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.

Chloe Raynes (G ’11), Founder of BuzzChips, Making Headlines

Chloe Raynes

Chloe Raynes’ (G ’11) music supervision company/music website BuzzChips is making headlines with her recent work on an ad campaign for Harman Kardon audio and Buick. Raynes had never worked on an ad campaign before, but her instincts were spot on. Both clients, along with ad agency Digitas, chose one of the first bands that Raynes pitched, and on November 9 her work was featured on Billboard.biz. Read the article here. VELOCITY sat down with Chloe as she preps for the BuzzChips Presents show on December 10.

How and when did BuzzChips get started?

I came up with the concept for BuzzChips after interning in A&R and Music Supervision and coming to the conclusion that something was missing in the world of blogs and streaming services in terms of efficient ways to find music.

I decided I wanted to create a site that would feature artists that were popping up on the best music blogs, and also have a database of artists that would allow people to discover music using specific parameters. So, in addition to pages of the site that feature “buzzing” artists, the database allows users to search for artists by genre, location, whether or not a band is signed, and what other artists a band sounds like. So if you want to find a band that sounds like the Black Keys, is from New York, and is unsigned, you can do that on BuzzChips. The site is unique in that it’s a great tool for music professionals who need to find artists with certain attributes, as well as music fans who want to discover new bands.

In my last semester at NYU, I decided not to do an internship and instead use that time to build the website/database. I spent over 6 hours every day listening to music and categorizing it. I also worked extensively with my web developer on the design and flow of the site.

How did you get involved with Digitas for the Harman Kardon/Buick project?

I got involved with the Harman Kardon/Buick campaign because I knew a producer who worked at Digitas – they liked the website, and trusted that I had the experience and taste to help them find what they were looking for, so they gave me a chance, and it ended up working out really well. I pitched and worked with them for around two months.

Why did you think Hellogoodbye was a good choice for the ad?

Hellogoodbye was actually one of the first bands I pitched. I ended up pitching a number of different artists so that the agency and the clients could consider different genres, looks and sounds. Hellogoodbye was a clear choice for this in my mind, first and foremost, because they are talented, have a great sound, and strong identity – for these reasons, they also have a solid fan base, and I knew they would be up for the challenge of writing and recording a song in a short period of time.

This being your first music supervision job in advertising, how was it different from your normal work with film?

My first jobs in music supervision were with indie and student films. While I was at NYU, I worked with some very talented students in the Film & TV M.F.A. program at Tisch, and I continue to work with students there. I would say the main difference between music supervision for film and for advertising is that the purpose of an ad campaign is to sell something. However, in my Colloquy I actually discussed at length the increasing production value seen in television advertising campaigns, representing a trending migration toward visuals that look like mini-films. So in that way, it was similar to working with music for film; the main difference with this particular project was the fact that the band would actually be appearing in the video as a central component of the concept.

Did you face any challenges in this project?

The biggest challenge with this job was working with two clients. Because the two brands represent different things, part of my job was to pitch artists that met the needs of both. Ultimately, everyone was very happy with the end product.

What’s next for BuzzChips?

The next big step for BuzzChips will be the addition of a streaming component. I’ve been working with my web developer and a lawyer to develop a way that music can be streamed directly from the site and organized into a playlist. This will hopefully make it easier for people to listen to bands featured on the site.

Be sure to check out BuzzChips Presents at The Living Room on Saturday, December 10 at 8pm, featuring up-and-coming NYC indie bands Psychobuildings, Team Genius, Cultfever and Swear And Shake.

Follow BuzzChips on Twitter or “Like” Buzzchips on Facebook.

MUBG Alum’s Website MyFreeConcert.com Fills Void in NYC Music Scene

Andy Meyers

 Andy Meyers (G ’11) had always felt something lacking in the New York City concert  scene. Less than two years ago, while a student in NYU’s Music Business graduate program, Meyers took matters into his own hands. What was once, for a short time, a small, slow-starting blog is now MyFreeConcert.com, one of the leading online resources for free concerts in New York City.

“I started MFC because I felt that there was a void that needed to be filled for concerts.” Meyers recognized websites that cater to a similar audience, such as LivingFreeNYC and PulsdJFK, but felt that none fo them were dedicated solely to music in the way he wanted to with MFC. In the past, Meyers had been subscribing to concert promotion email lists or seeing events on Facebook and Twitter and would pass them along to his friends. In December 2009, Meyers decided it would be easier to compile all of his findings on a separate blog.

