While most music schools focus on preparing a musician through a series of musicianship classes, NYU Tisch Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music decided to take another path. "There is so much more to the music industry that isn't necessarily taught", explains Alan Watson, Student Services Administrator at Clive.
When creating the institute, the main focus was building a curriculum that will help raise creative entrepreneurs, someone who "will see gaps in the industry and think of what one can do to fill them in".
What's different about the institute is their holistic approach. Clive Davis places a heavy emphasis on their history program, which is key if you want to become "an intelligent human in your field". Students also take production classes, which lets them gain knowledge to produce music even from their bedroom at home.
The strongest core, however, is music business. Overall, there are nine courses which Clive Davis requires its students to take in order to fill them in with professionalism. "While in a conservatory you get very very good at your instrument, and that craft gets to a much higher level, you might not talk about how you're going to make that a career until graduation… when your parents ask you", Alan says, smiling. At NYU, on the other hand, this conversation is a part of the daily routine, as everyone knows just how important monetization is in the music industry.
"We think of ways how we can start you up now", Alan continues. They teach students strategies to market themselves, build an audience, and find ways to convert casual listeners into paying customers, which is not something a typical music school does.
With such a unique approach, Clive Davis has set high standards for their applicants. To be more precise, the admissions committee is looking for "someone who understands what [they] do and why [they] do it", and whether what the applicant does aligns with what they do, too.
A lot of it has to do with the mission of raising entrepreneurs, so the whole application revolves around that proof of concept. "Performers and producers want to show us what they do — and that's great — but we are more interested in how and why they do it", Alan states. Do you have the ability to experiment and fail? Do you do the extra work and research, or do you constantly need to be told what to do in order to get an A?
Since the institute focuses on making "long throws, down into the future to help have a long career in music", you are given the chance to try everything out during these four years. "We want students to be able to make artistic and business choices because they know all about it", Alan elucidates. "You know how to do everything and you're choosing to do something because you have a strategy behind it."
In order to keep up with the rapidly changing industry, there are constant reinventions and new course offers that are added to the already established curriculum. A few years ago, for example, Clive Davis introduced their first course on streaming, now known as The Future of Streaming. "We brought somebody from Norway to teach that class, because the Norwegian streaming economy at that time was about four years ahead of the U.S. economy", Alan mentions. "When we first started the program, iTunes had just come out and people didn't know how it was going to change the music industry".
When I asked what he would recommend musicians learn on their own to cultivate adaptability, Alan's answer was simple. "I would want students to continue their curiosity, wherever it takes them, because, if you follow where your interests are, that would not lead you astray."
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