Industry Pioneer Jac Holzman Presented with Music Business Visionary Award

On Wednesday, March 12, NYU Steinhardt proudly presented industry pioneer Jac Holzman with the third Music Business Program Visionary Award. The award honors a business figure of note for their lasting and positive impact on the music industry through innovative, effective and creative business leadership.

Holzman sat down with Faculty Songwriter-in-Residence and Master Teacher in Songwriting Phil Galdston before an audience of Music Business students, alumni, faculty, and Holzman’s own family, friends and colleagues to discuss Holzman’s unique and extraordinary perspective on the history and future of music and technology. In the course of the conversation, Holzman explained in-depth the creation of Elektra Records in his college dorm room in 1950, and Nonesuch Records in 1964. He also discussed in detail his process of developing bands like Love, The Doors and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Holzman entered the recorded music industry at a time “when independents started in the same place. We didn’t know what to do, so we made it up as we went along and learned how to move to our own internal drummer.” Holzman reminisced about a time, particularly the 1950s, when independent record labels communicated with each other about almost everything. “It was convivial and nobody was trying to push the other person underwater.” Holzman considers these years to be the time in recorded music history that is most essential to the future of the music industry.

To Holzman, working in the music industry is not a job, but a calling. “A calling is something you can’t resist.” After over 60 years in the music business, Holzman spoke with the passion and spirit of someone who has just gotten started. A self-proclaimed autodidact, Holzman built Elektra’s catalog by going to artists’ homes with a tape recorder, and recording them himself. “Autodidacts are so in love with life and so in love with what they do, that they want to wrap themselves in it, and that’s what I wanted to do. I learned more and more, I got better at it, and I got smarter.” Galdston emphasized that Holzman discovered artists, pursued the artists, and engineered and produced the records – something that most executives today cannot do. Perhaps the most understated takeaway from the evening was how Holzman and Galdston’s conversation revolved around the music itself. Holzman maintains that artists are the most important part of a record label, and advised, “if you take care of the music, the music will take care of you.”

In 2013 Holzman launched the Doors app when he concluded that box sets had no place in the digital world. Holzman summarized the app’s 16-month development process as “the most pain and the most fun” he has ever had. With 1600 discrete items, it is the most comprehensive and fully interactive music app ever. Made with help from his family, the app is designed to test new approaches to digital music presentation, production techniques and the economics of pricing, marketing effectiveness, and the optimization and monetization of a product that offers unparalleled value through its ability to upgrade content and navigation.

Holzman left the audience with an invigorating reminder. “I’m not in the music business. I’m in music.” At the end of the conversation, Student Ambassador Board members Julia Pernicone (UG ’15) and Suzanne Rollins (G ’14) presented Holzman with the Visionary Award.

For more music and business wisdom, and secrets of Holzman’s remarkable career, pick up his book Follow the Music.

Student Outlook: The Evolution of the Musical Chameleon – George Barbera and Musical Color

Guest post by Chiara Eskew (G ’15). We encourage feedback and commentary on all Student Outlook contributions. Leave a comment below or tweet us at @NYUMusicBiz.

"Sahara" by George and the Barbarians

Just as new species form, we are beginning to see the new species of artists emerge as they adapt to a new musical environment. They are often viewed as underground artists at first, until they prove their “worth.” In the past, we have had similar artists sporadically spring up and adapt well to a competitive environment. Picasso, for example, defined himself as an artist of disfigured images, but he also had his “Blue Phase” during which he expressed a more realistic interpretation of the world. He was careful to separate his phases though. Such artists are like chameleons of the music world, able to change “colors” — or overall image/sound/style — when necessary, but retaining a certain image long enough to produce a high level of success and survival. One such modern artist is the musician named George Barbera. He is a conglomeration of a music producer, a skilled multi-instrumentalist, a singer and songwriter, and a composer of various genres. George has formed a small community around himself to help with distributing his music which he puts together all in his bedroom studio. He mimics the efforts of Macklemore to get his music out to people without using a major record label which would infringe on his artistic freedom. The one obstacle which he is facing is how to convince consumers that his ability to be varying in musical creations and looks is what distinguishes him and makes his music valuable. The idea is far ahead of its time as people are so programmed to see brands as valuable, and yet at the same time they are exhibiting signs of boredom in the branding and formulating of music. George Barbera, therefore, in recognizing this obstacle is working on phasing his artistic creations and choosing to present to consumer one “color” at a time.

His first “color” is Sahara, a single from his band George and the Barbarian’s debut album which is yet to be completed and released. The song is a metal rock song that mixes with an 80’s rock theme. It is expected to be live on iTunes in three to five weeks, but in the meantime it can be viewed on Soundcloud. Check out this song which represents the sound of his band! All the instrumentals, vocals, the composition, and the production of the song were done by George Barbera showing off his all-compassing musical abilities. If you want to see some of George’s other “colors” check out the other songs on his Soundcloud or visit his Facebook page.

George Barbera’s music encompasses music’s evolutionary growth. Just as with organisms on earth, music has evolved. According to neuroscientist Steven Brown, music may have originated as a ritual’s reward system which worked as a cooperative device that enabled the individual costs of producing music to be outweighed by the group survival benefits. Furthermore, it is believed that polyphony (different harmony lines not carried out in unison) predated monophony (harmony lines carried out in unison) implying that “contagious heterophony” was a precursor to human music and speech. “Contagious heterophony” can be found in the howling of wolves. The howls are sequenced and, therefore, do not occur together. Such blending of voices was used to establish group identity, and group communication to solidify social order and teamwork. Thus, the blending of voices was the first step in vocalization which led to both speech and harmonic constructions for the purpose of making music. As humanity entered the world, the complexity of music increased both in intellectual meaning and actual structure. Unison of voices in time and pitch developed, strengthening the idea of unity amongst community. Cycles of polyphonic and monophonic music were incorporated into human cultures with time. New ideas and combinations of old ideas transformed music even more. But still the main purpose to form community remained intact in the music of humans.

In our world today, however, money has become such a huge focus of music’s purpose. This has taken music away, in some part, from its intrinsic communicative element. In order to market to large masses of people, rather than smaller communities, companies have forced artists to become more like a machine; and songs more like products to be mass produced. The problem with marketing an artist is that you often times must brand that artist, give the artist a look, a genre they excel in, a name that brings to mind a certain image to consumers. But all this labeling and defining of the artist limits the artist’s ability to create and takes away a vital part of the freedom of human communication. The artist must limit what he/she puts into his/her music and cannot express the varying parts of him/herself. If the artist expresses too many different styles, consumers find it hard to distinguish the artist and therefore do not value him/her. While initially distinguishing an artist was important to convey to people that the artist was special, a leader of some sort, the ways artists are distinguished has become so formulated and applied to all artists, that artists are becoming less and less distinguished from each other. Music has become less valued as a result and music companies have been suffering. This has led to heightened competition and a need to adapt.

So where does all this leave artists today? Do they have a future? I predict that the new artist will be what I call the “all-encompassing” artist. This artist is one who is able to do a lot of the work him/herself that major labels have been doing. In having this ability, the artist will be able to escape the formalization and mechanization that music companies have been forcing on artists. Furthermore, the “all-encompassing” artist will have the ability to reflect a variety of human communication, changing up styles, looks, etc; and this will be the new distinguishing factor. However, what is important for such an artist, is that he/she recognize the need for organizing these phases of varying creativity; the artist needs a balance between free creativity and ordered marketing. Perhaps, the artist will also return to methods more in tune with music’s origin and join small groups of like-minded people to form a community that will help with the extra responsibilities formerly executed by major record companies. This is the only way I see music continuing in its healthy evolutionary growth, while still retaining its intrinsic purpose of strengthening community and reflecting the society and species from which it comes. And it just so happens that George Barbera is an “all-encompassing” artist.

Eskew is a first year Music Business graduate student. In undergrad, she double majored in music and math. Her senior thesis analyzed music, the brain, and how they apply to the music industry. Eskew is currently interning in Blue Note Entertainment’s Talent Buying department. She plans to pursue a career in the label sector where she can work intimately with artists, and hopes to continue her own musical endeavors as a flutist, singer and composer.

Season’s Greetings

Undergraduates were in the holiday spirit at their potluck Winter Party

While VeloCity is away for the winter recess, continue to check Twitter and Facebook for updates. On behalf of everyone here at the NYU Music Business program, VeloCity wishes you a happy holiday season. See you in January!

Two Solo NYC Debuts: MUSB Blogger Michael Schreder Books Swedish Artist Marlene ∞

Guest post by Michael Schreder (UG ’16). Photos courtesy of Emily Becker

Coming into NYU, I’ve always known that I’ve always wanted to help an artist I feel passionate about build their career from the bottom up. I’ve always looked up to the creators of Neon Gold Records, with constant output of breakthrough artists. With such a great inspiration, I began to dig through Soundcloud to discover new artists who were slowly building an audience to be breakthrough acts here in NYC and throughout the U.S. After discovering the massive amount of great talent in the depths of Soundcloud, I needed a place to share the music I found. Looking back on Neon Gold Records, I remember that they run a blog featuring music that they love. I figured that I would give blogging a shot and have a place to post any music that I thought was phenomenal. Thus Oblivious Pop was created.

After starting Oblivious Pop, I searched Soundcloud and other music blogs to see what artist had the star power to drive their career to success. One day, I came across a post on Neon Gold Records about Marlene ∞, a singer/songwriter from Sweden. After taking one listen to her debut single “Bon Voyage” I instantly knew she had the ability to write hit songs and be a phenomenal performer. As with any artist I like I instantly followed them on all social media and stalked the Internet for more information on them. I searched to see whether she had shows coming up in the U.S.; nothing was found. I searched to see if she was signed to any labels here in the U.S.; still nothing found. I even tweeted at Neon Gold Records begging them to book her for their Popshop shows at Santos; still nothing. I figured that in time Marlene ∞ would find her way into the U.S. for performances and I would keep an eye on her.