“Being about a year into the masters program at NYU had some benefits for this entire endeavor, particularly the fact that it put me around many people also passionate about the music industry who wanted to help out,” Meyers remembers. He names fellow NYU Music Business students Brian Kecskemety, Ryan McDonald, Jason Burger, Jason Rezvan, Ian Kroopnick and Jay Pillitteri as being integral parts of the development of MyFreeConcert.com. “In addition, I’ve had a lot of help outside of NYU in areas such as business development, web design and show reviews/tips.”


(The initial image used for MyFreeConcert.com)

As any small blog, MyFreeConcert.com’s initial growth was slow. Once word started to spread, however, “things got interesting quickly,” Meyers says, and it was simple word of mouth by which the site went viral. MFC promotes free and in-the-know concerts, striking the interest of both music fans and nightlife mavens who are able to generate enough buzz for anyone to get noticed. To this day, the fans continue to be largely responsible for the success of MFC. The dedicated fan base is full of music junkies and industry insiders without whom MFC would never have become nearly as big as it is. As a result of his growing audience, Meyers decided to employ new tactics and tools to find things in an easier way by incorporating aggregate ticket giveaways in New York City. “I feel that having one place to go for both free shows and ticket giveaways surely saves a lot of time for the consumer and also gives all the entities involved greater exposure.”

Meyers’ first big decisions were as simple as which events to post, where to cut off the content on the site, and if specific contests should be fun on Facebook, Twitter, or another social media outlet. But most of the important decisions that Meyers makes are now monetary, and Meyers is cautious not to be hasty in making the right decisions regarding the long-term growth of MFC.

Looking ahead, MFC will have a mobile application with geolocation aspects. In March, MFC will cover SXSW in a similar way they covered CMJ. “The plan to launch in other cities is certainly one that I’ve mulled over, and is a long-term goal of mine.” MFC also plans to add new features to the website to make it even more user-friendly and informative for its readers.

To students who are aspiring entrepreneurs, Meyers says this: “It is not easy at all, though it is not as hard as you might think. Try to think about what isn’t necessarily hot now, but what would be hot next. Do your classwork but also think about things you can do on the side to really develop yourself and your career.”

Follow MyFreeConcert on Twitter

Robby Towns (G ’10) Recognized for Industry Report & Insight

robby_towns.JPGWhile a student, alumni Robby Towns (G ’10) contributed to a major industry report by Will Page, Chief Economist of the Performing Rights Society in London. The two met in London where Mr. Page was a guest lecturer during the Music Business Graduate Program’s winter session. The report, “Economic Insight 20 – Adding up the UK music industry for 2009,” is seminal to the creation of new ways to measure the entire music industry. The report is available here.

The same Robby Towns (@nestamusic) was recognized for his insightful commentary on the music industry in the March 26, 2011 issue of Billboard, in which the magazine featured its first-ever list of those most worth following on Twitter.

MUBG Alum, Undergrads judges in annual SongCircle contest

This past Fall, The New York Songwriter’s Circle held the 5th Annual Song Circle Music Songwriting Contest in Lower Manhattan. The Music Business Program is no stranger to the local Song Circle community as several of its past contest winners and contestants were guests at our weekly program meeting last semester. 

Ben Sheehan (G ’10; pictured) along with current sophomores Aaron Marks, Diana Yu, Justin Krim, Sarah McCalla, and Danny Chang made up more than half of the preliminary listening team. From August to November, each member listened hundreds of submissions and met monthly with Song Circle Music Artistic Director Tina Shafer to discuss their favorite entries and select winners.

The group’s final 12 selections performed their songs live on November 18th at The City Winery in Tribeca before a panel of judges comprised of producers, publishers, and other industry figures. Barnaby Bright’s “Don’t Look Down” was awarded the 1st Place prize, and NYU’s own Flearoy won 2nd Place for their song “Hey Brother.” More information on SongCircle and its songwriting contests can be found here.

(On a related note, Ben Sheehan was so impressed with Todd Alsup, one of the artists selected for the contest’s final round, that he wrote to Bob Lefsetz, the figure and author behind the renowned music industry newsletter The Lefsetz Letter. Todd Alsup is one of NYU Steinhardt’s own as a graduate of the Vocal Performance program, and Mr. Lefsetz was impressed enough to dedicate an entire letter in praise of Todd. The article can be viewed here.)

