Berklee today

JUN 2015

Berklee today is the official alumni publication of Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. It is a forum for contemporary music and musicians.

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6 Berklee today Pandora's Tim Westergren Speaks to Berklee Nashville community at large through a video message. The following evening, students and Berklee staff members were treated to a night at the Grand Ole Opry. Students were welcomed behind the scenes and even backstage during the performance. Following the show, Berklee VP Jay Kennedy presented Jim Ed Norman, Pete Fisher, and Eddie Bayers with Berklee's frst American Masters Awards. Norman, Fisher, and Bayers, notable fgures in the Nashville music scene, have been key supporters in the development of the annual spring break trip. Further south, 20 other Berklee stu- dents enjoyed an introduction to the music industry scene in Atlanta, GA, during spring break week. Organized by Berklee's own Prince Charles Alexander, Jason Stokes, Carl Beatty, and Karen Bell, the fve-day trip in- cluded early mornings and late nights. The students attended panel discus- sions—one featuring pro background vocalist Chrissy Collins, guitarist Tomi Martin, and producers Jeffrey "J. Dub" Walker and Neal Pogue. Other high- lights included a session at Tree Sound Studios with hip-hop producer Izze, and meetings with Michele Caplinger (an executive for NARAS), mastering engineer Alex Lowe '92, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas of the group TLC. The students also were treated to a photo op with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal on the steps of the state house. The visit marked the ffth anniversary of the Atlanta trip. Both groups of spring break so- journers returned to Boston tired but inspired about career possibilities in the South. Pandora founder Tim Westergren spoke to a packed house of students at the 22nd annual James G. Zafris Distinguished Lecture for Berklee's Music Business/Management Department. Introducing Westergren, department chair Don Gorder noted that Pandora, a per- sonalized radio service with 81.5 million active listeners and 250 mil- lion registered users, "is clearly the leader in digital consumption of mu- sic via streaming." Westergren kicked off his talk by noting that, prior to founding Pandora, he nearly studied at Berklee. "I had the brochure and I had my ideas for courses picked out, but I wound up deciding to stay in the Bay Area." Westergren's Pandora experi- ence partly grew out of his days working as a touring musician living in a van—where he saw "a lot of tal- ented trees falling in the forest" due to lack of radio airplay—as well as his work in flm scoring and com- posing for feature flms. A big part of that job entailed presenting di- rectors with options that he could then use to home in on their taste for a project—a precursor to the process behind the Music Genome Project, the system of algorithms that powers Pandora. Pandora's employees, many of whom are skilled musicians, cu- rate that system, which Westergren compares to "DNA profles of music." "You really need a grounding in music theory to be able to extract this information," Westergren said of the work behind mapping the re- lationships between similar or dis- similar songs. While Pandora now stands as the biggest radio station in every market of the country, Westergren said, his goals were achieved only after many tough years in which he maxed out his credit cards and struggled with doubts and stress-induced insomnia. "I pitched Pandora to investors 348 times before getting to yes, and that's no fun," he said. Still, he knew his company had a compelling product, even if it hadn't fully fgured out the business model yet. A turning point came in the fall Tim Westergren of 2005. With a new CEO, Pandora retooled itself as a personalized radio platform, and then connected with Apple and rode the wave of smartphone growth into the ubiq- uity it now enjoys. Now the com- pany aims to "replace broadcast radio with a better experience," and the numbers suggest it is well on its way to doing so. Advice for New Music Entrepreneurs Westergren told the audience that potential entrepreneurs must take a long, hard, and honest look at themselves before plunging ahead. Westergren knew that he would regret trying something and fail- ing less than he would regret never having tried. Then he added, "It's about your personal tolerance for insecurity and risk. I don't think en- trepreneurship is for everyone. Each person should ask themselves if they feel prepared to go through that." At the lecture's conclusion, Berklee students swarmed the Pandora founder to ask additional questions. Mel Hart, a seventh-se- mester songwriting student, was encouraged by Westergren's words. "We hear a lot about the music in- dustry going downhill, but I think the music industry is going to be fne," Hart said. "Hearing him talk about helping get new artists dis- covered gave me even more hope." Mike Keefe-Feldman is a writer in Berklee's Digital Strategy and Communications Department. In March, 120 Berklee students boarded two buses in Boston to drive more than 1,000 miles to Nashville, TN, during the college's spring break. While every year the students engage in some amazing activities in Music City, this year was truly special, in that it marked the 30th anniversary of the annual Nashville trip. Started by Pat Pattison and a handful of Berklee stu- dents three decades ago, the trip has grown to become a highly desirable spring break destination. As students begin to think about their lives after Berklee, most think about relocating to New York City or Los Angeles. In recent years, however, more graduates have made the move to music-centric Nashville to start their careers in one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Through the years, the spring break trip organized by fac- ulty members Pat Pattison, Stephen Webber, Mark Wessel, and Clare McLeod, has offered the students a valuable glimpse into the workings of the Nashville music industry. A typical trip itinerary includes visits to top re- cording studios to observe sessions as well as clinics given by top songwriters, performers, producers, and key music industry business people. To celebrate the 30th anniversary this year, multiple appreciation awards were presented. At the alumni recep- tion held at Soulshine Pizza Factory, Pat Pattison, Stephen Webber, and Mark Wessel were given tokens of ap- preciation to the applause of the stu- dents and alumni in the room who have benefted from their hard work and dedication to the Nashville trip. Roger Brown sent his congratula- tions to the faculty organizers and the Spring Break Milestones By Arielle Schwalm '10 and Karen Bell '90 From the left: Stephen Webber, Pat Pattison, Jim Ed Norman and Jay Kennedy after the presentation of the American Masters Award to Norman in Nashville. Chris Hollo by Mike Keefe-Feldman Mike Spencer

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