Symbiosis. That word has always been one of my favorites because it gives a picture of people or entities working together in a manner that benefits both parties.
I like that idea, and it's certainly the central feature of the State University College at Oneonta's Music Industry internship program. Students learn how the music business works by serving internships, and the music business gains highly motivated, well-educated trainees who may become useful employees at the end of the internship.
Our students serve internships throughout New York state, and some serve internships in other parts of the country and the world.
The music department supports its student interns by sending faculty to visit the students who serve internships within a four-state area.
Internship sites are impressed and gratified by visits from faculty, saying that they value the interaction with faculty and students. An additional benefit for the college and the students is that faculty who visit internships are able to gather up-to-date information about the music industry by speaking with industry executives during the visit.
This enables SUNY Oneonta music industry professors to combine "real world" information with classroom theory.
During recent internship visits, I asked our students how their new music industry knowledge might help Oneonta's young musicians and performance venues.
Brianne Galli, a music industry major, is serving an internship in New York City at ASCAP and another internship at CMJ (College Music Journal) as she seeks opportunities to build a career in music journalism, public relations and marketing.
I asked her, "How can young people in Oneonta get into the music business and build careers as musicians?"
She said, "I've learned a lot about promoting bands through my work at ASCAP and CMJ. I'd advise bands to make their information easily available to music writers and publicists. Bands should have their own up-to-date websites and material on MySpace and Twitter. When I do research on bands, sometimes I can only find press releases on websites. Fans want to read personal statements and news about a band, not just a press release. Bands need to be willing to talk to anybody about their music and their lives. They have to be easy to interview, and when they do live shows, they need to make a strong connection with the audience."
She said, "When I was in Oneonta, I tried to support good bands by attending their concerts at the Clinton Pub, the Black Oak Tavern and other venues where good live music was being presented. After professional experience at both my internships, I've learned that bands need to work with venues to increase audience size and loyalty. The venues can help by paying for some of the advertising, and the band can help by using their online presence to bring in audiences."
I also visited SUNY Oneonta student Dakotah McKanic-Berman at her internship at the successful public relations firm Ariel Publicity in Brooklyn.
Dakotah showed me some of her work with online "street teams" who support artists and build their fanbase throughout the world.
Dakotah agreed with Brianne's suggestions, saying that Oneonta musicians should continue to increase their online audiences and work in partnership with Oneonta performance venues and clubs to attract new audience members.
Dakotah's internship supervisors explained that Ariel artists are encouraged to use online services such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, and to build and continually update their artist websites.
Ariel Publicity executives showed me the comprehensive checklist they use with artists whom they represent, including work with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Last.fm, Rootsmusic, ReverbNation, Podsafe Music Network and Delicious.
Ariel Publicity asks artists for MP3s and artist images, as well as Internet and radio station IDs, and encourages bands to reach out to fans by sharing their thoughts and music.
Music is a basic necessity for most people throughout the world because it "speaks" to people about important beliefs. My visits to ASCAP, CMJ and Ariel Publicity reminded me of the most important building blocks of the music business. Audiences will grow for bands that produce affordable and accessible high quality music. It's a lot of work, but it's the way for musicians to build a rock-solid fan base. Oneonta bands and venues who work together as a team are finding success by helping each other.
Dr. Janet Nepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta. Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/musicbeat.