Reflections from the Music Business Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Guest post by Larry Miller

When I first considered becoming Music Business Entrepreneur in Residence at NYU Steinhardt, I expected to engage with graduating seniors throughout the semester, get to know them and understand their talents, learn about their past experiences and help turn their ideas into action. I hoped to be a constant presence for them as they immersed themselves in the creative process of imagining a new music startup – and built a plan to make it real. But what I got was much more than that. I quite literally had a front row seat as I participated in their process, presented some of the course topics, coached team members and acted as both catalyst and sounding board for students to build on their ideas, challenge their assumptions and themselves, pitch their projects and express them in investor-ready form.

The breadth of ideas presented was impressive, as was the scope of business models presented for development. Of course the projects all had music at their core; they ranged from digital music services to live entertainment combining music and art; from production tools to the not-for-profit sector. Each student wrestled with the fundamental challenge of entrepreneurship; creating an idea, transforming it into a sustainable business plan and executing. Product prototypes were built; revenues, costs and market assumptions were pressure-tested; and a live event was produced, validating the plan with great success. I was proud of them all.

A few shout outs are in order; to the graduating Music Business students who welcomed me so warmly and engaged with me so rigorously. And to Professor Radbill, an extraordinary partner for me throughout my EIR term as I integrated the curriculum, pedagogy and student projects. I am grateful to her for the EIR opportunity, and I look forward to hearing from students as they embark on careers and in some cases start businesses of their own. Reach me at lsm[AT]larrymillerco[DOT]com, or look for me down the hall. I’ll be back as an Adjunct Professor in the fall.

MUBG Alum Kristen Bussandri’s Singing Career Takes Off

For Kristen Bussandri (G ’08), it was a fairly easy decision to leave her hometown of Montreal and move to the Big Apple. The singer made the move to pursue a Master’s degree in Music Business, so she could learn the best way to manage her own career. Just a few years after graduating, Bussandri was named one of “five Canadian musicians poised to break out in 2012” by one of the major national Canadian newspapers, perhaps proving that her time at NYU had paid off. VELOCITY sat down with Bussandri as she continues to promote her latest EP “Diamonds to Dust,” which can be downloaded for free here, and gears up to record her first full-length album this fall.

When did you start singing and writing songs?

I’ve been singing since I was able to speak and writing songs since I was seventeen.

Where does your musical inspiration come from?

I often find inspiration in other forms of media – films, short stories, books, newspaper headlines and other people’s songs. This week I was inspired to write a song called “Whores and Holy Rollers”, which is an expression I heard in a short film about Levon Helm on YouTube. Levon died last week and I’ve been listening to a lot of his music. Sometimes, a lyric just pops into my head and the song flows from there. Of course I’m inspired by events in my own life. There is a large amount of uncertainty tied to the musician’s lifestyle, and it’s both liberating and stress-inducing.

You were picked as one of “five Canadian musicians poised to break out in 2012” – does that make you feel any pressure, or just excitement and confidence?

A mixture of both! It’s definitely exciting, but now I have to deliver on a certain timeline, which is not always easy when you’re dealing with a creative project. For example, we decided to push back the recording of my album from the spring to the fall to focus on performing shows this summer and promoting my current EP “Diamonds to Dust”. I am honored by the positive press and am working hard to deliver the best music I can make.

Has your education from NYU helped in your singing career? What made you decide to do the Music Business graduate program?

Having worked for a record label right out of college, I knew I wanted to get a Master’s Degree that was business-oriented to help me manage my own music career and avoid the common mistakes that artists make. When I found out about the Music Business program at NYU, it felt like the perfect thing for me. The fact that I could move from my hometown of Montreal to New York for two years was a big part of my decision to enroll at NYU. I knew that the city itself would make me grow. The education I received at NYU has definitely helped me. It’s given me an excellent understanding of the music business as a whole and the tools to develop my own career.

Do you have advice for aspiring singer/songwriters?

