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Kirkland man leaves Microsoft to follow passion in music, entertainment

Kirkland resident Mike Lucero quit his job at Microsoft to follow his musical passions. - Contributed
Kirkland resident Mike Lucero quit his job at Microsoft to follow his musical passions.
— image credit: Contributed

Kirkland resident Mike Lucero, 49, found himself talking to a career coach last October after 15 successful years at Microsoft.

“She basically said, ‘You have a choice right now,’” Lucero said. “’You can be at Microsoft for the rest of your life. You were there for 15 years and you’re past it, or you have another 15-20 years of good career elsewhere but you need to make a decision now.’”

The company was in the midst of a reorganization and Microsoft gave Lucero the opportunity to continue at the tech company or change his career path. He worked on projects that included figuring out the business models for content applications on Xbox, such as Netflix, Hulu and ESPN.

“I knew pretty quickly,” he said. “I had to actually pull myself out of taking another job at Microsoft. I just knew that I didn’t want to do that.”

What Lucero did want was something that was in front of him all along.

The native Californian finally had time to pursue his longtime passion in music for the few months he was looking for work.

Lucero has played the piano since he was 9 years old. In high school he participated in a jazz band that went to competitions.

“Then I went to college and put things on hold for about 20 years,” he said, adding that he would still play for pleasure. “Even at that early age, I knew it would be a tough business to be successful in.”

After college, Lucero was faced with an either-or decision, much like the one he experienced with the career coach.

After getting his MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, Lucero had the opportunity to go into advertising or music.

He had just started a job in advertising when an entry level position with Geffen Records opened.

“I wasn’t sure about the business, where it was going in general,” Lucero said. “But that’s one of the things you always wonder [about].”

But he finally got another chance with music in the months following his departure from the tech company.

“Whether it’s music, art, sports, or whatever, you shouldn’t let the flame die, and you should remain committed to doing the things you love,” he said. “It might take dedication, commitment, some sacrifice and probably lots of mistakes along the way, but it will round you out and make you a more complete human being.”

He reached out to his friends in the local music scene and started the process of recording the “Friends of Mike Collective.”

Once the album is complete this summer, Lucero plans to contribute toward the Seattle music scene by giving proceeds to Grammy MusiCares, an organization designed to help struggling musicians and artists.

“I want to push dollars back into the community,” Lucero said. “They help artists that are addicted, whatever the artist needs, they’re the 911 for artists in need.”

Lucero said before The Lumineers got famous, the organization helped out when their band equipment was stolen.

The “Friends of Mike Collective” consists of 18 of Lucero’s friends who’ve compiled about 10 songs. Some songs are original, while others are covers of songs, such as “Eleanor Rigby” and Radiohead songs.

The project also includes musicians from groups, such as Cataldo, Cream Tangerine, Hey Marseilles and the Posies, among others.

Lucero said he has especially collaborated with local singer Zach Lombardo, who is on about half the songs. The two recently shot their first music video for one of Lombardo’s songs at the Kirkland marina.

“I would say I am [following the dream],” Lucero said. “The songs all address important, heavy universal themes … I have picked songs that are both beautiful and powerful in terms of their message.”

Lucero said “Eleanor Rigby” is a fun song that seems light-hearted but if one listens closer, it’s about aging and loneliness. Other songs have themes of unfulfilled dreams and dysfunctional relationships, he said.

While Lucero said his main goal is to help MusiCares by raising money and getting a larger presence in the Seattle area, he would also like to be a force in helping other new artists get their music heard.

In January, Lucero accepted an entertainment executive position with Ratio, a company that builds content applications for businesses, such as Microsoft, across multiple platforms.

Arts, entertainment and technology are in his blood, it seems.

While Ratio creates applications for many types of industries, the company is also very connected to music.

“We’ve done work with KEXP, helping them with their online strategy,” Lucero said.

Before Lucero joined Ratio, he was one of the first team members of Microsoft that built Xbox Live and helped media publishers such as ABC/ESPN, CBS, NBC, Hulu, VEVO, Last.FM, Crackle and more deliver their content on Xbox.

Sony Crackle has a music channel in their application and have also created their own content around music called “In the Basement,” Lucero said.

His job now for Ratio is to figure out how to take what the company has on Xbox and apply it to other platforms.

“I’ve a sense of where things are going musically, that I can have informed discussions with my content providers about what they should be focusing on,” he said. “Editorial discussions, what they should be promoting and who they should stand behind.”

Not only has his knowledge of music helped his job, but his job experiences help him in the work he does with music.

“I’ve always taken the business that I’ve learned through advertising and marketing and product management and I’ve applied that to the music industry,” he said. “I understand the business side of entertainment and I can help these guys make money.”

Lucero lives in the south Yarrow Ridge area with his family. His children attend Kirkland Middle School, Lake Washington High School and Eastside Prep. Two play the piano, one the guitar, while his wife is a jazz fan, he said.

“My hat goes off to all the spouses who support their husbands or wives in the music business because it’s not a trivial sacrifice,” he said.

For more information on Lucero and the “Friends of Mike Collective,” visit www.zachlombardo.com/sideprojectsotherinvolvement.html.

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