Berklee Blogs

First-hand accounts of the Berklee experience

Month: October 2010 (Page 2 of 10)

2010 Berklee CMJ Showcase: Oceanographer

Oceanographer’s five members spanned the Bowery Poetry Club stage after Julia Easterlin’s singular turn.  The band’s music occupied an artistic realm charted by Easterlin, it’s set wrapped in a dreamy atmosphere and the songs sewn together with barely a pause between them by Berklee alumnus and student Kevin Plessner’s beautiful, shimmering lead guitar lines.  Oceanographer’s music is a mix of shoegaze, indie pop, ambient, minimalist, and post-rock, representative of the current Brooklyn scene, where it is based.  The band will release a 12-song disc in 2011.

Sitting in the Bowery Poetry Club’s front room, Kevin Plessner and Jeremy Yocum, singer and guitar player, talk about their high hopes for CMJ to connect them to a wider New York scene and beyond.

Future of Music Series: Rhapsody and Subscription-Based Music Services

Imagine that you are the host of a party in 1985. You grab your giant box of vinyl records and drop it next to your record player and begin spinning, acting as your own DJ. Guests come by the standard 8-foot banquet table that you have assembled and flip through the cardboard folders looking for their favorite artists. Unfortunately, you have Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album but not U2’s The Unforgettable Fire. Fast forward to cassette tapes, and though the table gets smaller and the box lighter, you still run out of listening options.

My how things change. Today we have subscription-based music services. For $9.99 per month, subscribers can listen to their choice of millions of songs on a mobile app, online, on a home listening device, mp3, iPhone or iTouch. I spoke with Brendan Benzing, Rhapsody’s chief product officer, about how subscription-based services benefit music fans and artists.

Benzing describes subscription-based services as a “powerful music experience” and likens it to being your on DJ. Instead of downloading each song, thereby limiting a listener’s musical choice by affordability and storage space, a listener has, in the case of Rhapsody, 10.5 million songs to experience.  The rationale is this: consumer tastes can be fickle and music can be enjoyed one moment in time and discarded the next. Benzing believes that an access-based model is the preferred choice because the overall experience for listeners is heightened by their ability to control the experience. Listeners can explore a wider variety of music, when and where they want.

Today, there are only about two million people who use subscription-based services. While digital downloads account of the great majority of digital revenue, Rhapsody and its competitors are expecting that as the cost of data services in the mobile market continues to decrease, and subscription services become accessible on more platforms and devices (Rhapsody is already available on more than 30), the number of subscribers will continue to increase. Benzing says that once subscribership achieves a mass-market level (I won’t hold him to an exact number), its payouts will make an even greater impact on labels and independent artists alike.

I asked Benzing how a subscription-based business impacts smaller artists.  He responded that subscription-based services are good for artist discovery because listeners are not limited by their wallets. For a flat fee, listeners can discover new artists and categories of music. Rhapsody has deals with labels, and independent artists can be included in Rhapsody’s catalog through companies like CD Baby, tunecore, and The Orchard.

Music subscription service is certainly a business to watch. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how this market develops (will Apple enter?) and how artists will be both discovered and compensated in it.


Shai Littlejohn

Shai Littlejohn is an attorney in the music industry, singer-songwriter and Professional Music major at Berklee. She is currently interning with the Future of Music Coaliton, an artist’s rights lobby and advocacy group in Washington DC. Though late November, Shai will work as an integral member of the coalition team in developing, organizing and promoting both the Future of Music Policy Summit as well as the Dear New Orleans Benefit Rock Show.

Follow Shai on Twitter for continuing tips and updates on music law and policy at

See also:

Future of Music Series: Is the 360 Degree DIY Model Good for Musicians?

