Over the last decade, recording equipment has become cheaper and more efficient, meaning bands no longer have to rely on label backing to fund new releases. Signing a record deal is often an achievement that punctuates a career, rather than the thing that sets it off, and artists are more likely than ever to enter into a label contract with one or multiple albums under their belt. Despite these shifts in industry culture, many artists still find themselves in need of support when it comes to marketing and promotional assets. Now, a new student-run campus program is looking to fulfill those needs for up and coming artists.
Touting itself as an artist development agency, 3300 + Climbing is the brainchild of Jackie Otero (Program Director, Entertainment and Music Business bachelor’s) and Israel Vasquetelle (Department Chair, Entertainment and Music Business bachelor’s). The two have tossed around the idea of starting a student run record label for years, but considering recent changes within the industry, the timing never felt right.
“When you think about a record label right now, that’s kind of the end game,” says Israel. “These days, artists feel empowered to record without waiting around for a record deal, and then once they get signed a label might meet the rest of their needs by releasing a product or supporting them in other ways.”
“A lot of music business programs have companies built into their programs, and we wanted to do something that was a little bit different, a little bit more forward thinking than an old record label model. So we came up with an artist development company. Sort of like a company within the curriculum. And what we wanted to do was offer a whole package of artist development services to artists that could benefit from.” adds Jackie.
With these considerations in mind, Israel and Jackie developed curriculum integrations that afforded both online and campus-based Music Business students opportunities for involvement. They hired three Artist Development Coordinators (students eligible to be paid for their time under the federal work study program) tasked with aiding in the initiative. Students submitted dozens of bands from all over the country for consideration to be 3300’s first client. Students enrolled in the Artist Management course auditioned the bands (either in person or via Skype), and narrowed the submissions down to a handful of finalists. From there, teams of students pitched each finalist to the Music Supervision class, who collectively made the final decision. The lucky band was January May, a three piece out of Austin, Texas submitted for consideration by online student Marcus Bremer. The group already had a finished album, but they needed a way to promote it.
“Essentially, the students asked what we needed, and we told them that it would be great to have a music video and a good electronic press kit. At first we weren’t sure if they had to hit on certain points of their curriculum, and maybe those things wouldn’t be included. And we would have been fine with that. But everyone worked really hard to accommodate us, which blew us away,” says Matthew Campbell, who sings and plays guitar and keys for the band.
3300 + Climbing takes its name from Full Sail’s street address, with the idea being that campus is a veritable one stop shop for anything an artist could ever need— from recording facilities, to venues, to sound stages. Participating bands enter into a six month commitment with the program, and during that time the coordinators and interns determine and address the artist’s needs. In the case of January May, this meant bringing the band to Full Sail’s campus in late May to shoot a video for their single “Young.”
“Jackie and Israel were more like our peers and mentors in this situation,” says Cassi O’Regan, a former intern and current Artist Development Coordinator with the program. “We’d go to them with anything we had a question about, but there was never any time when they told us we had to do something. The creative side of everything was up to us.”
Faculty members integrated several projects associated with 3300 into the Music and Entertainment Business curriculum. For instance, students in the Music Business Marketing class developed a music licensing database for the band, which allows them to easily manage opportunities for placing their music in various films, television shows, and commercials. Over in Music Merchandising, students were tasked with coming up with promotional items. The challenge? Whatever they came up with had to be made out of paper due to budget restrictions.
“They came up with a really cool fortune teller that had info about the band and their show on campus,” says Jackie.
In order to maximize student involvement, the coordinators reached out to other departments. Soon they had a network of volunteers representing a variety of degree programs at their disposal. A group of Film students led by director Deion McCarter and producer (and Student Production Office Coordinator) Nestor Vera stepped up to crew the video shoot. Show Production students ran lights and sound in the Treehouse and Live Venue as part of their Final Project classes, and Recording Arts student and photographer Sam Agbasi volunteered to take promotional photos of the band.
“I’ve never had friends in other departments, and now I have friends in the film department who got real live experience on the shot, and I met people in Recording Arts and Show Production. [This experience] really did bring everybody together,” says Michelle Susan, an Artist Development Coordinator.
The band arrived in Winter Park on May 20, and spent four days shooting the video and playing shows around campus. “We met so many great people,” says Matthew. “And the thing is, everybody at Full Sail, the entire school, is such a powerhouse of creative and inspiring people. We made a lot of really good friends, and everybody was so willing to give us feedback, support us, and help us with what we were doing. And we immediately took that home with us and started applying that to everything that we do.”
After a successful first run, 3300 + Climbing is currently starting the process over again. The company is seeking new artists to represent, and this time the interns plan to take what they’ve learned and apply it to the next round of submissions. According to Jackie, the initial cycle wasn’t without challenges, but by the time everything was said and done, none of that mattered.
“You couldn’t even tell how hard it was on the back end,” she laughs. “Which, to me, meant it was a successful endeavor.” She adds that overcoming obstacles actually served as a good learning experience for her students when it comes to preparing them for a career in an ever-changing industry.
“We provided them with the framework,” she says. “They’re running their own company within the program, and that allows them to connect what they’re doing in class to something real.”
For more information about 3300 + Climbing, head over to their website. And for a behind the scenes look at the making of January May’s video for “Young,” check out the video below.