This year, I won GrammyU’s annual Business Plan Competition. The prompt was: “design a pay structure for a streaming service that would appease the labels and artists while being financially viable for the streaming service itself.”
I spent hours all summer working on the plan out of the Harvard Innovation Lab. I was then accepted into the final round with 5 other contestants, and found out in late August that I had won. The prize was to spend a day at RCA Records with CEO Tom Corson Sept 16th, attend the Grammy Screening meetings in LA September 26th, as well as attend the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on February 15th, 2016! The Grammy team was enormously supportive and helpful throughout, including the incomparable Laura Rodriguez, Jodie Blum, Virginia Faddy, Nick Cucci, Jennie Feeburg, Tahsan Scott, Michael Starita and last year’s winner, Kirkland Lynch!
Below is a recap of what I learned that day, as well as links to my plan and pitch video.
My day ended up started at 5:30am that morning, since I was performing with my cousin Jules Bakshi at a Daybreaker NYC event! I played drums and sang, alongside the DJ, while she danced and I got to speak about what the Daybreaker community means to me. After we finished our show, I went home to shower quickly, and then head onward to the Sony Building on Madison Ave so that I could start the day of meetings with Tom Corson and the Grammy team on the ground.
I had a blast meeting Tom Corson – he was very open to answer my questions about having more women work in music – he himself said – whether or not he believes it – “we have diversity because we need to be able to have a vibe and speak to artists, otherwise we lose our credibility.” This is one of the main reasons why it matters so much to have more women in music, to have more people of color in music – when artists see themselves in the people they are working with, they have more comfort and trust with the system, which already has a bad reputation to begin with. There is a business case to having people of different walks of life – not just to check a diversity box that makes people feel better.
My other meetings included time with Jennifer Foweler who runs digital marketing for RCA – she explained the value of upcoming MCNs, and how the band Pentatonix actually helped scale their business. We both discussed how we believe we need more adaptable copyright laws that map to what is currently happening in music. She explained further that they think of themselves as a content company whose job it is to monetize content for those artists who make it. And in my opinion, this is really the role and function of a label – to partner with an artist so that the artist is able to bring their art to a larger audience and partner base. She talked about building a process around monetizing content and getting better at it – proving that the label has a real role to play and that they are actively trying to evolve their role so that they are still relevant to music today.
Another meeting I had was with Karen who pitched RCA music for licensing and sync opportunities. She told me that the key to having music that everyone wants is stuff that is happy and uptempo since this is what makes people buy. Fair enough, I thought. Music supervisors want to enhance the visual and make the audience feel something emotional, usually something happy. Unless they want something emotionally dramatic – then Adele music usually gets all of those opportunities!
Over lunch at the Sony Club we talked about flaws in my plan, and our differing opinions on the role of remix work. I wanted to see a world in which remixed culture has true monetizable home, that can live on places like Spotify not just Soundcloud, but some of the folks at RCA felt that the best remixes bubble to the surface anyway and get monetized down the line, and so the system isn’t in fact broken.
See our talk at SF Music Tech 2015 in case you want to be filled in on the debate HERE.
For anyone interested in learning more about what GrammyU does for students and music fans a like, click HERE.
I wrapped up the day thanking Mr. Corson for showing me how he runs RCA, listening to my music, for hooking me up with awesome RCA swag and for inviting me to the A$AP Rocky concert that week!
Photos below of my time back in LA volunteering at the annual Grammy Screening Meetings, during which the Grammy committee makes sure each submission is placed in the right category for consideration.