MUBG Alum’s Band Set To Release Fifth Album

Oxygen is a world music band based in Chennai, India and co-founded by Prithvi Kumar (G ’14) in 2003, at age 14. Prithvi serves as both the drummer and lead vocalist for the group. Oxygen represents a fusion of Indian and Western music forms. They place great emphasis on experimenting with different genres of music and strive to maintain a unique and distinct sound.  They have released four albums to date, all of which have been well received. Success of their records led to widespread interest and interviews with leading Indian TV channels including NDTV 24/7, Headlines Today, and Aaj Tak, and features in national newspapers like The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Times Of India and Deccan Chronicle.

Among their accomplishments is winning a TV music talent contest that was judged by Academy Award- and Grammy Award-winning composer A.R. Rahman. They were then invited to A.M Studios in Chennai to record a song produced by Rahman. VELOCITY sat down with Prithvi to talk about Oxygen’s new albums and how his NYU education has affected his career as an artist.

How did Oxygen form, and how do you stay connected with the band while you’re at NYU?

Oxygen was formed when I met Giri at a cultural festival in high school. It was something equivalent to a Battle of the Bands event in the US. We were from different high schools and were actually competing against each other. Although I forget who ended up winning the overall prize, I won the best drummer award and he won the best keyboardist award. We had a chat after and decided to form a new band. Our “home base” is Chennai and our audience for the most part is based in South India. I keep visiting India every 6 months or so and finish composing and recording while I’m there. It’s usually a three-week trip, which gives us a good amount of time to get things done.

Where and when did you write and record Volume 1?

Volume 1 is actually a culmination of our work over the last five years or so. We had lots of random material in our hard drives and sat down one day and picked what we felt were the most appealing tunes. We found that there were close to 15 tracks that we really liked but couldn’t include them all in one album which is why we decided to split the release. Volume 1 was released in January and we hope to release Volume 2 by July. We have our own studio in Chennai called Aura Studios where were wrote and recorded all of our songs.

What is the concept behind the album?

We wanted to produce a record that had something for everyone. In our newest offering, each of our tracks is based on a different genre. We have two tracks with vocals and the rest are instrumental. The tracks range from rock to classical to Indian folk.

Photo by Swathy Sekaran

Have you toured in the past, and do you have plans to tour to promote the new albums?

We have toured extensively within India and have also given performances in the UK.  We are definitely planning a tour towards the later part of 2014. The reason being, we wanted to wait till we release Volume 2. We believe that with both Volume 1 and 2 out, there will be more variety to present to our audience and hit them with a completely new setlist and experience.

Did being a member of Oxygen play a part in your decision to pursue a degree in Music Business?

It certainly did. I knew what it was to be an artist but hadn’t quite explored the business side of music yet. All of us in Oxygen have undergrad degrees in different fields from engineering to accounting and business. On the other hand, I personally wanted to learn how the music industry works outside the Indian subcontinent, which is why I decided to apply to NYU.

Do the other band members have an in-depth knowledge of the music industry?

They do have a good understanding of the music industry in India. The business model in India is totally different from those used in the US. Its very film-centric and independent musicians don’t get enough recognition when compared to their Bollywood counterparts. This however is slowly changing with new social media outlets and numerous festivals such as NH7 and Sunburn.

Have you been able to apply your NYU education to your band’s career?

I certainly have. In fact, I used some of the material from our A&R class taught by Dr. Moore during the recording of Volume 1 in December. Material from Strategic Marketing in the Music Industry also helped when we were drawing up our marketing plan for Volume 1 and 2.

Did anything surprise you as you went from the performance side of music to the business side of music?

To some extent it did. I interned at Sony Music last year where I was exposed to a completely new side of the music business. My team worked on identifying potential partners in the digital space and strengthening existing partnerships with some of the industry’s leading players. It’s something I would never have been able to experience if I weren’t in New York City and I’m grateful to the people who have helped me so far and continue to support me in all my endeavors.

Follow Oxygen on Twitter and like them on Facebook


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Annual Alumni & Current Student Networking Reception Stirred the Pot

(Graduate Program Director Dr. Catherine Moore in discussion with panelists, from L to R: Kittie Palakovich, Mark Ciampittiello, Adam Parness, Sam Tall. Photo by Chianan Yen courtesy of NYU Steinhardt)

On Friday, February 22nd the NYU Steinhardt Music Business program held its Annual Alumni & Current Student Networking Reception at the Helen & Martin Kimmel Center for University Life. The panel was entitled “Data Privacy and Music Revenue: Can We Afford an Ethical Viewpoint?” and was moderated by Graduate Program Director Dr. Catherine Moore.

This year’s event sought to stir the pot and stray from “safe” topics. For the first time the event centered on a sensitive industry topic – so sensitive that several alumni who were invited to be panelists were not allowed by their companies to speak about it. Another new aspect of this year’s reception was that the undergraduate and graduate programs were both represented as current students sat on the panel alongside alumni. Event coordinator and Music Business professor Shirley Washington expressed that she chose to combine alumni and current students on the panel “as a way to demonstrate an advantage we have as a university, that we can tackle and debate hard things.”