As school started I still continued searching for new music, with a major focus on music coming from Sweden, which has always been a major output of great pop music. I also focused on discovering music from Australia since that seems to be the craze in music lately. Over time, I let my focus on Marlene ∞ (left) slip into the back of my mind, knowing that I would see any new updates on if she was playing a show in the future. That day came in a weird way; it wasn’t a notification by Bandsintown. It was through a tweet from Marlene asking if anyone could help her book a show in NYC while she was visiting in October. At first when I saw the tweet I though to myself, “Marlene ∞ is coming to New York!” I figured that someone else with more experience would take up the opportunity to help her out, but after a little bit more thought I figured why couldn’t I help her out. I tweeted back at her and thus this crazy adventure of booking my first show for my blog Oblivious Pop started.

Going into booking this show for Marlene came from experience of the Concert Management class I took in the spring. I contacted venues looking for dates that were available for Marlene ∞ to make her U.S. debut. After receiving some messages back, I finally was given an offer from Bowery Electric for October 29th. I messaged Marlene asking if the day worked. When she replied yes, we began looking for other acts to book with her. With the show being so close to CMJ I ran into issues of finding other acts to fill the night, giving Marlene some great names to play with. Most artists were interested in playing the bill, but weren’t able to because they were planning on focusing on hitting the studio after CMJ to work on music or were heading out of the city for other performances or back to their home towns. Many emails later, I got a response back from another artist that I wrote about back in September: a band called Germans (right) from Brooklyn. I contacted the Bowery Electric with the artist I was able to get to commit to the night and they booked two other bands for the night. Everything was set in place and things were ready to go.

As CMJ approached, I knew it would be the perfect time to promote the show and to get some people interested in checking out the acts for the show. I asked my friend Emily Becker, an art major in Steinhardt, to help design the posters for the show and any other advertisements. Kevin Johnson (UG ’15) helped with printing flyers and posters for the show. Along with this, I asked my other colleagues, Erin Simon and Olivia Harris, two other Music Business majors, to help spread the word about the show as much as possible. After powering through and advertising as much as we possibly could on social media and throughout NYC, the night of the show quickly came and the next thing I knew it was the day of.

(Germans, left, and Marlene ∞, right, at the Bowery Electric)

Working to get everything finalized the day of the show was hectic, which is typical. I was in contact with Jeff Pomerantz (UG ’13) who was working to get some attention for Marlene by A&R departments at record labels, to get a list of professionals who were planning to attend the show to scout Marlene ∞. After finalizing the list I headed over to the Bowery Electric, worked through the sound check with my artist, and then it was show time. Marlene ∞ performed as the first of two of the artists that I booked for that night. Starting off her set, she graced us with some new music and her debut single “Bon Voyage”. Typically having a full band behind her at shows back in Sweden, Marlene was unable to fly her musicians out for a single show, so she performed with back tracks. As the only performer on stage, Marlene brought so much star power. She had killer dance moves while giving off the pop queen vibes that make you just melt. Her vocals were flawless and every song she performed were all songs that have the potential to be major hits. After Marlene slayed the audience, Germans came on and gave some moody disco vibes. Having a very unique sound, Germans did an excellent job. They gave some funk and made the audience have a wonderful time.

(From left: Schreder, Germans, Harris)

Overall, my first experience of booking a show on my own gave me some really great lessons. I now have a better grasp on how difficult it is to book shows in New York City. In Concert Management class, I had the name of NYU to help make the show seem more legit, but as a creator of a music blog who’s just starting up it was rather difficult to find a place that would take you 100% serious and understand that perhaps they could be helping premiere and artist who could be the next big thing in music. I also learned first hand some of the things that could go wrong with sound checks and making sure everything was working. The most important lesson I learned from this experience is that if you really believe in an artist and you want to help them find success then you just have to be kind and give as much as you can. Working with Marlene was one of the greatest opportunities I could have ever received. She was extremely grateful, thanking me constantly, but in all honesty, it was her I had to give the thanks to. If it wasn’t for Marlene I wouldn’t have been able to book the show. If it wasn’t for her being the superstar she is the night would not have gone as well as it did. It shows how important relationships are in this industry. Building a relationship with people can be extremely difficult, but if you are truly sincere and appreciative, the return is enormous in the end.

(From left: Harris, Ji Nilsson, Marlene ∞, Schreder)

After this show, I am taking the lessons I learned and hoping to be able to book more showcases for my blog and to find other ways to help further my experience in the music industry. I’m hoping that I will cross paths with Marlene and Germans again in the future, but for now I’m not entirely sure what my next plan of action is. I’m looking into booking another showcase while I’m abroad, but I never know what opportunity will arise. This whole experience literally started with a tweet and turned into something amazing. It is an experience I could never have imagined.

