New York - GRAMMY U Meet The Board
By: Rachel Insalaco / GRAMMY U New York Student Representative
The New York chapter board of The Recording Academy includes many of the most highly-regarded professionals in the music industry today, spanning a wide assortment of career paths within the business. On May 8th, GRAMMY U members in the New York area had the unique opportunity to hear and learn from four of these board members, each representing a different facet of the industry.
The first speaker was Neeta Ragoowansi. Neeta is an entertainment attorney who has worked within the industry for over 20 years. She spoke about her experience as an in-house attorney for the Kennedy Center, a position she says allowed her to get her “foot in the door” and begin to learn about negotiating deals. Additionally, Neeta addressed the importance of both songwriter and performance royalties, speaking about her time at both SoundExchange and Tunesat and her current role as co-founder of the National Performing Rights Exchange, the first platform to allow copyright holders to make deals directly with users.
Next to speak was Erika Elliott, the Executive Artistic Director of the SummerStage Festival in New York City. Erika spoke to GRAMMY U members about her path from college radio to record labels to live music club S.O.B.’s, which eventually led her to SummerStage, where she has been for ten years. Erika stressed the importance of the “mission-based” aspect of the SummerStage Festival, citing that its primary goal is “to serve New Yorkers”; the Festival puts on shows in all five boroughs of New York City and strives to be culturally diverse and multidisciplinary. In conclusion, Erika used her story to educate members about the various career paths that might be taken outside of the “traditional” music industry.
The third speaker was Rob Stevenson, the Executive Vice President of Republic Records. Rob told GRAMMY U members about his three biggest career jumps, each of which subsequently resulted in him being fired; this led to an important lesson that “failing 8 times out of 10 still equals success”. He also spoke about the importance of trusting your instincts and taking chances, citing his support of Post Malone, who is now Universal’s 3rd-largest streaming artist despite initial rejection from label executives. In the end, Rob left GRAMMY U members with three pieces of advice: to not censor themselves, be afraid to fail, or take the business too seriously.
Last but not least to speak was Ben Allison. Ben is primarily a performer of jazz instrumental music and has made a career as a successful independent artist. Ben described the challenges of “not being told what to do” and having to place his own expectations on himself each day, a risky though ultimately rewarding venture. Ben also spoke about his love of teaching, describing his curriculum development for an entrepreneurial music program at The New School as “teaching his own life in a classroom”. Ben also gave GRAMMY U members the advice about doing the “daily grunt work” required to be successful in the industry, comparing the process to “going to the gym”; often, Ben concluded, the most difficult part is just getting started.
After listening to each speaker, GRAMMY U members had the opportunity to mingle with the board members and one another before posing for a final group photograph. These members left with not only a new perspective about different career paths, but also with some valuable advice about how to make it as young professionals within the music industry!