Closer to the Real Deal

Today more than ever, the saying that Berklee is a microcosm of the music industry rings true. Current partnerships with industry professionals and other initiatives offer students opportunities that, in some cases, have them working elbow-to-elbow with movers and shakers of the music business. 

Associate Professor of Music Business/ Management Jeff Dorenfeld has had his students working on projects with Ted Kurland Associates, Boston magazine, and spinART records. This spring, members of Dorenfeld's Music Business/Management Practicum classes worked at the offices of Ted Kurland Associates, an agency that books and manages many big-name jazz artists, as plans were developed for the current tour of the Pat Metheny Group. The students manned a phone and computer in Kurland's Brighton facility doing Internet research to find ways of expanding Metheny's audience demographics during the run-up to his European tour in support of the group's new album, The Way Up. "I thought it was important for the students to be right there," said Dorenfeld. "It is a very different experience for them to be in the office where they could see what the members of Kurland's staff were doing every day."

Dorenfeld took the same approach with a project for an upcoming Boston music issue of Boston magazine. "This project involved obtaining licenses for the use of songs by successful artists that have some sort of Boston connection," says Dorenfeld. "The students have been working at tracking down the managers of these artists and selling them on the idea of Boston magazine's plan to include a compilation of songs that the magazine's readers can download. I felt it would be closer to the real deal if the students were placing and receiving calls at the magazine's headquarters. The students have had more success at this than Boston magazine staffers had when they tried it previously."

The latest endeavor involves a work for the fast-rising rock band Apollo Sunshine (a group comprising four Berklee alumni). The quartet signed with spinART for its second release, which is slated for a September release. The disc will be distributed by Ryko, an independent distributor. Jeff Price of spinART and Dorenfeld arranged for Heavy Rotation Records and spinArt to corelease the Apollo album in September. "It will involve a lot of work on the Internet," says Dorenfeld. "The students are promoting all-age concerts for the band, booking venues, finding another band to share the bill, and helping with promotion and merchandising. The class will set up play lists on iTunes and do whatever else they can do to generate interest in the band. I think the class was a little shocked when Price told them just how much work would be involved. I didn't undertake this project until we had an act like Apollo with real potential. So far, we're getting very good feedback. It will be great for the students to be part of a successful project." Dorenfeld pointed out that big sales and lots of airplay are not the only indicators of success. "For the students to see their efforts result in press interest in the band, good reviews, and a buzz on the Internet is a real measure of success," says Dorenfeld.

Another different yet instructive project is Jazz Revelation Records, a student-run imprint that is funded by a grant from the college. Copresidents Sarah Huo '05 and Linda Little '05 viewed producing and promoting the label's second disc Two, as community service. "Many jazz artists have a hard time getting their music out there," says Huo. "We wanted to represent great student musicians who have their own voices and good compositions. It's essentially a promo vehicle for these artists." Two is very diverse and has an international flavor, with jazz tracks reflecting the influences of North and South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Little and Huo, who took the reins from label founder Paul Im, have learned the business by handling the A&R, producing, and marketing chores. "It's been a great experience, and we are very passionate about keeping this going," says Huo. "This summer, we'll be recruiting students to continue the effort."

Those interested in learning more about the label or obtaining a copy of Two can visit