Get out there and play live to get feedback on your material before you hit the studio. Your audience is your ally – they will help you pick your best songs and will point out your strengths and weaknesses. Videotape all your performances so you can make notes on what to do better next time (Roger Waters told Howard Stern that he still does this). Read the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. Don’t spend too much time on social media – it can zap your creativity and your time is better spent practicing. Do blog. The most important thing you need is to have killer material. You don’t need to have the best voice in the world or the best guitar chops – if you can write amazing songs you’ll get ahead. Find local musicians who love your music and are willing to play with you for free. If you’re a singer and you can sing many styles, find a producer who can help you determine what part of your voice is the most distinct. Be wary of professionals who want to charge you for their services, such as publicists and radio promoters – make sure you give your money to someone who will work hard on your behalf. Don’t go chasing record labels – build your career up to the point that they come to you. Believe in yourself, even when you get rejected, but be humble. Oh, and if you haven’t considered giving it all up out of mind-numbing frustration, you haven’t tried hard enough.

What can you tell us about the new album?

My new album will feature our 70’s tinged vintage sound that blends elements of gentle country, folky rock and soul. It will build on the mellow vibe of the “Diamonds to Dust” EP but contain more upbeat blues/rock songs in addition to the gentle ballads. I’ve been courted by some incredible producers, including multiple Grammy-award winner John Whynot (Blue Rodeo, Lucinda Williams). I’m really excited to bring to life another set of great songs!

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KristenBussandri.com

Alums Folayan Knight and Khari Cain (aka Needlz) Talk about Effort, Drive, and Success

Guest post by Peter Schwinge, G ’12, President of the MUBG Student Ambassador Board

On Friday, Feb 24th students from the Music Business Graduate program attended their first Professional Development Sequence of the spring semester and were treated to a wonderful experience from guest speakers and fellow NYU Alumni, Folayan Knight (UG’ 96) and Khari Cain (G ’03), aka Needlz.

From the onset, this was to be a different event. Typically guest speakers prepare a specific topic or presentation, yet after Ms. Knight briefly discussed her background (NYU Music Business graduate, Director of A&R at Island Def Jam, Senior Creative A&R at Hitco Music Publishing, Owner of Go Flip Yourself! to most recently Senior Manager of Creative at Kobalt Music Publishing) she turned to the 60+ students and asked, “What is it you want to know?”

With the floor left open, the students quickly jumped in with the pressing question, “How was it working with Redman, and Method Man?” A tantalizing story followed. With many of the audience follow-up questions regarding various sectors of the industry, Ms. Knight provided insightful responses on how to navigate each of the specific sectors. She dove into her experience-book with the common emphasis on your desire to put in the effort and drive to achieve your goals. From handling eccentric artists phone calls at random hours of the morning, negotiating a hot deal, to standing your ground…the basic takeaway is focus and follow-through.

About hour into her talk, the back door opened, to the surprise of the students, and through the crowd walked Khari Cain, aka Needlz – a fellow NYU graduate and Grammy-award winning producer. A delightful murmur radiated from the audience and a pleasant smile upon  Ms Knight’s face…as they had worked together for years.

She invited Mr. Cain up front with her and began an enjoyable conversation-like talk to the audience on the artist/manager relationship. A wonderful segment that openly displayed the balance of this kind of relationship. Stories from years past on how some things worked, and other times they didn’t, and what works out in the end with a relationship based on trust. Needlz, a truly humble gentleman that carries a big smile, is not the type of person you expect had just won a Grammy for his co-production on the Bruno Mars single, “Just The Way You Are”, as well as worked with such acts as Lupe Fiasco, Swizz Beats, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent. In an open conversation with the students, Mr. Cain’s message was clear…Don’t follow the pack, be true to yourself and your music, and have passion about what you do.

A truly entertaining and inspiring evening filled with a wealth of industry insights and stories that the students could digest and build upon for years to come. We thank both Ms. Knight and Mr. Cain for
taking the time out to share their knowledge and experiences with us.

Editor’s note: Bruno Mars single, “Just The Way You Are”, was the top-selling single in the world in 2011, with sales of over 12.5 million.

Follow Needlz on Twitter

MUBG Student’s Website Lets Fans Help Acts on the Road

Sara Stile (MUBG ’12) always felt it important to help her favorite artists build buzz, understanding that touring is an expensive endeavor that many artists cannot afford. When an entrepreneurship assignment seemed to be a feasible business, Stile assembled and small team and developed Support The Tour. Support The Tour lets fans help their favorite acts on tour by donating tour necessities or by providing the acts with a place to stay. Stile launched the site last October, and Support The Tour now has 256 registered fans.

