Senior Spotlight: Christina Lauro

Where are you from?

Really I’m from a lot of places. I was born in Chicago, IL. I moved to Northern California at the age of 3, at 4 I moved to Rhode Island, and at 5 I moved to Westchester County, NY. At 11 I moved back to Northern CA (Silicon Valley) and stayed there until I graduated high school. I also spent my Freshman year in Florence, Italy. So, typically I tell people I’m from CA just because I lived there the longest and the most recently.

What is your background in music?

I’ve been singing since 3rd grade and that’s pretty much how it started. I had some stints in musical theater, I played the piano for about 5 years, but really for me it’s about the singing. Once I hit high school I started taking singing more seriously and began private voice lessons on top of choir. By my junior year I was auditioning for bigger choirs and by my senior year I was a singer in the CA Coastal Region Honor Choir, a soloist in the CA State Honor Choir, and a soloist in the ACDA National Honor Choir under Tim Sharp. Today I sing for a professional volunteer choir, the Canticum Novum Singers (not affiliated with NYU) under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum and I still take private voice lessons.

Why did you decide to come to NYU?

I’ve always wanted to live in New York City, ever since I had moved to New York with my family—we would visit the city every couple of weekends and even at a young age I fell in love. Over in CA, we’re not too familiar with many of the east coast schools but I knew about NYU from my acting friends. I, of course, begged my parents to make a visit and when I saw Washington Square Park and the campus and the surrounding city I knew I wanted to go. It was my first choice school even compared to higher ranking universities so as soon as I was accepted I enrolled.

Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

I’m not one of those people who can grab a bunch of names out of the air and swear that they’re truly my favorite artists. I go through phases with my music and I tend to like everything. I guess the artists that have stuck with me the longest are bands like Kasabian, I like some of Muse’s older stuff, The Beatles (of course), Cream, pretty much anything our parents grew up listening to I ended up listening to, so classic rock as a genre sticks with me and has a lot of good memories associated with it. I’ve started getting into the electronic genres too, and I like Thomas Gold a lot right now, but I’m all over the place with this type of music so I can’t really say I have one favorite artist.

Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?

Musical guilty pleasures? I’m guessing this is the stuff we don’t really want the world knowing about…

I sometimes listen to metal… and also Enya.

What have been some of your favorite music business classes/professors in your time here?

I don’t really like playing favorites and I thoroughly enjoyed every professor that I came into contact with in this program. There are some serious industry professionals that I get to see and work with on a weekly basis and that sometimes blows my mind. I think my favorite classes so far are Strategic Music and Branding (taught by Josh Rabinowitz), Music Publishing (Jennifer Blakeman), and Village Music (Larry Miller). SMB was just an awesome class, it gave me a side of the industry that I hadn’t thought about before and actually landed me my first internship. I’ve learned so much in Music Publishing and I’ve actually been able to apply some of what I’ve learned at work which is always really cool to do. In Village Music I think Prof. Miller is doing a good job opening us up to the business side of the industry which, though we learn a lot about the industry in this program and a lot about business in this program, it’s refreshing to see how everything goes hand in hand. But this program isn’t limited to these three professors and classes, everyone I’ve had a class with has opened my mind to something and all of the professors are pretty awesome.

Have you had any really cool music-related moments in New York?

I think one of the coolest music-related moments I had in NY was when I was serenaded by the band Locksley. I had only just started hearing about them when they came into town and a girlfriend and I went to the show and managed to get right up front against the stage. Halfway through one of the songs the lead singer points right at me and we had semi-awkward eye contact while he sang some sappy chorus. It was really fun; I got to meet them after the show and they all seemed like really great guys.

What was your best internship?

I’ve only had three internships and they were vastly different from each other so it’s hard to pick a favorite or which one was “the best”; I think it’s easier if I just talk about why each one was so awesome and what they all taught me. My first internship was at a venture capital tech consulting firm, Alteon Capital, where I was essentially an analyst. It was sometimes a grind, but I learned so much about research, excel, how to write professional emails (a skill that doesn’t always come naturally) and reaching deadlines in a work environment.

My second internship was at Cornerstone, a creative marketing agency that also runs labels for some major brands. Walking away from this internship, I think I learned how to have a decent phone conversation (it’s hard not to be awkward) and to deal with all sorts of people. I ended up working in strategic marketing and helped out with Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound and Bushmills’ ad campaign with Bon Iver (with a little side work on Converse’s Rubber Tracks and Qream’s campaign). Every now and then I would send a handwritten thank you letter to Justin Vernon and his family, the concept of which was neat (though he had no idea it was me, of course). I think the coolest experience I had in this internship was when I had to deliver some props to the photography studio Jack’s Studio. The place was like something out of a movie: there were models everywhere, music was blasting, it was completely white inside with some purple orchids here and there, there was a bar in the studio and I (lamely) got some artisan bottled water. The photographers actually asked my opinion on how I thought the props should be placed (the photos were intended for a Bushmills ad) and I was the only one there from my company so I got to give some input. Of course the entire internship wasn’t all glamor and loud music but some of the experiences were really cool.

My third and final internship was with SiriusXM, and they ended up hiring me at its completion. I worked in a strange branch of business development that is essentially a strategy branch for streaming. Unfortunately, due to the fact that this is a public company, I can’t say much more than that. It was an amazing internship and I would recommend anyone trying to work here, you can find some helpful intern reviews about many different positions in the company
here: http://siriusxminterns.com/

What is the story behind your job at SiriusXM?

I started off as an intern and I worked really, really hard. That, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I showed initiative and independent thinking, and I have a great relationship with the music programmers as well as the engineers, so they asked to keep me on after my internship ended.

What is your dream job?

My dream job will take me years and years to accomplish, and I know that I have to start slowly and modestly, but I think one day I would like to work on the executive level at a major media company. I know it’s hard work, and I have no intention of “running the show” right now—I have so many things to still learn and experience—but I do eventually want to make my way there.

Are you leaving the program with different career aspirations than you had when you entered the program?

When I entered the program I had more of an international slant to my direction—I wanted to do something that allowed an easier collaboration between the US and foreign artists. When I started applying to internships there wasn’t exactly an “international collaboration department” in any company (I did consider going into international departments at major labels, but there was really no mixing between the US and foreign acts and that’s what I wanted to do), so I decided that business development was almost as good and here I am. Now I definitely have a different set of aspirations; working in corporate development has given me a better sense of who I am and how I work and I’m looking more in the direction of major media companies than international music.

What would be your advice to incoming and transfer students?

Work hard, pay attention, and don’t forget that your professors are there to help you inside and out of the classroom; you have their networks at your disposal, so ask them for help. I was a transfer student and I think the hardest thing was fitting everything in so I could graduate on time. Thanks to that, my other piece of advice would be that you really need to plan ahead; things change but it’s always good to have a plan so that you’re working towards something.

Student Outlook: The Case For Killing The Album

Guest post by Philip Vachon (UG ’16). We encourage feedback and commentary on all Student Outlook contributions. Leave a comment below or tweet us at @NYUMusicBiz.

From the minute the music industry started tanking, experts along with decidedly non-experts have decried the end of the album as though it were the end of a slightly larger rotating circle. The separation of albums into essentially twelve “singles” stemmed from the file-sharing of Napster which sent mp3 files individually, as well as iTunes’ $.99 per song model. Critics often say, “an art form is dead” and “today’s ‘now culture’ doesn’t have the attention span for true artistic works.” But if I may be so bold, I’d like to propose a question that seems too simple to yield any results: so what? Yes, yes, I know that jobs and profits have been lost and in The Great Restructuring of the Industry times have been dismal to say the least. But somehow music has survived, thrived even. So, is it possible that the death of the album as-we-know-it was needed to save music? Before the axe falls I will gladly read the charges against the accused.

Imagine there is a new painting by your favorite artist (you may need to imagine first that you in fact have a favorite artist). Not just a painting, but also an entirely new exhibit. You’ve heard from art critics that this exhibit received anywhere from four to five out of five stars, yet all the critics offer are broad descriptions of the works as a whole, maybe only showcasing one painting. Would you buy all of the paintings without seeing them? No. This blind purchasing model is essentially the situation album buyers in the past were faced with. Now of course this metaphor is imperfect because the cost of all of those paintings would probably be substantially more than the average album cost, and for some the full price is worth the risk. The fact remains, however, that in the past albums were one of the few, if not the only products that were bought with essentially no knowledge of the product the consumer was putting money down for. Today, individual tracks that can be previewed on iTunes, uploaded onto YouTube and Spotify, and posted in blogs allows the fan to assess based on more than blind faith whether they will buy.

