From the attorneys who negotiate the label deals to the marketers who help propel artists through brand relationships, from the PR talents who help shape an artist’s narrative to the journalists covering every aspect of the business, fellows of Rhodes’ Mike Curb Institute for Music recently got to experience firsthand the inner workings of the entertainment business in New York City.
Emily Burkhead ’20, André Moore ’19, Marcus Tate ’19, Griffin Rone ’19, Sarah Link ’19, Camden Napier ’21, Harlan Hutton ’20, and Madison Holton ’20 visited the city of moguls and dreamers March 6-10. Curb Director John Bass, along with Curb Visiting Scholar in the Arts Isabel González Whitaker, led the trip. González Whitaker, former features editor of InStyle magazine and deputy editor of Billboard magazine, has been mentoring students throughout the year and used her New York contacts to plan the itinerary and make introductions for the Rhodes group.
“The trip honored the intersection of music and business, culture, news, storytelling, and more,” says González Whitaker. “So much of what I’ve seen at the Curb Institute is the cultivation of talent around music creation, but also the platforms that support and amplify it: documentaries, programming, marketing, and community engagement.”
The Rhodes group met with executives at Billboard and Vibe magazines; Apple Music; Full Picture media agency, which serves a number of clients ranging from Vitaminwater to Maybelline; Dan Klores Communications, a public relations firm with clients that include NBC Universal, Facebook, Instagram, HBO, Sony Music Entertainment, Clive Davis, and Lady Gaga; Tidal, a subscription-based music, podcast, and video streaming service owned by Jay-Z and other music artists; and media company MAC Presents, founded by Rhodes alumna Marcie Allen Van Mol ’96.
The Curb Institute was founded in 2006 through a generous gift from the Mike Curb Family Foundation to foster awareness and understanding of the distinct musical traditions of the South and to study the effect music has had on its culture, history, and economy. According to Bass, it works on campus and with community partners in Memphis and around the country to give students real-world opportunities that will benefit them as they make the transition from college to graduate school or the professional world in a variety of fields.
“Students who went on the trip have a leadership role in the Curb Institute, and the trip provided them networking opportunities,” says Bass. “We were meeting with people pretty high up in their organizations, but students were also observing the people working in the offices and the interns and asking themselves, ‘Do they look like they are enjoying their jobs? Does this look like a creative environment? Does this look like a place I would want to be?’ ”
Rhodes junior Harlan Hutton, who is a songwriter and recording artist, serves as the Curb Research and Digital Assets Manager. She says, “My biggest takeaway from the trip is how much streaming has affected the music industry. After meeting with a diverse group of industry professionals, I feel like I better understand what some of the main current issues of the music industry are globally: getting artists/songwriters paid, getting people to value music enough to pay for it, and finding ways outside of physical purchases to make money.
“An insight I’ve brought home is the use of music to bridge communication between mass popular culture and social issues. We learned about this from a few professionals who are bringing to light issues such as equal education for girls through the use of famous artists and original music . . . I think this is a super interesting way to look at the Curb Institute’s place on campus, and how we can use our music and events to bring to light issues on campus and in Memphis in a unifying, positive manner.”
While visiting New York, the group also got to attend a concert and do some sightseeing, as well as meet up with Rhodes alumna and former Curb Fellow Alice Fugate ’18, who now works for the literary agency Trident Media Group.
“We got to meet amazing people and had great conversations with them, and I hope we can continue some of these relationships, particularly as it relates to internships,” says Bass. “I’ve enjoyed hearing what the students are thinking after meeting with those in the industry. I’m excited about hearing their ideas for what’s next for the Curb Institute. I think their ideas may turn out to be pretty transformative for the program.”