 

 

How and when did Support The Tour start?

I’ve always had a passion for helping out artists and making sure all my friends were aware of my favorites. It started with joining street teams in high school but as I got older I wanted to do more. It’s obvious that in today’s music industry money is a hard thing to come by and so much of an artist’s barely there revenue is going to getting them out on the road to help build buzz. So I wanted to come up with a way to make tour life easier and more affordable.  Luckily I took Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry in the spring of 2011 in which we had to write a business plan as our final project. This forced me to work out all the details of a tour support company, which was the birth of Support the Tour. When I finished it up and got some great feedback, I realized, wow this could actually work! 

How did you assemble a team?

The team started with my brother. He has always loved the entertainment industry and worked in some aspects of it so when I told him about my idea he loved it so much, I didn’t have an option but to bring him on. I next recruited a close friend I knew had a lot of connections with the scene and bands we wanted to get things started with. Since we are still relatively small in all aspects of the business we haven’t found a need to bring in anyone else just yet but always looking for people interested in helping. 

What were some challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?

Starting a business is a challenge in every regard. There are times I get so frustrated that I think to myself “why on earth did you get yourself into this?”, but then I remember that I have a lot of support and people counting on me. The biggest challenge so far has been creating a website and getting all the things we needed to start the company with no money. We have done a lot of bootstrapping and reached out to investors but you hear a lot of nos which can break you down but it’s that one yes that makes everything ok again…even if it comes after 50 nos.

Has being a MUBG student helped in the development of Support The Tour?

The best part about being an MUBG student in regards to development has been the network here. All of my classmates, professors and even guest speakers in courses have helped in their own ways. Some give great advice, some will introduce me to someone else who can help and some even contribute at times as copywriters or graphic designers. I could not do this without everyone here. 

What’s next for Support The Tour?

Now that we’ve got the site up and running and have helped out our first bunch of artists, it’s time to get sponsors and partners. I just finalized our proposal we plan to send out to a nice long list of brands, executives and more. We have a product that works and now that we can actually show those results, it will (hopefully) be easier to bring in these people to take the site to the next level.

Do you have any advice for aspiring student/entrepreneurs?

Just don’t give up on your passion. No matter how defeated you feel, as long as you believe, then you can make it happen. It sounds cheesy but it’s the reality. Starting a business means you are going to hear “no” a lot, you are going to be let down by people, you are going to lose sleep, and so many other negatives but when you see the success of it all, you can’t help but smile!

 

SupportTheTourNow.com

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MUSB Freshman Raises $1 Million: Her Startup Stores Passwords in the Cloud

Stacey.jpgStacey Ferreira (UG ’15) had always been fascinated with business and technology. From a young age, as she would pretend to own her own restaurant in her living room, it was clear that entrepreneurship was in Ferreira’s future. Last summer, when she raised $1 million in venture capital for her startup MySocialCloud, it became clear that Ferreira had indeed become a successful entrepreneur.

“I had been dabbling in code for a couple of years when the idea really started” says Ferreira. During her senior year of high school, her brother’s computer died, taking with it an Excel spreadsheet of his various passwords. It was frustrating that he was unable to access his email or Facebook because he could not remember all of the different passwords. The two siblings decided then and there to create a service that stores all of that information in the cloud, making it accessible from any computer. On May 26, 2011, after a period of trial and error, Ferreira, her brother and their team created MySocialCloud.

Ferreira says that finding a great team was the biggest challenge when first starting out, and that it was difficult to find reliable yet passionate and visionary people. “But probability says that if you look for great people over a certain amount of time, you’re bound to find people that work – in the past couple of months, we’ve been extremely lucky!” Now that MySocialCloud is up and running, Ferreira’s biggest challenge is finding a way to balance the excitement and work that comes along with a startup, a social life and attending class with her completed homework in hand. So how does she balance it all? “Plain and simple, I love what I’m doing. I love the possibilities with MySocialCloud and seeing people get excited about using it, and I love Music Business.”

