Berklee Today

Berklee Beat:
Career Expo 2001 Attracts a Capacity Crowd

Career Expo keynote speaker Donald Passman
Photo by Bob Kramer

Despite inclement weather, Berklee's second annual Music Career Expo and Job Fair on February 25 drew a capacity crowd of 1,100. The event, organized by Berklee's Office of Institutional Advancement with support from Boston Conservatory of Music, the Pro Arts Consortium, and radio stations WBCN 104.1 FM, Hot 97.7 FM, and WILD 1090 AM, is becoming a hot attraction for music professionals inside and outside the Berklee community.

On the day of the expo, the hallways of Boston's Hynes Convention Center were lined with exhibitors offering an array of musicians' services that ran the gamut from promo photography to an online marketplace where artists can connect with talent buyers. Other exhibitors, including the United States Air Force Band of Liberty, the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, music equipment retailers, and more, were showing company videos and passing out brochures and business cards by the handful.

A keynote address from renowned Los Angeles entertainment lawyer and author Donald Passman kicked off the educational portion of the event at 12:30. Following Passman's address, attendees had their choice of 16 workshops and panel discussions led by local and national music industry heavyweights, an artist showcase, and a "demo derby" panel conducted by A&R representatives from several labels. The expo closed with an early-evening reception for Berklee alumni.

Keynote speaker Passman was brought in from Los Angeles as this year's James G. Zafris Jr. Lecture Series guest speaker. He addressed an audience of about 600, and focused his remarks primarily on the controversy surrounding free music downloads from the Internet and the challenges this poses to intellectual property rights. He stated his feeling that artists should be concerned that "a generation is growing up believing that music should be free." He drew parallels between the present time and the French Revolutionary era when copyrights were abolished. "The arts declined in France after that," said Passman. "With no compensation for artists, there was no incentive to pursue the arts." After three years, the French saw the light and reinstated their copyright laws. Passman stressed the importance of copyright protection for today's artists.

Passman also addressed some of the legal issues to be settled regarding collecting royalties for downloads. He identified the two major industry players who stand to gain or lose the most from the pending legal decisions. "The battle is between the computer hardware manufacturers and the music industry," he said. The computer companies stand to make millions from users who download music files, and the labels are fighting to prevent their products from being taken for free.

Ultimately, he assured the audience that although "we are in a scary period now and things look chaotic, it will all be worked out." He offered two possible scenarios that may become the way of the future for music sales. Subscriber-based streaming audio services which allow a listener to dial up and hear any song on-demand, represent one option. This type of service could render owning copies of a recording irrelevant. Offering inexpensive or expiring downloads is another option. "In the end, I believe most people would want to buy a reasonably priced alternative rather than a pirated product."


Career Expo exhibitors included online musicians' service providers, entertainment lawyers, promo photographers, music equipment retailers, and more.
Photo by Bob Kramer

Several panels took the topic of the advantages of the Internet for both dissemination of music and career promotion. Berklee Trustee Don Rose hosted a discussion titled Napster: Good or Evil? with a group of lawyers and music industry professionals. Panelists discussed the social value of an original recording. "The physical artifact of the record is an important part of why I feel something for my old Rolling Stones albums," said panelist and record producer/music entrepreneur Paul Kolderie. "To me, there is more to it than just having the tracks on a generic silver CD with the artist's name written across it with a Flair pen." Rose cited research indicating that 70 percent of Napster users would pay a low monthly fee to obtain the same service legally.

Rounder Records General Manager Paul Foley hosted a panel titled Artist/Record Relationships: Show Me the Money. A handout containing a pie chart explained how the $15 from the retail sale of a CD gets divided up (manufacturing costs, royalty payments, promotion, distribution, etc.). Contrary to popular belief, the chart indicated that the percentage paid to the artist is slightly larger than the profit margin of the record label and that retailers and distributors gross a larger share than either the artist or label.

The discussion explored the pros and cons of releasing one's own CD, signing with an independent label, or trying to get on a major label. Artist manager Ralph Jaccodine stated that many web-savvy entrepreneurial artists are making a good living without being on a major label. Entertain-ment attorney Jonathan Horn added that smaller labels offer greater artistic freedom than the majors do. Rounder Records V.P. of A&R Troy Hansbrough summed up the benefits and liabilities with an analogy to car repair. "Doing a record on your own without a label is like fixing your car yourself. You know you will pay a premium if you go to a car mechanic, but you will get an expert and won't spend your time doing the work. If you put out your own CD, you'll have to do all of the public relations work, absorb the cost of getting your record into listening stations, get a distribution deal, and perform numerous other functions. You have to decide if you can do it all and if that is how you want to spend your time."


From the left: Demo Derby panelists Mark Kates (former president of Grand Royal Records), Brian Long (senior director of pop and rock A&R at MCA), Michael Tedesco (North American director of Silvertone Records), Rose Noone (vice president of A&R for Epic Records)
Photo by Bob Kramer

Throughout the afternoon, there was continuous live music on a showcase stage. Fourteen solo artists and bands performed a wide range of original music for an enthusiastic and ever-changing audience. It was the Demo Derby, however, that reeled in the largest audience of the day. All expo attendees were invited to submit a demo when registering, and about 100 entries were received. The panel of A&R specialists included Brian Long (MCA), Rose Noone (Epic), and Michael Tedesco (Silvertone Records). Panel leader Mark Kates (Grand Royal Records), opened the session by warning the participants not to take the critiques personally. Panelists treated the demos like those that cross their desks daily. Of the 20 or so demos that were played, many had very high production values and solid musical performances. The lesson the panelists shared over and over again was that even the best performance and production can't compensate for weak, unaffecting songs. Throughout the 90-minute session, the panelists looked for well crafted and trendy songs with potential for wide appeal.

Discussions of classical music career options, radio play, record production, film scoring, touring, music publishing, careers in label distribution, multimedia opportunities, stagecraft, and vocal presentation rounded out the offerings. The day ended with an alumni reception where the crowd shared what they had gleaned from the event.

Adrian Ross '96, Berklee's director of alumni affairs and Music Career Expo organizer, stated, "This year's event exceeded our expectations in terms of turnout and the amount of information presented. I'm grateful to all the participants who shared their time and expertise. I'm already thinking about what we might do for next year's expo."