Connect to Oblivious Pop on Twitter and Facebook. Like Marlene ∞ on Facebook

E.S.O. Takes Over Shanghai

Guest post by Matthew Tinkelman (UG ’15)

(Kohler, left, and Blanton playing to a full house in Shanghai)

Electronic Sound Outfit, also known as E.S.O., is a DJ duo made up of Nick Kohler and Alex Blanton, both NYU students. Nick Kohler is a MUSB student (Class of 2015). The DJ duo started making a name for themselves in New York, playing many gigs and weekly residencies around the city. Though Kohler and Blanton began gaining recognition throughout the local underground club scene, they had their sights set on more global opportunities. For the Fall 2013 semester, E.S.O. decided to take their studies and their music to Shanghai. Choosing China as a destination of study was a fascinating and strategic decision. China is an emerging new market for music, and E.S.O. wanted to take advantage of China’s current, fast-paced evolution. E.S.O. is very ambitious, and by the looks of it, is succeeding in their quest to make a name for themselves in an entirely new and exciting market.

NK: Nick Kohler
AB: Alex Blanton

What drew you to dance music?

NK: I remember when I was 7 or 8 my father had two albums on repeat: Moby’s “Play” and Fatboy Slim’s “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby.” It’s the music I grew up with, it’s the music I blasted from the speakers as loud as I could while I played on the trampoline. I don’t know what it was, but even at that age, it made me want to jump. I like to jump, it’s fun. Whatever music makes me want to jump is OK with me. A few years after I started writing acoustic songs, I decided to try to make the music that I wanted to make and that’s when E.S.O began.

Why did you pick Shanghai as the right place to share your music? Was this decision strategic?

NK: We both knew that there was a vibrant nightlife scene in Shanghai, but it is in such an infant stage compared to where it will be in a few years. We figured that if we entered the market now as an EDM duo from New York City, we’d be able to get in early and ride the wave to the top. Because we’ve established ourselves thus far in this emerging market, when we come back in March and June, we’ll have no problem performing and we’ll already have a built in fan-base.

AB: I felt Shanghai was the best location to study abroad for a variety of reasons. As someone interested in business and entrepreneurship (I’m in Stern), Shanghai, and China as a whole, is the place to be in the next 20 years. Nick and I also thought the development of the music industry here would likely mirror the overall economy’s development. We were definitely right with that prediction. The music scene in Shanghai is definitely growing at a rapid pace! We figured it’d be much easier to break into a growing market rather than a very mature one like Europe.

What were your goals when coming to Shanghai and how have you approached and tackled said goals?

NK: The overall goal was to simply perform because we believed that if we were able to get a foot in the door, we’d be able to make a pretty significant mark. Beneath the surface, we wanted to make a significant enough mark to be able to come back to not only Shanghai, but also the rest of China and possibly other countries in Southeast Asia and have people know who we are and want to come see us perform. We still have another month and a half, but I think that so far, we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do and then some.

How have your shows been going? What kinds of shows/venues have you been playing? How has the response been to you and your music? What has this experience taught you about the Chinese market?

NK: I think we’ve played more diverse shows in China than we could have ever even dreamed of even back in the U.S.A. Our first show was on the beach, the second was with French legends Cassius at an underground venue, and for Halloween we performed in the middle of a bamboo forest. In between we’ve played at the local clubs, but we’re having the time of our lives at every show. When we first went to the clubs as spectators, we thought that we would have to tailor our music significantly to fit the general vibe. However, upon deciding to stick to our style, we found that the Chinese public actually really enjoyed it (maybe because it was new). I feel like the Chinese market is incredibly receptive to new experiences in music… what they don’t know doesn’t turn them off, it provokes curiosity.

AB: We’ve played everything from beach parties, to mountain parties, to western style nightclubs, to Chinese styles clubs, to more European-style concert venues. The high-end nightclubs are very westernized and remind me of places in New York. They have an heir of exclusivity and the usual music of choice is vocal house music. The Chinese clubs on the other hand are a bit different. Chinese people don’t like to dance very much but they love to get messed up so these clubs have lots and lots of tables but a pretty small dance floor. The music at these venues is very top 40 (except when we play of course). The concert venue we played when we opened for Cassius was my favorite venue. Huge dancefloor with large bars either side, and only a small set of tables in the back. We played some really old school house music which was a lot of fun.

(Photo courtesy of Mook Shanghai)

What have been some of your highlights while playing music in China?

NK: Our show with Cassius was far and away the highlight of our stint in China so far… I listened to their track “My Feelings for You” when I was like 11 years old and have loved it ever since. We opened for them in front of a sold out crowd and played an underground set. The audience loved every second of that entire show… great crowd, you could tell they just wanted to dance.

What are some key takeaways from your time in China? Have you learned anything about the music industry that you can apply to what you want to do?