Though still in beta testing, MySocialCloud has developed into more than just a storage site for usernames and passwords. “MySocialCloud is all about sharing websites that you love with your friends and being able to access them easily and securely through our one-click login.” On Friday, February 10, the new MySocialCloud will launch – “with an awesome design” – through invites only. “From our launch we’re hoping that people will give us constructive criticism about the website and use that to keep making it even more awesome” says Ferreira.

To students aspiring to be entrepreneurs, Ferreira says this: “If you want to do something and have a passion for it, do it. Don’t wait until you’re done with school. A college degree can be a safety net; it doesn’t have to be the one defining factor of the rest of your life. I’ve found that you find time for the things you’re really passionate about, and everything else pretty much gets postponed. The most rewarding thing about MySocialCloud is definitely the people I’ve been able to meet through the process. Everyone has something to share and something to learn from – so just listening to them and soaking up knowledge is more than I could ever had asked for.”

Get connected with MySocialCloud on Facebook and Twitter.

Grad Student Report: The Orchard Co-Founder Richard Gottehrer speaks about Embracing Changes in the Music Industry

(MUBG students with Richard Gottehrer, center.)

Music Business grad student Maressa Levy writes this guest post for VELOCITY.

Richard Gottehrer spoke to MUBG students during the final Professional Development Sequence event of the fall semester, urging listeners to “keep your eye on what’s happening in front of you. The world changes today, and it’s changing very quickly.”

Gottehrer first broke into the music industry as a songwriter, and was just 16 when he wrote his hit single “I Want Candy.” Gottehrer also penned classic song “My Boyfriend’s Back,” which he jokes is his “contribution to cultural history.” While he has worked with industry notables such as Depeche Mode and Madonna, at 71 Gottehrer is still very involved in the current music scene. In addition to managing Danish duo The Raveonettes, Gottehrer was also a producer on the debut album by popular newcomer Dum Dum Girls.

Gottehrer co-founded the Orchard, a music distribution company, in 1997, and has since become the chief creative officer. With presence in over 20 global markets, the Orchard has experienced considerable success as a leader in both physical and digital distributions. The company also provides services in both retail and interactive marketing, and their creative licensing division has successfully placed artist’s tracks in a number of commercials, television episodes and films.

Despite rumors of the downfall of the music industry, Gottehrer encouraged students to embrace the ongoing changes of the industry, and to “let the things that are changing about the industry become part of what you’re doing.” Above all, Gottehrer advised, “just keep looking forward. If you want to be in this business, know that where you start may not be where you end up.”

Maressa Levy is a 2nd-year MUBG student originally from Florida. She received her BS from Emerson College, where she majored in journalism.

Seasons Greetings from VeloCity

(Washington Square Arch, Manhattan Skyline, and Washington Square Park; The Washington Square Park (New York, N.Y.) and Washington Square Area Image Collection; NYU.ARCH.PHOTO.00001; box 2; folder 5; New York University Archives, New York University)

As the fall semester comes to a close, so does the Music Business Program’s 35th Anniversary. With the help of Steinhardt’s David Zapotocky and the NYU Archives, we were able to find the above photograph of Washington Square Park in 1971. The very first students who entered the Music Business Program would have seen Washington Square like this. Visible in the photograph are the then-brand new Bobst Library, and the misaligned fountain where folk singers like Bob Dylan got their start. If you look closely, the Twin Towers can be seen in the distance. Now, the entire park has been renovated, the fountain is aligned with the arch, and our Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life stands on the south side of the park. Though the landscape may often change, Washington Square Park will always be the heart of NYU.

As always, VeloCity would like to wish you a happy holiday season.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation Key Topics at Music Business Program Annual Alumni Event

Alumn Event 1

(Current students and alumni of NYU’s Music Business program observe the panel.)

On Friday, October 28 the Music Business program held its annual Alumni Event, attended by current students, alumni, faculty, and industry guests. This year’s panel discussion was entitled “Entrepreneurs Wanted: Building a Successful and Sustainable Company in the New Music Biz.” Alex White, CEO of Next Big Sound, gave an opening address and moderated the panel.

