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Macy Gray heads back to school: Singer slated to guest at UCLA Extension course

M_gray_2_2 Veteran R&B singer Macy Gray is scheduled to receive some career advice from UCLA students for her upcoming album. Doors manager Jeffrey Jampol tells Pop & Hiss that the singer will appear as a guest performer/lecturer on the first day of his UCLA Extension course on the music biz this spring.

"Macy Gray is getting on the cutting edge of where music is going," Jampol says. "She just made a new record that she financed herself. She owns it, and she’s going to market it independently. She’s coming into the class the first week, and she’ll perform and play the new record. Then, as part of their final, the students are going to help write a marketing plan as to how to break this record."

Jampol has been teaching his course, the Music Business Now: How It Really Works and the People and Events That Influence It, for more than a decade, and it is open to UCLA students and nonstudents. The upcoming session launches on April 1 and meets for 12 weeks. Past courses have seen students design a music segment for entertainment newsmagazine series "Extra," as well as help create a marketing plan for A Fine Frenzy. The cost to simulate some real-life work experience: $595.

But Gray is just one of the big-name guests slated to appear in the class,  A host of heavy hitters -- many of whom don't return our phone calls -- will also guest in Jampol's course. They include Island Def Jam President Steve Bartels, CAA managing partner Rob Light, Electronic Arts' worldwide head of music Steve Schnur, MySpace Music President Courtney Holt, No Doubt manager Jim Guerinot, the Firm Chief Executive Jeff Kwatinetz, Live Nation Chief Executive and President Michael Rapino and Ticketmaster Entertainment Chief Executive Irving Azoff, among many others.

Though they won't be under oath in front of the House and Senate, Rapino and Azoff are class regulars, says Jampol, and the stories are good. "Every year our touring panel is Azoff, Rapino and Rob Light," he says. "The thing that happens is that people get really honest in that protected cocoon of education."

Aside: Students! Pop & Hiss wants to hear from you.

Jampol teaches the course with manager/HITS Magazine founder Lenny Beer, Universal Music Publishing Group Executive Vice President Tom Sturges, who Jampol says works with Gray, and Rhino's Senior VP of e-Commerce & International Catalog Strategy David Dorn. The course is limited to 300 students, and each week features roundtable-like discussions and the chance for students to meet-and-greet with the guests.

The spring course, which is co-sponsored by UCLA Extension and the Recording Academy, also won't be just about Gray. Dorn notes that students are split into small groups, and each assigned a different artist. Students will present a comprehensive marketing plan as part of the final.

"We have a number of people who work for record companies who come in," Dorn says. "They really don’t have as wide a knowledge base as they need. They do a certain thing at that label, but they don’t understand the management business, or publishing, or they don’t know how MySpace works."

Dorn says he was able to persuade Apple to send a rep down and speak to the class and give a full presentation on iTunes. "We’re not trying to say this is the way major record companies run today," he says. "Our goal is not to take it from a label perspective. Our goal is to say this is the way the business runs today."

But doesn't anyone feel a tinge of guilt, charging a few hundred dollars to learn about the music biz right now -- a time when more retailers are closing, there's no shortage of layoffs and further consolidation may be imminent?

"I don’t," Dorn says. "I think there’s enormous potential in the music business. I think we’re going through some real changes, and it’s going to be real tough for a period of time. I’m encouraged everyday when I come in here. I see the future potential of the digital business, and I see the future potential for the music business. We’re just in an interesting transition time, in format and monetization."

-Todd Martens

For more information, visit the UCLA Extension Web site, or call (310) 825-9971. There are also MySpace and Facebook pages for the class, the Music Business Now: How It Really Works and the People and Events That Influence It. Enrollment is underway now.

Photo: Macy Gray. Credit: Getty Images

Related: Hollywood's Musicians Institute teaches the endangered art of A&R
Related: USC adds pop music program

Comments () | Archives (2)

I appreciate the thorough and revealing journalism you offer on UCLA’s Extension course, where Macy Gray will be a guest lecturer this spring. An educational institution where students can interact with a recording artist and be heard as well as respected is an intriguing concept. On some levels, I would imagine the experience to be a bit surreal to take such an active role in an artist’s album release. This platform seems as though it may serve both student and artist equally. The extensive list of industry insiders who will take part in this course reads like a who’s who of the music industry. My impression is that industry executives are very open and receptive to change, if not fresh ideas at the very least. I think it is an admirable decision for Ms. Gray and other artists to take a step down and have a face-to-face conversation with the public about their music and its direction.

The presence of such an elite executive body poses a question: If these executives are taking part in a course that has college and non-college students, are they using this outlet to gain perspective on where the public wants to go with music? It would seem as though this is the case after reading some of Professor Jeffrey Jampol’s responses to your questions. More often than not, media outlets put their focus on the superficialities that surround major recording artists. This brief report shows a side of the music industry the public has not seen in the past – executives and artists sitting down to have a candid discussion about the direction of music with the ultimate goal that everyone at the table can walk away with something at the end of the day.

I am a Independent Recording Artist myself. I totally commend Miss Gray for such a bold act to finance and direct this album. This is a wise thing to do. I got an awesome privilege to meet her drummer in 2007. Her band is good people. Well...optimal health, wealth, and prosperity for You as well. God bless!......Larry De Leon (Central Florida)


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