Students use SXSW experience to launch music careers

Students use SXSW experience to launch music careers

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Rowan students use SXSW conference to launch music careers.

With South by Southwest (SXSW), the massive annual Austin, Texas, music and media festival now in their rearview, a contingent of Rowan music students are applying lessons learned and contacts made at the event to launch performance and industry careers.

For many of the 14 Rowan performance and music industry students who attended SXSW, the opportunity served as a college capstone of sorts, the type of event in which contacts are made and careers launched.

Michael McArthur, a lecturer in Rowan’s music industry program, arranged for his students to attend this year’s festival with support from the College of Performing Arts.

“Companies go to discover who’s next and that’s what makes it exciting,” McArthur said.

He noted that the festival, which began humbly in 1987, today draws thousands of performers, music lovers and culture consumers as well as major industry players like HBO, Samsung and YouTube.

“They all host activation sites,” he said. “You go in and hear about what they’re working on next. It’s really exciting.”

Rowan student attendees included performers Jayce Williams, Ian Bley, Stephen Kummer, Zayna Youssef, Gabriella Relos, Joshua Rubeo, Maxwell McClendon, Stella Mrowicki, Kurt Hendricksen and Nathan Whyte.

Student representatives for Rowan Music Group, or RMG, a student-run record label, were Amy Burns, Ebony Hubbard, Devon Dyer and Gabriella Bruckner.

Williams, a rising senior music industry major, said the greatest impression SXSW made on him was the opportunity for exposure. A guitarist/song writer in the Rowan-based band Sweet Pill, which recently inked a record deal, Williams said while attending the festival he met the program director at WXPN-FM in Philadelphia. The meeting led to a second discussion back at the WXPN offices that produced an opportunity for the station to play some of Sweet Pill’s music.

In addition to writing music and playing, Williams said he’s run a “music collective” in the basement of his Glassboro home for a few years and recently signed a deal to move that venue to the former Sid’s Outlet space at 2 High Street East. There, Williams said, he’ll host live music shows every week starting this fall.

“What I discovered on my own is that the only sure way to make money in the music industry is to have several streams of income,” Williams said. “So I’m in a band, we have a record deal, and I’ll have some income from playing, recording and merchandise, but I’m also running a music collective.”

Like Williams, spring graduate Ebony Hubbard, a Rowan student ambassador during SXSW, said opportunities for interacting with industry professionals abounded.

“I’m an artist. I sing, I’ve trained in classical and jazz music, I’ve been in choirs since the sixth grade, but I needed to practice my networking,” Hubbard said. “At SXSW, I did that and more.”

Working with the southern New Jersey band Afloat, Hubbard helped with marketing, Instagram “takeovers,” and supporting musicians before and during the band’s shows. She met publicists, entrepreneurs, even an engineer who produced “Insecure” by Jazmine Sullivan, one her favorite songs.

“What stood out to me most was the energy people had,” Hubbard said. “Meeting the people who made the music was even more rewarding than hearing them and seeing them play in person.”

Spring graduate Devon Dyer, likewise, saw attending the festival as an opportunity to network, and wasn’t disappointed.

The one-time business major became interested in the business side of music after joining Rowan’s Student University Programmers, which, throughout the school year, produces educational and entertainment programs.

“SUP got me interested in event planning, and over my four days at SXSW we got to see how big events were done,” Dyer said. “The biggest thing that kept us busy was Rowan Music Group. We had a partnership with Amplify Philly, a Philadelphia-based coalition and branding group, which sponsored a house and hosted performances, panel discussions, open mic sessions and more.”

Attending SXSW, she said, confirmed for her an interest in music industry event planning that, prior to going, she mostly witnessed from afar. An intern with California-based events promoter Live Nation while in college, she secured a permanent positon with them after graduating.

“I’m definitely moving in (the event promotions) direction,” Dyer said. “I really enjoy coordinating events and seeing a project go from conception to completion.”