This semester, Grace Harris and Sarah Segner, two students from New York University’s undergraduate Music Business program within the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, are documenting their college course/label Village Records as it works with CMJ to break an Australian band Tigertown. Stay tuned for more updates from Harris and Segner as this story, class and band develops.
With the uncertain future of a rather chaotic and ever-shifting music industry, how will tomorrow’s superstars make it onto the world’s stage? As traditional methods to connect artists and their audiences crash, burn and are reinvented, who will step-up to become the next tastemakers? How long, for example, will it be before a college class breaks a band? The fact is, it could be very soon - especially if a class of NYU Music Business majors are as successful as they are ambitious.
For the first time, Village Records, an NYU record label structured as an academic class for Music Business juniors and seniors, is working with CMJ Music Marathon in New York City to scout, record, and promote an international artist and help break them into the US market.
“Village Records is not a class about label operations but a functioning label in itself with students organized into the standard departments within an indie record company,” Sam Tall, a senior in the program said. The label is currently broken into five student-led teams: Press, Publicity, and Partnerships; Artist Relations and A&R Administration; Production and Product Management; Marketing, Branding, and Social Media; and Strategy, consisting of each team’s leader
“Unlike in an internship, students in Village Records are given a lot of autonomy to make decisions,” program director Dr. Catherine Moore explained. "They also learn about working with partners outside of NYU: artists, managers, media, brands, and others.”
The students were placed into teams based on their past experiences in the music industry from internships with companies such as Island Def Jam, Downtown Music Publishing, Red Light Management, Nasty Little Man, Mick Management, Cornerstone and The Bowery Presents.
Village Records students in action: (from left) Brittany Holloway, Miranda Bullard, Suzanne Lin, Brandon Grugle.
Students began the semester with the decision to completely rebrand the label and increase its visibility in both the NYU community and the music industry as a whole. In the past, Village Records was treated largely as an internally focused project for Music Business majors. In contrast, it is now operating with the business model of a professional record label, utilizing external industry contacts to expand its reach. Part of that process included students formulating a new mission statement:
“Our mission is to offer professional services in breaking and supporting artists while fostering educational growth using NYU's resources. We are diverse, creative, and innovative students, working in a professional setting at the forefront of the music industry.”
Before/After: Village Records old logo (left) and its newly-designed version.
Since the decision to rebrand, the Social Media team has been busy creating new platforms on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter as well as a revamped logo (above), designed by student and Cornerstone intern Camille Johnston. The team “created a mission statement by polling the class and determining Village Records’ major goals,” says Camille. “We’ve been generating content that highlights our future endeavors or pulling content from the label’s past ventures for all our social media outlets. We have also created a posting schedule to maintain a consistent online presence.”
In addition to the label’s rebranding efforts, this year marks the first time CMJ Music Marathon is collaborating with Village Records for CMJ Sessions@NYU. "The CMJ Sessions@NYU is a revolutionary program, said CMJ executive producer and Steinhardt alumna Joanne Abbot Green. “And considering NYU Steinhardt’s groundbreaking leadership position in the discipline of music business, CMJ couldn’t have a better partner in this endeavor."
This joint endeavor began in early September when Matt McDonald, the SVP President of Artists & Events at CMJ, met with the Village Records students. McDonald originally chose a shortlist of international bands and the students worked with him to decide on the best criteria for assessment. The music ranged from acoustic folk to hard rock to indie pop. All the acts were selected specifically because they were international, as CMJ wanted the students to focus on breaking an international band in the US. The acts hailed from such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Denmark; however, none of the artists were aware they were being considered for this collaboration. With CMJ approaching in mid-October, a one-week deadline was set for the decision.
Brandon Grugle, one of the A&R team leaders and current Next Big Sound intern, described the A&R process. “After an initial blind vote for our top three artists, students presented the arguments behind their decisions, which were based on aspects of the artists’ careers such as US marketability, social network presence, previous touring history, and past press coverage, among others. With the future US potential of the artists in mind, we chose a collective top three, of which Tigertown was the favorite.”
Hailing from Australia, Tigertown is co-managed by Rowan Brand, co-manager of five-time ARIA award-winning band Boy & Bear, and Catherine Haridy, Association of Artist Managers chairperson and manager of acts such as Eskimo Joe and producer Steven Schram.
“Having the band work with a switched-on team of students on such a special project is very unique for an international showcasing act like us,” Brand said. “Hopefully the students can also get a glimpse into our world in the process, too.”
CMJ’s McDonald put Village Records in contact with Brand. The Press team has since drafted a press release to announce Tigertown as the selected artist for CMJ Sessions@NYU while learning how to write, format, and edit an effective press statement.
On Oct. 4, Dr. Moore and a group of students met with co-manager Brand for a strategy meeting on the joint goals for the partnership. The topics discussed included the possibility of a physical product and a subsequent video release documenting both the band’s recording session and their first experiences in New York City.
Product Management team leader and Warner Music Group intern Zachary Marks said his team is brainstorming ways “to offer an innovative and nontraditional product for Tigertown. Our focus is to create unique products and services that drive consumers’ interest to our artist’s entire brand.”
Tigertown co-manager Rowan Brand (center) with (from left) Village Records students Carly Tieu, Milton Koh, Sarah Segner, Grace Harris, Camille Johnston, Zachary Marks.
Following the meeting, Brand and the group toured Steinhardt’s James L. Dolan studio, one of NYC’s top-sounding recording spaces. This 7,500 square-foot studio was designed by Gensler and the Walters-Storyk Design Group and features a 48 channel SSL console and the first Dangerous Music 10.2 surround installation in NYC. Here, Tigertown will be self-producing a new recording over a two-day session Oct. 14 -15.
“We're really excited to work alongside Village Records and are looking forward to seeing what the band and the students create together,” says Brand. Even though it is a major juggling act for the already incredibly busy students, they know that handling the pressure is a part of the music business, and are extremely excited to take part in such a bold endeavor.
Stay tuned for subsequent posts on the partnership between CMJ, Village Records and Tigertown as the band arrives in New York City for the CMJ Music Marathon.
|Wednesday, Oct 16 CMJ: @ The Raven 10 pm
Thursday, Oct 17 CMJ: College Day, Rosenthal Pavilion (mini-showcase)
Friday, Oct 18 CMJ: @ Pianos Downstairs (Planetary Showcase)
Saturday, Oct 19 CMJ: Aussie BBQ @ The Delancey
Grace Harris is a senior in NYU’s Music Business Program. She currently interns at Nasty Little Man (Feb 2013-present) and Mick Management (Aug 2013-present). Sarah Segner is a junior in NYU’s Music Business Program. She is an active freelance violinist and has interned with Play On Philly, Weathervane Music, and is currently working with Brooklyn-based chamber orchestra The Knights.