BPMI Partners with Primary Wave for New Productions of Iconic Hits

Watch the Berklee Popular Music Institute's new recording and video for WAR’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

September 22, 2020

Berklee student Zabrina Hay

The Berklee Popular Music Institute (BPMI), an immersive education program that traditionally brings a group of students and Berklee performers to major North American music festivals, has partnered with publishing and talent management company Primary Wave for a creative summer project. Throughout their remote semester, BPMI students used Zoom and various technologies to produce, record, and create videos of iconic hits from Primary Wave’s artist catalog. This project represents the first major partnership between a college music business program and a major publishing company.

“I pitched the idea to the BPMI for a creative collaboration that would turn virtual performances into a fully remote summer class program,” said Robert Dippold, partner and president of digital strategy for Primary Wave Music Publishing. “The premise was that Primary Wave would open our entire song catalog up to the students to encourage other covers of our copyrights, and discuss the songwriting aspects with the actual songwriters and artists themselves. With all of the students and our artists at home, I thought this could be a unique education experience—our songwriters met the students on Zoom and discussed the music business and creative process with them. This collaboration has created a one-of-a-kind experience for the students, and brought our experts beyond the studio and into the classroom for an incredible summer.”

The project kicks off with a new recording and video for WAR's Grammy-nominated hit “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” in celebration of the band's 45th anniversary this year. Students collaborated with Lonnie Jordan, War’s keyboardist and cofounder, and Jerry Goldstein, who produced and cowrote the original version of "Why Can't We Be Friends?," to reimagine the song with updated lyrics and a rap exploring social justice issues that resonate today.

Watch BPMI's video for "Why Can't We Be Friends?": 

“The best parts of this experience for me were interacting with the students on Zoom and learning from them about this new era. And while we are in a new era, they still bridged the gap between what the song was written for back then, and how it still applies today,” said Jordan. 

“I was hoping that the Berklee students would take the song and adapt it for today, and that is exactly what they achieved—and they did it very well,” added Goldstein.

The videos and recordings for the class are entirely produced by BPMI students, often over Zoom and iPhone technology. The class will continue to release additional recordings and videos from Primary Wave Music Publishing songwriters, including Paul Rogers, Bob Marley, Donny Hathaway, and others, timed with various milestone anniversaries for their hit songs.

“When Primary Wave reached out to discuss working with our students, I immediately knew this partnership would result in creative challenges and incredible opportunities,” said Jeff DorenfeldBPMI founder and professor in Berklee’s Music Business/Management Department. “While we were unable to go to music festivals as a class this year, I am proud of the work our students have produced in collaboration with Primary Wave’s roster of artists, producers, and songwriters, all coordinated during a virtual summer semester.”

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