Alumni Profiles

Photo: Justin J. Boogie Boland

Justin "J. Boogie" Boland

DJ/Curator of Hip-Hop Programming

How long have you been DJing? What motivated you to get started?

I started DJing in 1991, as an intern at KUSF. I was motivated by the ability to break records + seeing other DJs influence, rocking the party at clubs, warehouses and house parties in the early 90s.

You have a really unique job, what are some of your day-to-day responsibilities as the Curator of Hip-Hop Programming at Pandora?

I’m constantly checking out new music. It’s my job to make sure we have an inclusive library at Pandora that reflects everyone’s tastes. At the same time, I’m working at exposing new music and curating the right things to add to stations in order to expose people to happy musical discoveries.

What courses within the MRI Program do you think would be helpful if someone were interested in entering your field?

I’ve worked in many facets of the music industry, and it looks like the MRI program reflects the diversity of knowledge that you need to be able to work in any music company. Here’s a good starter’s list…

MRI 355 Music Industry Career Planning (3 units)
MRI 362 Music Publishing (3 units)
MRI 316 Pro Tools 101 (1 unit)
MRI 312 Abelton Live (1 unit)
MRI 327 The Role of the Record Producer (2 units)
MRI 360 Legal Aspects of the Music/Recording Industry (3 units)
MRI 335 Audio for Film, Video, & Games (3 units)
MRI 340 Music Artist Management (3 units)

As a DJ and Producer, what applications/software/hardware programs do you use?

I’m using Serato, Ableton, Pro Tools, Reason, and the MPC 2000 sometimes when I’m feeling nostalgic. We also have an arsenal of vintage synths, rhodes, etc. at the studio.

Do you mix and master your music? If so, what sound do you like to create when you reach post-production phase of your recordings?

I do for reference, but for professional production and release - I recommend hiring a mastering engineer at the minimum, a mixing engineer if you have the budget.

What’s your favorite genre of music outside of hip hop?

Depends on my mood. I’m BIG on dance music, reggae, Latin, African, jazz, etc.

What is your favorite type of venue to perform or DJ at?

A good sound system, quality DJ setup, medium intimate setting with a crowd that is there for the music, not the scene, open late.

What advice would you give to upcoming MRI Certificate Program graduates looking to enter the music streaming/online radio space?

Study and understand real world applications of the music business (songwriting, publishing, mechanicals, copyright) and pay attention to the quality control of brands that have been successful in streaming/radio. (Not everybody can be a podcaster.)

Photo: Mike Fiebach

Mike Fiebach

Founder and CEO
Fame House

What was your inspiration when you founded Fame House?

I was at the forefront of the rapidly evolving music technology industry in my work for DJ Shadow prior to founding Fame House. I saw a proliferation of tools for artists to connect directly to their fans, and I simultaneously saw a vast need for artists, labels, and brands to rely on an agency to handle the management of and marketing through such tools. Fame House was born out of a pure reaction to a market demand: the inherent need for digital marketing, and digital management expertise subsequent to the explosion of direct to fan digital marketing tools. I did a lot of great work with DJ Shadow in the digital music space, and other artists like Josh Wink and Pretty Lights started to reach out to me to help them – so I started a company.

What is your background: Do you play music? Did you DJ? What was it about music that lead you to your career in the industry?

I started out with an independent record label in high school- PHILAsofikal Records, and I put out a few records. I have dabbled in different facets of the industry - from production to engineering, and performing - but I fell in love with the business aspects of the music business when I started and ran the label. That love expanded through the SF State Music Recording Industry Program through great classes from professors like Michael Ashburne, Gian Fiero, Kerry Fiero, Jon Bendich, and then through my work with DJ Shadow.

The music industry has changed so much in the last ten years. In your opinion, how have artists adapted to the changing winds of the industry? What role are new technologies playing in that change?

Adaptation to the emerging new music industry models is a big part of what Fame House does. I think the keys are: embracing change; understanding that technology evolution is inherent to human evolution and is not going anywhere; and choosing the technology that works best for the artist and their vision. I am a firm believer that every artist should pave their own path- and what works for one might not work for another. Artistic vision is sometimes just as important in an artist's utilization of technology as it is in making their primary art- but that might not be true for everyone.