Alumna, Founder of The Music Business Network recognized for work on analytics

In December 2008, MUBG alum Kathryn Sano (’10) created The Music Business Network (http://www.themusicbusinessnetwork.com), a company devoted to providing networking opportunities for industry professionals, students, and musicians. Over the last two years, The Network has accumulated over 2,000 participants worldwide through its Facebook page (link) and numerous networking events. The company also offers consultation services to assist new companies and artists build their brands and make business decisions.

Kathryn has received considerable recognition for her work in building The Music Business Network, including NYU Steinhardt’s Graduate Student Organization’s Star Award. Kathryn also wrote an article (based on her final M.A. Colloquy project), about how artists can utilize web analytics to further their careers, for ASCAP’s Playback magazine.

Follow The Music Business Network on Twitter @MusicBizNetwork


Music Business Program celebrates 35 years

(Female giant panda Taotao celebrates her 35th birthday at the Jinan Zoo in eastern China’s Shandong province)

The 2010-2011 academic year marks the 35th anniversary of New York University’s Music Business Program. Our Undergraduate program debuted in September 1976 while the first Graduate students entered in 1993. In our 35 years, the Undergraduate and Graduate programs have graduated an estimated 1000 alumni! 

To commemorate this milestone, we bring you 5 other notable events from 1976:

January 11 – The Philadelphia Flyers play the Soviet Red Army team, the Red Army leaves the ice for a portion of the game and the Flyers win 4-1.

April 23 – The punk rock group The Ramones release their first self-titled album.

July 20 – The Viking 1 lander successfully lands on Mars. 

August 5 – The Great Clock of Westminister (or Big Ben) suffers internal damage and stops running for over 9 months.

November 26 – Microsoft is officially registered with the Office of the Secretary of the State of New Mexico.


Graduates’ start-up makes licensing a breeze

(Ben Cockerham and Patrick Sullivan at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.)

In 2007, NYU MUBG graduates Patrick Sullivan (G ’00) and Ben Cockerham (G ’06) founded the licensing and royalty solutions provider RightsFlow (http://www.rightsflow.com) to address the industry-wide pain of navigating a complex web of content owners and licensing agreements. RightsFlow’s proprietary “FLOW” bulk licensing technology allows the company to obtain licenses from publishers and pay out royalties owed to songwriters with ease.

One of RightsFlow’s notable emerging services is Limelight (http://www.songclearance.com), a simple, online tool that allows musicians and bands to clear the rights to any cover song. Limelight aids artists in securing mechanical licenses and paying mechanical royalties to songwriters for digital, physical, and ringtone licenses. RightsFlow has seen rapid growth and adoption of Limelight by artists, groups, and choirs across the United States and 46 other countries, including at many schools and universities.

Earlier this summer, RightsFlow announced an agreement to provide full mechanical licensing and administration for Rhapsody (http://www.rhapsody.com), the leading online music subscription service. The deal will provide Rhapsody with additional tools and solutions for mechanical licensing and content management services for publishing rights in the United States. RightsFlow also provides support for online entities such as Muzak, The Orchard, CD Baby, and DiskMakers.

In addition to running RightsFlow, Patrick and Ben have been involved in government hearings about the future of digital copyright. With features in Billboard, a client list of over 10,000 labels, distributors, and music services, and a 23 million-song database, RightsFlow has quickly established itself as a leading provider of mechanical licensing services and royalty payment technology. 


Sunny Jain makes headlines with Asphalt Orchestra, Red Baraat

(Sunny Jain (top left) with Red Baraat)

MUBG Class of 2000 graduate Sunny Jain had himself quite a summer this year. A percussionist and composer, Jain performed as part of a weeklong stint at Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival in July with Asphalt Orchestra (http://www.asphaltorchestra.com), a contemporary marching band organized by New York’s Bang On A Can. Over the course of the week, the 12-piece had the pleasure of working with David Byrne and Yoko Ono on newly commissioned works they wrote for the group. Check out a New York Times review of Asphalt Orchestra at Lincoln Center here

Aside from Asphalt Orchestra, Sunny has been staying busy earning critical acclaim with Red Baraat (http://www.redbaraat.com), an energetic funk band whose sound fuses New Orleans brass with Indian Bhangra. In July the group made their Canadian (Montreal Jazz Festival) and European (Pori Jazz Festival, Molde Jazz Festival) debuts, and also performed at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing for the first-ever Bhangra party with DJ Rekha and Reena Shah. With features in Wall Street Journal (article) and on Good Morning Japan (video), the future looks bright for Sunny Jain and Red Baraat.