Future of Music Series: Internet Streaming Revenue

Future of Music Series: The Role of Video

Future of Music Series: The Shrinking Pie

Future of Music Series: Setting the Stage on Music Policy

Future of Music Series: Shai Littlejohn

2010 Berklee CMJ Showcase: Julia Easterlin

It takes the crowd at the Bowery Poetry Club some moments to figure out just what Julia Easterlin is up to on stage.  She stands alone, in front of a looping machine, humming into the microphone, then plays back the sound.  She adds another vocal tone, and then some others, harmonizing with herself.  She snaps her fingers and claps her hands into the machine, all the while playing back the progress that starts to sound like she’s surrounded by backing vocalists and a rhythm section.  But, still there is only Julia and her looping machine.  The audience is mesmerized.  Julia sings her original songs to the tracks she creates, sometimes playing guitar.  Her sound ranges from jazz to roots to pop.  Her cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” toward the end of the set is fun, but the real magic is watching her unwrap her songs, layer by layer, on the looping machine and discovering what she has in store with each of her own songs, like “Whiskey,” about her grandmother.

As a soundcheck was underway, Julia Easterlin spoke about the freedom of having a looping machine as a bandmate, and how she markets her music.

Meet the Team @ the Red Room

Nicholas Susi, Street Team Runner

A key member of the Red Room @ Cafe 939 team is, Nicholas Susi who is in charge of passing the word out about our events. He is part of the Street Team and a dedicated MB/M major at Berklee

Javier Parra: Tell us a bit about yourself Nicholas…
Nicholas Susi: I am a Music Business/Management Major. It’s my 3rd semester here, although I spent a year at the University of Connecticut before Berklee. I’m studying trombone with Phil Wilson, and I am the Street Team Runner for the Red Room. As far as career goals, right now I’m trying to find a healthy balance between honing in on being business-minded, and exercising my creativity through playing the trombone and composing as well. I would definitely say Berklee is perfect for helping me develop these skills along the way, and I’m certainly enjoying my experience thus far.

JP: What aspect do you like most about the Red Room?
NS: Coming into Berklee, I thought I wanted to work for a record label.  Knowing what I know now and seeing the directions that the industry is taking, I’m steering away from this initial mindset and trying to get more exposure to other avenues of the industry. The Red Room has presented me with an incredible opportunity to see and experience the inner workings of marketing, promotion, booking, etc, and it has certainly showed me that the live music aspect of the business is something I might want to stick with in the future.

JP: Any particular challenges you have had at the Red Room?
NS: I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve experienced any challenges in terms of struggles or boundaries I have had to overcome.  However, working for the Red Room has really challenged me to think outside the box when it comes to promoting a show, and how to try and draw attention to it over other shows at other venues.

JP: What was the last concert you attended?
NS: As far as the Red Room, I think it was Emily Elbert and Julia Easterlin, both of which I find to be incredibly inspiring Berklee singer/songwriters that I have so much respect for. And in general, I saw Sleigh Bells and LCD Soundsystem at the Orpheum. The music had everybody dancing, but the sound was way too loud.

JP: What advice would you give to those trying to step into the music industry these days?
NS: I don’t know if I’m really qualified to be giving advice to people trying to break into the music industry – haha – but I guess I would have to say at least for me, what has really helped me has been focusing on exactly what I want to achieve, but not necessarily focusing so hard on an idea to the point of becoming short-sighted or narrow-minded.  Considering how quickly the industry changes, I think you have to be very willing to adapt and not get overtly frustrated if you have to tweak your ideas to adhere to a market.

JP: What’s your last music purchase?
NS: Last music purchase? Probably something boring like guitar strings – hahaha!

Interview by Javier Parra
Editorial and Media Assistant

Click here for other ‘Meet the Team’ interviews.

2010 Berklee CMJ Showcase: The Honors

Following Liptease’s electro-pop and disco sound at the Berklee CMJ Showcase, was a blast of rock and roll from highly energized the Honors.  The four-piece Boston-based band is riding high on its debut disc, xoxo, and a growing reputation for crunching live shows.  Lead guitarist Andrew Bayardi, a Berklee alumnus, riffed, soloed, and sustained feedback that pierced the band’s driving rhythm section.  He looked like Jimmy Page, though a grungy version in his flannel shirt, when he leaned over and to the side of his guitar as he played.  In front of the stage, women gathered as the band handed out free CDs at the end of the set.

Outside of the club, Andrew Bayardi discusses a big break given to the Honors earlier in its career, and how that coveted opportunity helped the band to develop.

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