Practical experience

Matt Villa

The music industry can be viewed as a closed circle of opportunity that’s reserved only for those already in the business. However, students of the Music Industry Studies (MIS) program on campus would likely differ from that viewpoint.

This past year’s junior class has taken on the role of the major’s own recording label, the MIS Music Group, and launching their Artist of the Year project.’ This year’s project has selected country-artist Seth Turner to record and market free of charge.’

Prior to his selection, artists from all over the country submitted demos for students to review. Once the team narrowed their search down to a few possibilities, those artists had to drive or fly out on their own expense to audition, much like the auditions for American Idol.’ The artist then has the opportunity of not only receiving free studio time to record a demo professionally, but having a team of 35 college students helping to pitch that demo to major and independent labels, music supervisors, TV and motion picture music departments and others in the music industry.

‘The artist must have an energetic live show, be comfortable on stage and have the musical talent to be selected for the Artist of The Year project,’ said Prof. Joel Leach, MIS department chair. ‘It’s a huge opportunity for the artist to get free publicity and a free professional recording while still retaining all of their rights.’

Aside from Artist of the Year project, students learn the business side of the industry which includes publishing, licensing, copyright and more.’

Jeff Kolhede is a student in the program who is one of the co-producers for Seth Turner and also the saxophonist for the demo.

‘I went to Saint Mary’s College for a business major, and their music program was horrible.’ My sax teacher told me about CSUN after I checked into other schools like USC and Berkley.’ For the price, location and level of education, nothing beats CSUN,’ said Kolhede.

Publishing and licensing is Kolhede’s main focus with the major and he hopes to develop a future out of the connections he has made through the program. Since the program requires students to be proficient reading music and playing an instrument, it has encouraged him to collaborate musically with other students. Both Kolhede and other co-producer Ryan Kern play together in a project they describe as ‘soul-hip-ja-funk.” They call themselves Balance and the Traveling Sound.

‘That’s the great thing about working with classmates that are as serious about music as you are’mdash;we’ll most likely be following each others footsteps and working side-by-side in the future,’ said Kern.’

Although the curriculum teaches heavily in the industry’s traditional values, it lacks the support of the evolving digital world. The conventional wisdom that outlines success through radio hits and record deals is evolving into a more cyber-friendly market.

Total album sales in the United States, including CDs and full-album downloads, were 428 million, a 14 percent drop from 2007, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. Album sales have plummeted 45 percent since the industry’s peak in 2000. However, digital music purchases continue to grow at a swift rate.

Ticket sales in North America in 2008 rose at least 7 percent to $4.2 billion, according to Pollstar, the touring-industry trade magazine.

According to Pali Research in New York, stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy account for up to 65 percent of all retail purchases, and many of those stores are sharply reducing the floor space allotted to music.

Although the music industry has taken on a different role with the increasing popularity of internet downloads, Leach still feels that record labels are necessary when getting an artist’s music out on a broader spectrum.’ In addition to the evolving cyber world, the business side of music will always play a pivotal role in the expanding an artists ability to reach new audiences.’ For more information on the Music Industry Studies program, please visit