AB: The Chinese locals don’t understand modern music or the music industry very well yet. Most of the current development in the music scene is still led by the westerners. There are definitely people working to grow and improve domestic taste and talent so this may start to change in a few years. Overall, China is a great market for new artists to break into. It is much less structured and hierarchical than the American music industry, so for the young and bold there are great opportunities here.

NK: China is an emerging market, but it is “emerging” at a tremendous rate. There is so much demand for great content here and although there is a healthy supply of Electronic Dance DJs, there is not a healthy supply of Electronic Dance Musicians. I was also surprised to find out that there isn’t a single label based in China that’s geared towards EDM, this being despite the fact that EDM is growing at the same rate that the nightlife market is growing. In fact, we’re talking to two entrepreneurs who are trying to launch the first EDM label in China and are trying to be on the cusp of that wave.

For more on E.S.O., check them out at:
facebook.com/electronicsoundoutfit
soundcloud.com/electronicsoundoutfit
instagram: @electronicsoundoutfit
twitter: @esoutfit

Annual Alumni & Current Student Networking Reception Focus is Creative Relationships in Music Supervision

(From L to R: Flescher, Faber, Young, Rivera, Martin, Tuthill and Trussell. Photo by Chianan Yen courtesy of NYU Steinhardt)

On Friday October 25, the 9th floor of the NYU Kimmel Center for University Life was bustling with Music Business Program students, alumni and faculty for the 13th Annual Alumni & Current Students Networking Reception, an event produced by Professor Shirley Washington. Every year the music business program creates the opportunity for alumni and students to meet or re-connect, update each other on their professional progress, and have a panel discussion featuring our talented and knowledgeable alumni and current students. This year’s panel discussion was entitled “Cue to Cue, Concept to Completion: The Ever-Expanding Role of the Music Supervisor.”

Before beginning the panel, Professor Larry Miller, Program Director Dr. Catherine Moore, Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Sam Howard-Spink and Steinhardt Vice Dean Dr. Beth Weitzman gave attendees updates on recent additions to the program. Among these announcements were Dr. Ron Sadoff’s new appointment to Director of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, and introducing visiting Music Business faculty member Carlos Chirinos. Lastly, Dr. Howard-Spink is leading the process of publishing a journal of NYU Music Business colloquies, to display outstanding work by our graduate students.

Adjunct professor and grad alum Heather Trussell, Senior VP of Memory Lane Music Group, moderated the discussion using her music publishing expertise to ask all the right questions. None of the panelists are music supervisors, but they all work directly with supervisors and this gave attendees insight into how artists, managers and rights holders benefit from sync placements.

This year’s panelists were Seth Faber (UG ’04) of Primary Wave Music, Shira Flescher (G ‘11) of Sony Music Entertainment, Pauline Martin formerly of Spirit Music Group, Nicole Rivera (UG ‘01) of Wasserman Media Group, Chris Tuthill (UG ‘93) of Talent Consultants International and Alice Young, current student (G ’14) and intern at Downtown Music Publishing.

(Panelists and faculty pose before the discussion. Photo by Chianan Yen courtesy of NYU Steinhardt)

The panelists concurred that music supervisors have become the new “it” gatekeepers, building high profile careers and, citing ChopShop’s Alexandra Patsavas, Go Music’s Gary Calamar and Neophonic’s PJ Bloom, even creating their own companies. It’s grown into such a sought-after profession that even basketball star Lebron James is getting into the game, supervising NBA 2K14, due out next year. Over the past five to ten years, successful music supervisors have come to hold the power in creative relationships. The role has become so important that some supervisors can even influence storylines of a film or TV show, such as Jonathan Karp, Judd Apatow’s go-to music supervisor.

The panelists discussed from a musician, label’s or publisher’s point of view, how to pitch music to a music supervisor – a delicate endeavor since the pitch usually happens the opposite way. One should not be too “sales-y” or forceful, and instead listen and know about copyrights. When sending music to a supervisor, make sure the pitch is directed to someone with the right audience for the music, and tag all the metadata with contact and copyright information, making the supervisor’s job easier.

Like the rest of the industry, the panelists concluded that music supervision is a relationship-based business. A good relationship can make or break a placement. Trussell summarized, “if a bunch of songs all fit, they’ll pick the one with the writer, label or publisher they like to work with.” Before opening up for questions, Trussell and the panelists played out mock negotiations between a music supervisor and a label, and a music supervisor and a publisher – a helpful and entertaining way to end the panel.

Student Outlook: CMJ Remains a Place for Music Discovery Despite Its Fair Share of Critics

Guest post by Matthew Tinkelman (UG ’15). We encourage feedback and commentary on all Student Outlook contributions. Leave a comment below or tweet us at @NYUMusicBiz. All photos courtesy of Matthew Tinkelman

On the final night of the CMJ Music Marathon, I ventured to Brooklyn to end my sleep-deprived week with one of my favorite singer-songwriters of the past few years, Father John Misty (left, at Music Hall of Williamsburg). Already an established and critically-acclaimed musician, the man also known as J Tillman effortlessly captivated an adoring audience with his songwriting, wit, and heartfelt delivery. However impressive his set may have been, there were dozens of sets from newcomers throughout the nonstop marathon of artist showcases, panels, and music industry networking that were easily just as good and awe-inspiring. Even with all of the new talent and excitement overflowing from CMJ, the Internet seemed to be putting its focus of coverage elsewhere this week.

