(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.