The characteristic inherent of the album is that the foundation of the argument for its survival as a complete and comprehensive work is singularity. The album, as those on that side continue to see it, is a monolith incapable of being divided or taken apart. The problem with this is the incentive for artists and record labels alike for each song to be good on its own didn’t exist. Many cynics in the industry feel that an album is often a few great songs tied to useless “filler” tracks. True, not all songs are attention-getters from the start and perhaps the necessity of buying the entire bundle encouraged listeners to devote time to those less flashy songs, but today with the ease of listening on YouTube or Spotify listeners and fans still have the access to explore to any degree they want. As listeners are now free to buy or not buy each track, there is a financial necesssity to make each one quality rather than merely album padding, leading inevitably to more carefully crafted songs. This change will affect the creation of music, but how has it affected how we listen?

One seldom-heard topic in the debate over the separation of tracks is the rise of the playlist. Today all of us are able to combine individual tracks to build our own stories and messages in the same way that mix tape makers and DJs have. Creative liberation from the blocky and bound album format has made music listening a more creative and expressive endeavor. Rather than passive consumption of music, listeners today are active and interactive while enjoying their favorite music. By categorizing playlists by mood, genre or activity, we are forced to examine the subtle similarities and differences that make those songs able to interact well inside of that playlist. We can see the positive effects of this increased examination in the rise of “mash up” culture. Artists like Girl Talk and Super Mash Bros. engage in national tours off of their style of music in which components from sometimes dozens of songs all reside on one track. These songs’ origins span decades and genres, re-contextualizing the music they know and breathing a new life into what they do not. This new context has affected not just how we listen, or the music creation process; it has changed how we discover music.

In the past, unless you had a 6-disk CD changer you were stuck listening to one genre, one artist, one at one time. Today with the separation of tracks we are able to jump from Mozart to Motown with a click. This allows for further analysis of the music through comparison, but also breaks down preconceptions that serve as barriers to whole forms of music. Yes, music A.D.D. is very much a reality to a generation that has grown up with that kind of ease of switching. It is entirely possible that being trapped within one work at a time makes listeners devote more attetion to the music, but the diversification of styles and genres on the iPod of a Millennial today is already making for more open-minded fans. Ask a group who grew up with the individual track being the dominant musical format and you’re sure to find many who are fans of Radiohead, Kanye West, and that weird old band their dad told them to look up. This opening of tastes comes with the breakdown of preconceived ideas of what certain grenres sound like and, along with this, what type of person listens to those genres. The significance of breaking down these stereotypes cannot be understated, as completely new forms of art are now open to groups of various types that would never have experienced them otherwise.

All this notwithstanding, there is one argument for the pardon of the non-separated, non-digital album that is a much simpler and literally concrete concept: people like to hold it. It’s tangible. There is a simplicity in giving money and receiving a physical object that appeals in a deeper way that people think to human nature. I may be overcomplicating, but there is a sort of conceptual crisis around the loss of the tangibility of music in the digital age. Throughout its existence music was the tangible: sheet music, wood and metal seats, instruments, vinyl, plastic tapes, 8-tracks and CDs. Today, music is left to this abstract concept of a file that flows throughout the infinity of the Internet and the world with a transience that is unsettling to grip. Many of the problems today in the music industry lie in this renegotiation around “what is music now?”

I am not here to solve the problem, at least not yet. All I’m saying is, this question needed asking. Maybe we have to put it in perspective that music existed before there was a language to write about it in. It is an art based in feeling and no matter how much humans attempt to make it so, it never was tangible. It’s on the edge of its expiration that music always dodges death and mystifies us again. So as the axe falls maybe we will be able to embrace the saying I’ve found to be increasingly appropriate in today’s industry: Music is dead, long live music.

