Latin Grammys 2018

Capitol Music Group Graduates Inaugural Bonus Tracks Class

Lester Cohen
(L-R) Priority Records’ Fuzzy West, Compton Unified School district superintendent Darin Brawley, artist Leon Thomas, CMG’s Brian Nolan and Compton Unified School District president Micah Ali.

The next generation of music industry executives graduated this week. But it wasn’t your typical graduation: The six seniors proudly brandishing special certificates at Dominguez High School’s ceremony Thursday also represented the first graduating class from Capitol Records’ Bonus Tracks program.

Capitol launched Bonus Tracks on March 28 in partnership with Dominguez in Compton, California, and the Compton Unified School District. Dedicated to developing future executive talent, the 10-week after-school program offered weekly 90-minute sessions during which the students learned about the basic workings of a contemporary record label. The students also got the chance to interact and network with visiting Capitol executives who shared their knowledge and experiences. Both Brian Nolan, senior vp of Capitol’s sync licensing and brand partnerships department seventeenfifty, and Compton Unified president Micah Ali, who co-created the program, are pleased by its inaugural results.

“Students’ passion for learning about the industry translated into a real commitment to the program,” says Nolan, who was a guest speaker at Dominguez’s graduation ceremony. “We saw nearly perfect attendance as students connected with guest speakers after class and probed more into specific departments like A&R, streaming and brand partnerships. They definitely see the industry as a career path.”

Adds Ali, “The biggest difference between the haves and have-nots is opportunity. Bonus Tracks is another tool in the box for students who would otherwise be marginalized into poverty. It gives our students, who are insatiable learners, direct connection to an industry that so many people know little about beyond the artists.”

It all began with a note that Nolan sent Ali, who also played an integral role in Dr. Dre donating $10 million to help build a performing arts center at the new Compton High School in his hometown neighborhood. “I cold-emailed him,” recalls Nolan, “saying I had an idea for educating high school students about the music industry. Something that could start on a local level and eventually grow into a national platform.”

The two stayed in touch during the last three-four years. But it wasn’t until Nolan relocated to Los Angeles to join Capitol last October that Bonus Tracks fully came to fruition. Endorsed by Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett, the program was announced via a winter pep rally at Dominguez featuring a performance by Grammy-winning producer and singer/songwriter actor Leon Thomas (The Lion King, Nickelodeon’s Victorious, HBO’s Insecure). 

During the rally, interested junior- and senior-level students were invited to attend an introductory workshop. Out of the 75 students who attended, 35-40 applicants signed up. That number was later winnowed down to an 18-member inaugural class: six seniors and 12 juniors. Sessions were held at Dominguez, the Capitol Tower in Hollywood and other locations. Among the Capitol executives who shared their time and real-world experience with the students over the 10-week program: Barnett, CMG COO Michelle Jubelirer and Motown president Ethiopia Habtemariam. 

An email that Habtemariam later received from a Bonus Tracks student underscores the program’s power and value. Amia Jankans’ note said, in part, “I was in awe of how much you are a boss. It was exciting to be in the presence of a BLACK WOMAN [sic] of your status. Coming from where I come from, I rarely get to see that. So thank you for that.”

The final class was held June 6, during which the juniors received their certificates a day before the seniors received theirs. Once enrolled in college, Bonus Tracks students are also eligible for internships at Capitol. Future plans include providing scholarships and developing a high school curriculum to work in tandem with Compton College toward offering a music industry-oriented associate arts degree. In the meantime, Bonus Tracks will be signing up its next class during second semester 2019.

“The focus, passion and discipline these students exhibited was nothing short of inspiring,” says Nolan. “With this proof of the concept, Bonus Tracks can expand and exponentially change the course of students’ lives. Capitol Music Group and the Compton Unified School District are onto something here and it’s great.”

Citing Dr. Dre and Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar’s ongoing efforts in giving back to their mutual hometown, Ali emphasizes, “Compton’s not just a city to be known for gangster rap but an innovative hub where companies can come to recruit urban students with opportunities. It’s time to leverage the talent we have in Compton. What Capitol and Brian are doing with Bonus Tracks is a tectonic contribution.”

Watch Ali talk about Bonus Tracks at Dominguez’s graduation ceremony: