City, eventually being named chief marketing officer [of LendingTree].” After working at a string of digital finance companies, Dalporto took on the role of CEO at e-learning company Udacity, before

a chance encounter with Abe Zilkha of Ares Private Equity Group — Guitar Center’s private equity investor — would eventually change his career trajectory. “I met Abe in 2018, and we just started chatting and getting to know each other and, at some point, we started talking about music,” Dalporto said. “I’m a guitarist, and he’s a drummer. As we talked music, we started talking about Guitar Center, and I just thought it was such an interesting pivotal time in the company’s history.” Dalporto said their conversation evolved into discussing the disruption of physical brick- and-mortar MI retail by online competition. “I began thinking about how you pivot a company to really be more digital-centric,” Dalporto said. “It’s a really disruptive time, and we spent a whole year just going through a bunch of meetings, riffing on ideas and then he eventually asked me to join the Guitar Center board.” In his role on GC’s board, Dalporto ad- vocated for a more digital-centric approach for the MI retail giant. “I spent five years doing deep dives on music lessons and deep dives into digital marketing and websites,” he said. “But I would say, the company never really got traction in those areas. So, when the inves- tors were looking for a new CEO, I was

32 I MUSIC INC. I MAY 2024

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