Music Industry students to sign artists to their record label

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Although Music Industry Studies major Andy Grammer said he already knew a thing or two about the music-making process, his time as a musician did not provide him with valuable insight about what music industry professionals experience on the receiving end.

Grammer said his current role as co-producer of the MIS Music Group record label, a class project, means he has to spend 12 hours on a recent Saturday reviewing the 193 submissions that the class generated, as he quickly learned how industry professionals might be influenced on whom to sign.

“Now I know exactly what they go through when people send in a demos,” Grammer said. “They waste hours taking off the stupid shrink wrap.”

Although the class of about 40 students meets twice a week, has two required textbooks, a midterm and final, the majority of the work on the project takes place outside of class, Grammer said.

The MIS Music Group label records, produces and markets the selected winner at no cost to the artist. The class is a core requirement for MIS majors in the Music Department.

“Basically it’s like a business-music major. It teaches you everything you’d ever want to know about the industry,” said Anne Armacost, who is co-director of the publicity department for the class project.

Armacost said at the start of the semester every student submits a resume to MIS Professor Joel Leach, who then nominates four people to audition for the two producer positions. She said the class first votes for the two producers, who then pick two directors for each of the six different departments.

Armacost said that on Nov. 11, the top four bands are scheduled to perform at the Recital Hall in Cypress Hall, formerly the Music Building, and that it is free to the public.

She said those in attendance will be given surveys, and results will be taken into consideration by the Artists and Repertoire department before it decides which band to produce and record.

“We’re trying to find an up-and-coming act, not someone who is so huge they don’t need our help,” said Matt Akana, co-director of the A’R department for the class project. “Whoever wins will have 40 students working like crazy for them.”

Akana said the hundreds of submissions that the class has received have mostly come from Hollywood, with some from San Diego, the Bay Area and even Las Vegas. He said that as a class they could take a chance on an aspiring artist that no major record label would be willing to take.

“We don’t have to worry about profitability, and no one is going to lose their job,” he said, adding that the class project operates on a $2,000 budget.

Akana said his managing of artists prior to taking the class helped him land a position of leadership in the class project.

He said his previous work as a manager has been personally satisfying and that he plans to stay in that line of work because so many in the industry have a tendency to exploit artists.

Jonathan Lane, a line producer for the class project, and senior MIS major said that just like the rest of the students in the class, he has a strong desire to expose people to new kinds of music and that he sees himself working in the music industry where he can be around people with the same mentality.

“All the people in the class want to change the type of music that’s out there,” Lane said. “In this class you learn about real life situations and how to deal with people (while working) on complicated projects. My favorite is working one-on-one with people.”

“I’ve seen what sells, and what’s crap, and what’s crap still sells,” said Greg Dills, who came to Los Angeles from Eugene, Oregon to make it in the industry. “I’m still thinking about the whole L.A. dream.”

Dills said his job as line producer involves working with the different departments and providing them with motivation.

“This class is more like building my resume and making myself more valuable to record company,” he said. “If I don’t create my work ethic now, how am I going to make it in the big leagues? ”

Professor Leach, who is on sabbatical this semester, remains in contact with the class. He said the class project has grown aggressively since the inception of the Music Industry Studies program in 1994.

He said the program has proven successful because it is not uncommon to find people in the L.A. region that have parents or friends who work in the entertainment industry and therefore share a passion for the work.

“Aside from Memphis, Chicago or New York City, there are only a couple of places in the country that can pull off this major effectively,” Leach said. “Very seldom is there a student who steps out of the program and comes back crying to me that they can’t find work.”

Julio Morales can be reached at julio.morales.605@csun.edu.