CMJ has garnered its fair share of critics and skeptics recently. In the midst of facing a lawsuit, quite a few popular blogs, most notably Consequence of Sound, claimed that CMJ “has lost its sense of identity,” observing its lack of being able to stand out from other similar music conferences. Others questioned why an entity like CMJ is still necessary, or to take it even further, relevant in the modern DIY music space. In addition to its group of detractors, this year’s event was undoubtedly overshadowed by another music event entirely: Arcade Fire’s return to the stage in Brooklyn. The amount of potential buzz that CMJ is normally able to generate for up-and-comers seemed almost forgotten on the blogosphere in favor of the hoopla surrounding Arcade Fire. Does CMJ still hold an important place in music?

For those who say CMJ no longer serves a purpose, I firmly disagree. CMJ acts as my annual optimal peak for music discovery. Last year’s event led to my finding San Cisco, SKATERS, Deap Vally, Sky Ferreira, and MS MR, acts who broke out in 2013, gaining some of their first and most prominent buzz and traction at CMJ showcases. While talking on the panel “Jam Packed: The Explosion of Music Festivals,” Jordan Wolowitz of Founders Entertainment, the company that puts on Governor’s Ball, stated he discovered Icona Pop at CMJ last year and was so impressed by their live show that he booked them for the festival before they scored a global pop smash with “I Don’t Care.” This year, I passed Wolowitz several times on the streets of Brooklyn running from show to show. Glassnote head and MUSB idol Daniel Glass could be seen laughing with CAA’s Jbeau Lewis (Katy Perry’s agent) while checking out bands at Bowery Ballroom. I engaged in conversation with Mumford and Sons pianist and Communion founder Ben Lovett before he headed to Rockwood to check out some bands. Clearly I’m not the only one sifting through the hundreds of showcases CMJ has to offer to find new music.

This year’s festival remained the constant source of music enlightenment and “I was there” moments that make CMJ so special, distinct, and important. Certain performances, such as Kodaline’s at Bowery Ballroom (pictured above) during the CAA Showcase, felt like the crowd was witnessing a band destined to break within the next few months. Their set-closing rendition of “All I Want” proved that the band is not only radio ready, but also ready to take on America after having conquered their native England. Bands that I had never heard of such as Panama Wedding, PAPA, and Rathborne all delivered impressive sets that turned me into an instant fan. Betty Who, HAERTS, ASTR, and Half Moon Run were ubiquitous in conversation and showcases, apparently impressing everyone who had seen them.

In Consequence of Sound’s CMJ recap article, it blasted the marathon for its lack of “buzz bands that could use this opportunity to break out.” Yet, certain CMJ artists are already picking up steam less than a week after the festivities have ended. Pitchfork gave Ethiopian R&B singer Kelela its sign of approval, labeling her as “rising” after New York Times journalist Jon Pareles and others gave her CMJ performance rave reviews. Suddenly Joanna Gruesome, Lucius, Wet, and the Preatures are now indie darlings, being picked up by dozens of blogs after leaving impressive marks in New York.

International acts made the most of their opportunities to leave their first impressions on the US market. It often makes the most sense to take a first trip to the states during CMJ, where acts can play multiple showcases in the hopes of possibly catching notice. It is a core reason why so many Australian bands attend CMJ, in addition to why CMJ has several Australian day showcases and special events. The aforementioned Australian band The Preatures seized the moment and did just that. Meanwhile, buzz-worthy Swedish pop act NONONO launched its inevitable US takeover with its several well-received first US performances throughout the marathon. Woodkid’s victorious and emotional concert at Webster Hall (right; pictured) proved that he could be a true force in the US market, after already taking over his home country of France. Although these acts were on the radar before their landing at CMJ, they now have the momentum to actually make names for themselves in America. Once the Arcade Fire New York invasion finally disappeared and CMJ closed down its 2013 event, it was quite easy to calculate the impact CMJ had had throughout the week – fans and industry people alike went home with favorite acts and the marathon had done its job.

Toward the end of his performance, Father John Misty ridiculed CMJ bands in his notoriously sarcastic humor for “whoring themselves out to brands and corporation.” In response, a crowd member blurted out, “We love brands!” The music industry has flipped itself on its head since the CMJ organization was first formed. While pretty much everything in the music business has changed, CMJ’s core values remain the same, as it continues to put emphasis on discovering new artists and helping the industry grow and prosper. Though the future of CMJ could eventually be in question, I don’t see how CMJ can ever not be relevant.

