Innovate Music Transforms Artists Into Entrepreneurs













When Benjamin Schechter (General Studies, December 2016) first came to the University of Michigan from Seattle, Washington, he knew he loved music, but he didn’t know where that passion would lead him. After landing several internships, including a highly coveted place at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, he knew he wanted a career in the music industry. During his junior year he helped with the website More Than the Melody with fellow students, writing articles and interviewing artists. But Ben wanted more. He wanted to create something for himself and others to enjoy.

That drive to create drew Ben to the “Innovate Music” last Saturday, an event organized by the student organization Stamp Nation, and co-sponsored by Innovate Blue, Tech Arb, and the EXCEL program at Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance. It brought together students, faculty, local music lovers, and musicians alike for a day filled with dialogue, good beats, and lessons in entrepreneurship. Several well-known individuals in the music industry–including Joe Hertler of Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, and Robert Hurst, a seven-time Grammy Winner, four-time Emmy winner, and past bassist for The Tonight Show With Jay Leno–discussed how to succeed in the industry and how to change that industry with innovative ideas.

Entrepreneurship programs at U-M and events like Innovate Music help entrepreneurs like Ben who want to create change and make their mark in the music industry. “The whole “making connections” culture of Michigan has helped me on my journey. Through my experience I’ve learned to be incredibly persistent and assertive. UofM also has a gigantic student body, allowing me to meet so many different people with so many different interests. I’m studying entrepreneurship as well, so I kind of have that mindset of always wanting to start something,” said Ben. Innovate Music speakers extolled similar virtues. Here’s a sample:

  • Omari Rush, an alum and the current vice chair of the Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs started making valuable contacts while still in school. Rush gave tips on how to both succeed and innovate the music world, including “writing good,” saying yes to everything (go with the flow!), leading an arts-rich life, hustling in your field, and seeking inspiration everywhere.
  • Joe Hertler, of Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, a Michigan band recently signed to Universal Management sells out venues on the regular, with their hypnotic sound and honest lyrics. Hertler talked about his first hand account of what being an artist in the industry is like—and, of course, he played a few songs, one of which was new, all of which left the audience wanting more.

guitarFor Ben, events like this help provide the inspiration to create change. During the end of his junior year and the summer that followed, Ben worked tirelessly on his own venture, What the Sound, a location-based music website. Click anywhere on What the Sound’s map, and you’ll see a list of local promising and talented artists and music samples from that area, including articles written by Ben himself. Already it has taken off, capturing the attention of numerous artists and landing several shows as a part of What the Sound Presents.

When asked if he ever thought his love for music would lead him to What the Sound, or music entrepreneurship in general, Ben says, “Not entirely. I’ve just been picking up opportunities as they’ve been presented. A couple years ago I interned out in Seattle. At that internship, I was trying to interview every big act, and I was going to a lot of all-ages shows and reviewing those. I caught on to the less-appreciated artist scene and wanted to give those groups a shout-out through some platform and to spread their music and story. This all resulted in me creating What The Sound this past August.”

“I love hearing where people are from and those locations usually stick with me, that’s why I chose the map to be home page [of What the Sound],” says Ben. “I think that aspect is pretty unique. All my features are also solely through interviews. This way, people can hear the good music that I’m sharing with the choice of reading the introduction to gain some information about the group or the whole, usually lengthy, interview to learn a lot about the group.”

If you missed the Innovate Music event, there are plenty of opportunities to cultivate your innovative musical skills and explore an entrepreneurial path in this field. Check out the EXCEL program at the School of Music Theatre and Dance or Stamp Nation to get started.

More information on Stamp Nation.

More information on What the Sound.

Listen to Joe Hertler & Rainbow Seekers.

Written by Hannah Gordon, Innovate Blue Student Associate.


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