Student Outlook: To Get More Superfans, “Game On”

Guest post by Alec Steinfeld (UG ’13). We encourage feedback and commentary on all Student Outlook contributions. Leave a comment below or tweet us at @NYUMusicBiz

As I drive down the Miami shoreline, the car’s engine howls as it shifts into top gear. The wind gushes in my face, and I’m having a blast. One of my favorite songs plays on the radio, Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” Then, I run over a crowd of people.

This scenario didn’t happen in real life. Instead, the experience was a fantasy played out in the Rockstar videogame “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.” I played this game when I was a kid and, despite the risque subject matter, acquired lasting memories of my virtual experience. Amazingly though, what has continued to stick with me after all these years has not been the gameplay itself, but rather the lasting connection I made with the game’s musical soundtrack.

The game was a period piece in a sense. The setting was Miami’s glitzy and drugged out heyday in the 1980s. The music reflected this context and played a variety of hits from the era. I grew to really enjoy this soundtrack. However, I now realize my liking of these songs would not have come to be had I heard them independent of another medium. The game told a powerful story providing the context for the music to connect on a personal level.

The put this into context for those who have little experience with video games, think back to your favorite movie. Now, think of the most exciting, emotionally charged scene in this film. Most likely, this moment had a musical soundtrack driving the emotional direction of the scene. And, most likely, you remember the music playing during this moment.

Now think, in a world where the average person is bombarded with information, including music from a variety from a variety of other competing artists, keeping your (at the very least recorded) music memorable now takes more effort or creativity. Studies have shown humans process information visually at a much higher rate than any other external medium. This is the reason why info graphics online are much more effective delivering and inevitably retaining information in the human mind. Now, combine this medium within a visual and interactive context. These findings lead to a time tested and not remarkably novel conclusion: music plus visuals leads to a lasting impression.

Surprisingly enough, the music industry has yet to grasp the resonate power games can make on fans and consumers. While television and movies combine music with a visual medium, video games adds another further solidifying variable: interactivity. The plasticity of and control over a game’s design also leads to benefits over previously used combined mediums. Whereas there are complicated human elements to creating movies and even music videos, game designers can tailor and experience specifically for musical content and vice versa. As a result, we obtain a visceral experience that connects with fans.

Now that we understand the benefits games have when interacting with fans, here are a few pointers to keep in mind before making that call to Xbox.

The Material Must Speak for Itself

While the dissemination of technology has made producing a record easier than ever, and in turn creating a need to find ways to “rise above the noise,” the same has happened within the gaming industry. Finding a designer for your game can now be much cheaper and even decent on a relatively small budget. However, this means the consumers of games have myriad options to choose of all the games out there.

Here we have a catch-22. While the hope for aligning your music to games attempts to rise above te noise, the game will have to do the same among others in the competing marketplace. So, before you make an investment or spend the effort pitching your music to game companies, remember that the game will also have to be memorable for your music to be memorable. Or even worse, your game may even be associated with a bad experience.

(A screenshot from "Skrillex Quest")

A Catalyst: From Fan to Superfan

After years of tinkering, artists have finally figured out how to reach as many people as possible through online tools. With email lists, promoted posts, Twitter feeds, Tumblrs and Kickstarters, bands have the greatest number of tools they have ever had in being able to reach out to fans and non-fans alike. Yet, bands have yet to fully utilize tools that foster fan engagement and in turn retention.

Superfans hold the key to a band’s financial success. After bands acquire interested users – by playing shows, streaming their album on blogs, promoting their material on the social web – their extended success, at least in monetary terms, rests extensively on engaging in interactive platforms (akin to the 80-20 rule). Games hold just one answer to this question, and if handled well, can pay extended dividends.

But again, your game cannot just be another touch point to cast a super wide net for your fan base. Remember the goal: engagement. In order to engage, you must have a strong comprehension of who is in your fan base. Do your due diligence on who has shown to conntect personally with your music. Ask: why did they experience this connection? Answering this question will provide the grounds as to how you and your band would like to move forward.

Player 1 Press Start

Some artists have already taken this initiative. Take electronic dance music artist Skrillex. He recently releases Skrillex Quest (skrillexquest.com), a free online game with the backing of the artist’s electronic dance motifs. The game does a great job of integrating story, gameplay, and the music of an artist.

Online platforms present numerous paths to connect with fans on a personal level, and gaming could lead the way. Keep on the lookout for more music-inspired games in the near future.