Catching Up With Music Journalist Kathy Iandoli (G ’08)

Graduate alum Kathy Iandoli makes her living as a music journalist, writing freelance for outlets such as Billboard, VICE and Rolling Stone. She is also media editor of HipHopDX, a top hip-hop media outlet. VeloCity caught up with Kathy to learn about the everyday life of a music journalist.

When did you begin writing about music, and how hard was it to break into the world of hip-hop journalism and get your work noticed?

I started writing probably about 15 years ago, but it wasn’t until the last decade or so that I started to honestly call myself a “writer.” It strangely wasn’t as difficult to break into the music journalism world as I had decided it was so long ago. Keep in mind, ten years ago we didn’t have blogs and music sites on a wide scale, so print was still king. All it took though was to really submerse myself into the scene, meet the right people and then casually mention that I like to write. I’m making it sound way easier than it was, but really it was the decision to actively pursue it that was the hardest thing to do. For me at least.

As a freelancer, how do you decide what to write about? Is it your decision, or assigned by an outlet?

The beauty of being a freelancer is that if you want to write about something, anything, you have carte blanche to do that. When you’re tethered to one particular publication, you’re fighting for the same real estate as your colleagues. So if you happen to be a Beyoncé fan – and your coworker is a bigger Beyoncé fan (or perhaps in a higher editorial position) – and an interview opportunity with Beyoncé pops up, then pardon my French, but you’re a**ed out. As a freelancer you can take your ideas to the many places you write for and whoever bites gets it. Of course you run into the red tape of dealing with staffers at publications (who may also love Beyoncé) so you don’t always get what you want. In addition, yes outlets come to freelancers as well with ideas that come about on their storyboard and require writers. Some they give to you tailor made if they know you’re an expert in a particular field. Other opps they give you when no one else on the team wants them (*throws confetti*).

How do you balance freelance work with your job as an editor? What helps you get through a stressful day on the job (coffee, music, excessive amounts of Pinkberry)?

Two words, my friend: Whole Foods. Seriously though, for the last five years I’ve worked out of a home office so my schedule is as wonky as Miley Cyrus’ behavior. I’ve given myself a pretty rigorous schedule of waking up early to go to the gym, checking my task list (I definitely need one daily), writing/editing, going on location or to record labels for business/interviews, doing phone interviews, and then crying while listening to Ellie Goulding. The latter only happens like twice a week, I promise. But yeah, tea keeps me high-powered. I also read somewhere that taking a week off from writing every month to read/research is the best way to keep it all going. I’ve been wanting to do that, but then I realized it I didn’t write every week I’d have to move to the NYU library like that one student did a few years ago.

What is your favorite part of your job as a journalist?

The fact that I can be a fan of something and then tell everyone why I’m such a fan of it. And then get paid to do it.

Is there one story you’ve written that you’re most proud of in your career thus far?

I’ve had milestone interviews that I’ve been super proud of, but rattling off artist and celebrity names is lame. I did a piece recently for VICE where I discussed hip-hop in Syria and how it’s used as a political tool, but also a means of rebellion. I spoke with a few artists and learned about the real situation out there. It was really intense.

Several students in the program have started their own music blogs – can you recommend one way for them to increase traffic?

Create a healthy balance of solid work and SEO friendly items. You don’t have to post One Direction’s music all day or “Cat Doing Salsa Dance” videos, but creating content that centers around something the internet is currently obsessed with will usually get you some traffic wins. Also, never underestimate the power of social networking. Tweet your interview subjects, get them to retweet, post your work on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram (take a picture and direct people to your site). Hit the Facebook Fan pages and Reddit. These are all things that fuel your promotional vehicle well beyond the 500 word piece you wrote.

Is there anything you learned during your time in the Graduate Music Business program that you apply to your work every day?

Everything Dr. Moore ever taught me I apply to not only my career, but my everyday life. That woman should be a life coach (I hope you’re reading this, Dr. Moore!) It’s true, because NYU professors bring real life experiences, so you’re able to learn so much more than what a textbook could teach you. Outside of the academic side of the program, I was working full-time when I was a grad student, so that period of my life I always refer back to when I claim that I “don’t have enough time” to do everything.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do with your free time?

What’s this “free time” that you speak of?

Do you have any secret career aspirations (crime scene analyst, politician, Beyoncé)?

Considering I used Beyoncé as a previous example, I think I’ve let the cat out of the bag that I am in fact Beyoncé already. Outside of my usual job as King Bey, I’ve always wanted to be a DJ. I used to work at Fat Beats and would deejay in the worst way possible. I even owned turntables. It was so sad. Oh, and I want to own a café and/or bookstore if they’re still around next year.

What is your guilty pleasure song/genre/artist?

There are no such things as guilty pleasures, only guilty people. So I will say that Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” is a modern classic that I may or may not shout from the top of my lungs whenever I hear it. “Call Me Maybe” still gets some spins too. I’m a little delayed in the kitschy pop world, because it takes me 6-8 months of self-loathing before I can fully accept that I like a song.

