Dan Gunderson, MPR News 90.3 FM, Published January 03 2014
MSUM students prepare for music industry by making records
Jensen is enrolled in a Minnesota State University Moorhead program in which students earn a degree by booking concerts and producing records.
Although the university has offered the music industry and entertainment studies program for 30 years, a new generation of students is using it to gain real-world experience in a rapidly changing industry.
Jensen, a senior from Jamestown, N.D., recently worked on a recording of rapper O’Shay Neal included on a sampler released by the student-run label last spring.
For students in the program, the assignments are a little unusual: search for local music talent, record and produce a new CD and manage the release for student-run Undeclared Records.
“The record company is meant to be a working laboratory for them,” said Ryan Jackson, the program coordinator, who also runs a production company. He said students select the artists, sign the contracts and record and produce the music.
Jensen said doing so has helped him learn that the music industry is all about connections.
“I like to try and help everyone,” he said, “so that someday if they become somebody, they’ll say, ‘Hey, this guy, he helped me back in the day. He’s a good guy. We should help him out.’”
The music industry program typically has about 80 to 90 students. They experiment with and embrace new technology, using iPads and apps to create and produce music, while collaborating with film students on music videos. They also study business, music theory, law and communication.
Alex Johnson, a senior from Mott, N.D., hopes to become a professional recording engineer. He wants to work with bands with strong musical skills, but he’s also looking for a sense of organization, good finances and the ability to work well with others.
“Those are all things I look for because if you’ve got a bunch of guys that have no drive or motivation they just sit around and dink around all day,” he said. “Nothing gets done, and then it’s not worth anyone’s time.”
Outside of the recording studio, students manage performances on campus and at local concert venues.
Most of the students have some musical training or experience playing in bands or are somehow involved in the local music scene in Fargo-Moorhead.
Jackson said the students give the local music scene a boost but also benefit from it. He said they want to promote quality musicians.
“It’s nice to see it kind of swing back to that as opposed to the uber-produced pop star,” he said “These guys are actually seeking people that can play, which is really refreshing for me. It’s not surrounding a look; it’s surrounding a quality that can only be achieved by hard work and practice.”