Samford University students interested in commercial music careers received a unique opportunity to learn from industry professionals during the school’s recent Step Sing weekend.
Steven Potaczek, assistant professor of commercial music at Samford, organized the second annual “How to Make it in the Music Industry” workshop Jan. 27. He worked with producers and musicians brought in to evaluate music arrangement, choreography and costume design in the 73rd annual student Step Sing competition, which took place Jan. 26–28 on campus.
Step Sing judges were Simon Lythgoe, television and film producer of shows such as American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance and founder of Legacy Productions; Chris Fryar, drummer for the Zac Brown Band; and Steve Schnur, worldwide executive and president of Music for Electronic Arts, the largest video game producer in the world.
Lythgoe, Brown and Schnur — along with Ruben Studdard, American Idol winner and producer, and Philip Peters, TobyMac’s manager — were featured panelists at the workshop.
“The truth is, commercial music is an evolving industry,” Lythgoe shared. “Technology is driving it so fast, so quickly, you’ve got to keep your eyes open and utilize social media — you’ve got to be careful with social media, but you have to use social media to promote your music.”
Strategy, creativity and marketing are three strategies important to the use of social media in the industry, he noted.
Lythgoe also reminded participants that the music industry is much broader than the musicians.
“There are so many elements to the music business,” he said. For every performer a support team exists — agents, managers, attorneys, accountants and more.
Helping students understand the full picture of the music industry is the reason Potaczek launched the annual workshop.
“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and talk about the music industry, but it’s wholly another to go to it (which we do) and bring it to students,” he explained. “We not only regularly go to those places but we bring them to us. It’s really a desire to bring in some heavy hitters.”
However, the workshop panelists are not selected strictly because of their notoriety, Potaczek emphasized. “We want people who are interested, not only in the music industry but also in the mission of Samford University.
“As the word of this program gets out, we’re trying to invite people in who would say, “Man, I’m really interested in that,” or, ‘I feel like our missions align and I’d love to come speak at it.’”
‘Educating tomorrow’s generation’
Samford’s Bachelor of Arts degree in commercial music trains students in the aspects supporting the musician on stage — product distribution, copyright laws, etc.
“We just recognized there’s no reason we shouldn’t be educating tomorrow’s generation and really bringing them up with the Christian values that Samford embodies and the mission of Samford University,” Potaczek added.
“It’s really our desire to educate the whole person, including the mind, body and the spirit,” he said. “Our goal is really to educate the whole person and hopefully allow them to be lights in this world … [to have] a missional mindset and be the salt of the earth that God’s called us to be.”
For more information, visit https://www.samford.edu/arts/music/bachelor-of-arts-commercial-music.
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