Follow Kathy on Twitter, and check out two pieces Kathy wrote about NYU for Rolling Stone featuring Questlove and Steven Van Zandt.

Alumni PR Firm Audible Treats Earns Billboard Cover With Artist Mike WiLL Made It

MikeWiLLOn the week of August 9, artist Mike WiLL Made It hit newsstands everywhere on the cover of Billboard Magazine. Best known for writing and producing hit singles like Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” Mike WiLL has released mixtapes of his own and built his success from the ground up. Most recently, Mike WiLL released the music video for “23” featuring Miley Cyrus, Juicy J and Wiz Kalifa. Working alongside Mike WiLL on the road to the Billboard cover was his PR team at Audible Treats, including three alumni: President Michelle McDevitt (G ’05), Director of Marketing Gavin Rhodes (G ’05) and VP of Publicity Dan Friedman (G ’10).

“He wasn’t well known when we started working with him,” said Friedman. “He had produced the song ‘Tupac Back’ for Meek Mill and Rick Ross, and that was the one big placement he’d had when we started working together.” Mike WiLL had also produced mixtape tracks for local packs from Atlanta like Waka Flocka Flame when he started working with Audible Treats two years ago. Audible Treats’ campaign for Mike WiLL has been a building process, starting with small hip-hop outlets, that eventually led to bigger ones like Complex, Fader and XXL. From there, McDevitt and her team were able to transition to cross-genre outlets, ultimately leading to Billboard.

While a Billboard cover is a feat in itself, Mike WiLL’s is a unique accomplishment, since many music outlets are hesitant to put producers at the forefront, primarily because they are not as visible as artists. “The fact that he was on the cover by himself and not accompanied by somebody more recognizable…it was sort of an ongoing process where somebody had to be the first one to do it,” said Friedman. “I’m hopeful that it’ll open some more doors to outlets that we think would be good fits to do similar pieces, and hopefully we can do more covers with him going forward.”

90 percent of Audible Treats’ artists fall under the hip-hop umbrella, the other ten percent made up of soul and some indie rock, list artist Nylo who McDevitt describes as “Aaliyah meets The Weeknd.” With different genres come different PR tactics like tailoring pitches to fit each outlet – “knowing which writers and which outlets are going to be perceptive to what you’re trying to get them to listen to,” said Friedman. “The most annoying thing that writers complain about it getting pitched music that isn’t their specialty.”

McDevitt never thought she would start her own business before developing Audible Treats in 2004, but now she has begun to view everything with an entrepreneurial mindset. “When people tell me about business ideas now, my mind starts racing and I think, is this viable? How much would you need to get? Would it really work? Who are customers and competitors? I can think through an idea in five to ten minutes and tell if it’s viable or not.”

One of McDevitt’s biggest takeaways from the Graduate Music Business Program was learning to be independent, and that it was up to her to make things happen. While NYU can be used as a springboard, McDevitt had to invest herself, ask questions and network. Friedman agreed, adding, “There are good resources offered through the program, your classmates, Stern classes and people who aren’t directly under the Steinhardt umbrella. The classes give a good foundation, but you have to put your own effort behind that foundation to get to where you want to be.”

To aspiring student/entrepreneurs, McDevitt offers this advice: “Network as much as you can. People are open about sharing their stories. You can always learn from somebody else’s pitfalls, which you can then avoid. Think about what niche you fill and how to reach your target demographic. Communication skills can’t be emphasized enough. Be clear, to the point, and professional in emails and phone calls.”

McDevitt has recently been appointed an adjunct professor in the Graduate Music Business Program. Audible Treats was also cited as a Top 25 PR Firm on Social Media in 2013 by Uwire, alongside PR firms from a variety of industries. Follow McDevitt on the entertaining Audible Treats Twitter.

MUBG Program Director Dr. Catherine Moore Provides Insight to Major News Outlets

Music Business Graduate Program Director Dr. Catherine Moore is frequently sought out for comment on issues facing the music industry, such as one hit wonders and the challenges of indie music marketing. Showing the wide range of her industry knowledge, Dr. Moore most recently shared expertise on three vastly different topics:

In “Jay-Z and the Mainstreaming of the ‘Album App’” (Time Business & Money, 7/11/13), Dr. Moore comments on the use of apps as a new way to reach audiences, such as Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail” app accompanying his new album.

In “Steinway Considers a Global Future After Sale” (Wall Street Journal, 7/12/13), Dr. Moore shifts gears to comment on the possible artistic and financial future for this legendary company after its recent sale to a private equity firm.

Dr. Moore is also quoted in “Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Leaves Spotify. Will Others Follow?” (Time Business & Money, 7/16/13), explaining why artists struggle to fully accept the streaming business model.

From new tech strategies to classic business matters, Dr. Moore remains a go-to source for music industry insight.

Follow @CMooreNYU on Twitter.