Opening words from Dean Mary Brabeck, Dr. Robert Rowe and various music business faculty gave attendees a look into recent news and accomplishments in the Music Business program. Among them were Undergraduate Program Director Catherine Radbill’s new book, and the publication of this book featuring a chapter on Brazil written by Dr. Sam Howard-Spink. Attendees were then introduced to the panel:

Katherine “Kittie” Palakovich, Esq. (UG ‘03): Director of Business Affairs at Creative License, Inc., the leading independent music licensing and talent procurement agency for brands and advertisers. Prior to Creative License, Kittie held various positions in the music industry including management, radio promotions and business and legal affairs. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in Music Business from New York University, Kittie earned her law degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Adam Parness (UG ‘00): Senior Director of Music Licensing at Rhapsody International, Inc. where he manages the company’s agreements and relationships with record labels, music publishers and other licensing entities for the award-winning Rhapsody music subscription service in the United States and the Napster service throughout Europe. Adam is also an accomplished guitarist both on stage and in the recording studio.

Mark Ciampittiello (G ’14): current Music Business graduate student with a B.A. in Communications and Media Studies from Fordham University. Mark has studied audio at New England Institute of Technology and interning in several departments at Atlantic Records, JAMBOX Studios and Cybersound Studios.

Sam Tall (UG ’14): current Music Business undergraduate student and founder of Under the Window, LLC. Sam has signed and produced four commercially released albums, manages the careers of two actively gigging artists and books shows all over the country. He is also employed full-time by Downtown Music, and is a recipient of the 2011 ASCAP Foundation Joan & Irwin Robinson Scholarship.

(The panelists spoke to a full house. Photo by Chianan Yen courtesy of NYU Steinhardt)

The panelists compared the types of data they use at their companies. For Parness at Rhapsody, the focus is more on location and demographic data than user data. Parness reiterated throughout the discussion that Rhapsody has a strict privacy policy and draws the line at “anything that starts to look like an advertisement.” Graduate student Ciampittiello stressed the importance of Facebook aggregation and APIs, as it creates better market segmentation to can be used by artists to build a fan base off of other artists with similar repertoires. Undergraduate entrepreneur Tall agreed, stating that as a manager, the kind of data he looks for is handed to him on Facebook. Specifically, Tall uses age and location demographics to determine where his artists should tour and to make sure that an artist’s lyrical content is in line with the artist’s audience demographic. Graduate alum Kittie Palakovich added prior purchasing data and callback offers as prevalent data being used in the industry today.

Of course, one could always use more data. The panelists named user income brackets, socioeconomic data and users’ favorite forms of delivery as types of data they don’t currently have that, given the access, they would use to better manage artists. Dr. Moore and the panelists discussed where to draw the line between private data and usage data. Upon debating the topic, the panelists were in agreement that giving users the choice to opt in is the key to avoiding data misuse. Tall offered the opinion that there is a “wave of paranoia” around user data that can only be solved through a joint effort: while companies need to make their privacy statements and terms of use more explicit, clear and understandable, “people need to stop being paranoid.”

(Front Row: Grad faculty member Judy Tint; Dr. Catherine Moore, Palakovich, Grad/Undergrad faculty member Shirley Washington; Back Row: Ciampittiello, Tall, Dr. Rowe, Parness, Dean Brabeck, Undergrad faculty member Larry Miller. Photo by Chianan Yen courtesy of NYU Steinhardt)

The key takeaways from the discussion were the subject of opting in (“as long as users know it’s happening, it’s fine”) and the importance of data as a whole. Parness advised, “If you’re a startup, you should be concerned about it from day one” while Palakovich added, “All data is important.” Following audience questions, the discussion concluded and panelists, alumni and current students networked over dessert.

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MUBG Alum Collin McLoughlin Going Far on NBC’s “The Voice”

Two years ago, Collin McLoughlin began his studies in the Music Business Graduate Program, working on his music on the side. After a year of studying and making connections, McLoughlin took a leave of absence to devote himself to his music.

We are happy to say that McLoughlin did exactly what he set out to do during his leave of absence from the MUBG program. On the September 18th episode of NBC’s “The Voice,” McLoughlin performed Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” in his blind audition. Three of the four judges wanted him on their teams, and McLoughlin chose Adam Levine, coach of Season One winner Javier Colon. McLoughlin’s audition performance on “The Voice” went to #7 on iTunes.

Most recently, McLoughlin faced elimination in the Battle Round, the stage in which contestants go head-to-head in a duet with a teammate, and the coach is forced to eliminate one of his or her own players. Although McLoughlin lost his battle and was eliminated by Levine, thanks to the newly added “Steal” component, McLoughlin was saved: he was stolen by Blake Shelton, resident country star and coach of Season Two winner Jermaine Paul. Next week is the Knockout Round; those who survive will advance to the live show.

Check out McLoughlin’s Official “The Voice” page to see photos, blog posts and videos of his performance. “The Voice” airs on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8:00pm EST on NBC.

Follow McLoughlin on Twitter and check out his YouTube channel.

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NYU Music Business Faculty and Alumni to be Panelists at CMJ

CMJ 2012 is officially underway. As you go about the conference this week, keep your eyes and ears out for some of our very own faculty and alumni, who will be sharing their insight and knowledge as panelists.



Professor Catherine Radbill

Professor James Celentano

Professor Sam Howard-Spink

Professor Shirley A. Washington



Adam Parness

Scott Berenson

Jack Bookbinder

Katie Seline

Scott Englund

Michelle Mayumi McDevitt

Zach Feldman

Karl Fricker

Barry Heyman

Ben Cockerham

Mehmet Dede

Posted on | Posted in Alumni, Faculty |

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!

Follow Kristen on Twitter

Like Kristen on Facebook

Posted on | Posted in Alumni |

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.

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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!

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