With the slogan “Actionable Intelligence in the Music Industry,” Next Big Sound is a site used by professionals and bands to get market analytics and trend data. Next Big Sound tracks mentions of favorite bands on the internet, as well as bands’ Facebook fans, fans’ last.fm pages, Twitter, band page views, and comments on MySpace. The statistics are then calculated and graphed over time, and the data is compared to that of similar bands. This year, Next Big Sound was awarded Most Innovative B2B startup at MIDEM, and Billboard named the company one of 10 Startups to Watch, with Alex White to their 30 Under 30 list. Most recently, White, along with his two co-founders, was named one of the Top 25 Entrepreneurs – 25 and Under by Bloomberg Business Week.

White was joined by five NYU Music Business alumni entrepreneurs, each specializing in different areas of the industry and providing unique and insightful outlooks on sustainable businesses:

Joanne Abbot Green (UG ’80), Founder, Co-Owner, Executive Producer of CMJ Music Marathon, NYC’s biggest music festival.

Andy Meyers (G ’11), Founder of MyFreeConcert.com, the #1 portal for free shows and ticket giveaways in the Greater NYC Area.

Ian Axel (UG ’07), Singer-songwriter. Axel is signed to independent label Tiny Ogre. Axel’s song “This Is The New Year” can be heard as the opening title track in the 2011 film New Year’s Eve.

Michelle McDevitt (G ’05), President of Audible Treats, a music-related PR and marketing agency.

Alandis Brassel (G ’09), Partner of Go Forth Music, providing digital media strategies, audio engineering services and major label services for various companies.

(Current students and alumni socialize and talk to the panelists after the discussion.)

White and the panelists discussed their motivations, the challenges they faced when getting their businesses off the ground, and how they financed their businesses in the early stages. But the most recurring topic, and perhaps the most poignant takeaway in the discussion, was the people that entrepreneurs should surround themselves with. In his opening speech, White shared the idea of being “under the spell” of the music business, and that finding other people who are also under the spell might not be as difficult as one thinks. “There are people under the music business spell who disguise themselves as venture capitalists and bankers. It’s about finding the teammates that complement your skill set. Finding the board directors, family and friends you can lean on who are also under the spell.” McDevitt and Green both stressed that while it is important to have a team of experienced music industry veterans, it is also important to have team members who are newer to the field, who may not have job experience but who have experience as a target audience, who “have their finger on the pulse.”

The last topic of discussion was the future, what changes the panelists anticipate and how they will adapt to those changes. The panelists agreed that branding will be important for musicians to avoid their music turning into solely a hobby instead of a living. As entrepreneurs and businesspeople, it is always important to be able to predict the future of the business and of your company. “One skill I’ve learned through the program is to forecast, to see where your company is at now and where it’ll be in a few years,” said McDevitt. The discussion closed with a short Q&A session. Afterwards, alumni and current students socialized with White and the panelists.

Students Awarded ASCAP Foundation Scholarships

ASCAP

(Tall (left) and Ching with their awards. Photo courtesy of Shane Ching.)

On Wednesday, December 7, Sam Tall (UG ’14) and Shane Ching (G ’13) attended the 16th Annual ASCAP Foundation Awards. The ASCAP Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting American music creators and encouraging their development through music education and talent development programs.

Tall was awarded The ASCAP Foundation Joan and Irwin Robinson Scholarship, established to support a New York University music business undergraduate or graduate student demontrating leadership, knowledge, dedication, skill and career potential.

Ching was awarded The ASCAP Foundation Freddy Bienstock Scholarship and Internship, which provides the opportunity for a music business student interested in music publishing to intern at a major publishing company.

Click here for a complete list of award recipients and coverage of the event.

Senior Spotlight: Willie Perliter

Welcome to our new feature, Senior Spotlight, a suggestion of Eric Meyers, MUSB Senior and President of NYU MEISA. Every so often we will be featuring a different Music Business senior. Our first spotlight is on Willie Perliter, originally from Los Angeles. He is a lover of ’50s lo-fi music and has some pretty cool goals for the future. Check out the interview:

What is your musical background?

I started with the violin when I was 6 or 7, but wasn’t into the string instruments so I quickly moved to piano. And I was privileged, in some sense, that my teacher started teaching me right away with jazz and blues. So I never really had classical training, which now I’m kind of bummed about, but it was fun at the time. I think the 8th grade was when I wanted to be involved with the music business from a more production/creative side. I was in some bands in high school but soon realized that my abilities as a creative person would only go so far, and I wanted to help people who could do better than me.

What has been your favorite NYU Music Business class and why?

I really like Professor Howard-Spink’s classes, so I’ll say Music in the Media Business. I really like expanding my mind on what’s happening today. Whereas most of the music industry classes are maybe 90% history and 10% what we’re doing today, going into Professor Howard-Spink’s class it was all about, “the history is dead, we need to learn how to deal with the models now,” and it was really cool to explore that. But you do need the basis of history to set your argument, especially when you’re arguing with people who are much older than you and much more experienced in that world.

What is your favorite genre of music, and who are some of your favorite artists?

In general I can always dig jazz music. As far as favorite artist, of course I have the cliche Radiohead but I’ve also been really into ’50s and ’60s lo-fi rock as well as some Motown and soul. Through music theory I have grown to appreciate classical music as well as certain far out 20th century composers like Philip Glass. 

What is your musical guilty pleasure?

I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure, but most of my music discovery started from watching The. O.C. My roommates and I have also been in a huge kick of ’90s music. We just rocked out to Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week.”

Do you have any funny or scary internship stories?

At my preview internship at MPL Communications, Inc., I had the privilege of seeing Paul McCartney perform at the Apollo and then meet him, but the most important moment I got out of that internship, and all of my internships, was meeting with the Eastman Lawyers who run the company. I originally wanted to meet with just one of them to discuss copyright law, articles, etc., so I sent his assistant an email asking if we could meet and she ended up setting up a meeting with both of the Eastmans. They absolutely blew my mind and gave me amazing advice.

What are some of your career goals? Ultimate dream job?

At this point (and it changes monthly, weekly and daily) I want to do music supervision. But I feel like that won’t fully sustain me economically so I have also been really interested in mobile music in developing countries, based off one of the CMJ panels. Up until CMJ I was pretty committed to being in New York, but now I’m much more open to going abroad and working, especially in an emerging market like India, China or Africa. I want to be more focused on infrastructure and dealing with the changes in infrastructure in the digital age. I like the bigger picture.

I think ultimately I would love to be a music consultant. Someone who artists or business people come to for advice on strategic development and adapting to the constantly changing industry; just a well-rounded person in that regard. But unfortunately that requires a lot of experience, and I don’t even know if it exists as a job.

What are your short-term goals?

As I begin senior year it gets a little scary because I know I should be trying to pursue jobs, but there are too many things I want to do. I have already been working with some friends, as a music supervisor, who are attempting to break into the entertainment industry and if any of them have success I would love to continue working for them. But right now one place that really interests me is The Orchard, because 1) they deal with infrastructure, not with artists and 2) they’re really involved in emerging markets, mobile music and entering developing countries; I think they’re on top of it because that’s where the future seems to be.

Do you have any advice to underclassmen?

1. Meet as many people as possible and on top of that, make them have a reason to want to remember you. I have a lot of opinions about things in the industry and I’m very expressive, and I know that I’m young and my inexperienced opinions are probably not right, but the fact that I show passion and interest in it toward people, I’ve noticed, has been a beneficial thing. If you have any ideas or feel that something could be a different way, just be proactive and go for it. For example, I once met the Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy and I wrote him this whole model for Pandora to work as a subscription-based model and this whole thing with buying playlists as opposed to albums. Obviously it was far out. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but he responded really well with an email saying, “It’s a great idea, but here are the problems.” At the end of the day I got on his radar, whether it was a blip or not, and that can be a beneficial thing in the future.

2. Respond to emails. If you’re going to email someone, just write it. There are so many more opportunities I could’ve pursued but I was just lazy about actually spending three minutes of my life to write an email, whereas it took like a month to actually get myself down to do it. It shows a lot about yourself and it can only be a hindrance if you stall.

At the end of the day, the music industry is an awesome industry and there are cool people and creative people. It’s awesome realizing as I get older and really try to get myself in the industry, just going to concerts and hanging out and talking to musicians, it’s my business too. That’s cool. We just happen to fall into an industry where we do what we love but we also happen to make money.