You have a really unique job, how has digital marketing helped artists – big and small – find, maintain, and grow their fan bases?

The gift artists now have more than ever is their ability to connect directly to their fans- with lower barriers and less expensive access. The curse is that this democratization of music and digital marketing technology for creators has over-saturated the internet so that all artist's are competing more for everyone's time. What this leads back to, is what music has always been about: amazing content, and intelligent marketing. The artists that breakthrough always have content that some demographic will love- and employ smart ways of delivering the content to those fans. I don't think those elements will ever change at a high level- but the teams and expertise to deliver these needs evolve over time; thus the emergence of companies like Fame House. Fame House's expertise is building, managing, and marketing digital presences for artists, labels and brands; that need hardly existed ten years ago.

Not so long ago you were a student taking courses in the MRI program. What courses do you think would be helpful if someone was interested entering your field?

Legal Aspects of the Music Industry, Music Marketing, History of the Popular Music Industry, any class taught by Michael Ashburne, Gian Fiero, Kerry Fiero, or Jon Bendich.

What’s your favorite genre of music? Who are you listening to right now?

I've always been a hip hop guy, although I have also really gotten into electronic music over the least five years. I am currently listening to Dr. Dre's "Compton" a ton.

If you could see into the future say ten years, what does the music industry look like?

Streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Beatport will be everywhere, downloads will be obsolete, artists will have even more direct access to their fans and will have new ways of monetizing that connection, labels will turn into full service entertainment brands.

What advice would you give to upcoming MRI Certificate Program graduates looking to enter the digital marketing/music marketing space?

Work hard in school, get internships and work hard in those jobs, network, and read.

Photo: Nicole Leigh

Nicole Leigh

Licensing Manager
Concord Music Group

What was your inspiration when you realized you wanted to work in the music industry?

I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle and saw a blurb in the Business section about a free Music Publishing seminar being held at the SBA in downtown San Francisco. I had no idea what music publishing was and out of curiosity, decided to go. In the seminar they talked about copyright and income streams that are derived from compositions and songwriting. I found it fascinating and realized that there was a whole world behind all of the music I loved that I never knew much about. I wasn’t a songwriter or a musician but I had some friends who were. So I decided to look into places where I could learn more about the business side of music and maybe help out my friends or even create a new career for myself. In my research I stumbled across the MRI program at my alma mater, SF State, and the rest is history.

What is your background: Do you play music? Did you sing or perform?

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried out a couple of instruments over the years but I’ve never been self- disciplined enough when it comes to practicing so nothing stuck but that didn’t stop me from recording weird, out of tune songs about my dog when I was a kid. My parents started taking me with them to concerts when I was 6 or 7 and they would never mind me rifling through their CD or LP collections – actually, they encouraged it by making sure I knew how to handle the discs properly so that I wouldn’t scratch them. I was that kid who would read all the liner notes. I had a copy of The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll and I would look up any artist I’d never heard of to learn more about them. As a teenager I would spend hours at Tower Records listening to everything in the music listening stations. There used to be a Tower Records at Stonestown Galleria (next to the main SF State campus) and on long breaks between classes I would just hang out there and spend any extra money I had from my part time job on music or magazines about music.

The music industry has changed so much in the last 10 years. In your opinion, how have artists adapted to the changing winds of the industry?

For obvious reasons, artists have started to focus on things that go beyond selling a physical or digital recording of their music. There is more of a focus on writing singles instead of albums, on selling merch or exclusive/limited products, on touring and on licensing their work to film, television and commercial projects. I think in some ways artists have adapted their approach to songwriting to appeal to a larger fan base or to appeal to what they think music supervisors want. As long as you’re remaining true to your own artistic integrity and vision this can be a smart approach but it could be a slippery slope to try and keep up with trends. It’s important to not alienate your fans.

You have a really unique job, what is music licensing and how do artists benefit from their music being used in commercials, films or video games?

Music licensing in its most basic definition is the licensed use of copyrighted music. At my job specifically, we are licensing out the copyrights of compositions and master recordings to companies who are producing feature films, televisions shows, commercials, video games, DVDs, compilations, samples and remixes, apps, greeting cards, podcasts, stage plays, etc.

Artists benefit from their music being used in these projects because the license fees they receive for their work are in addition to whatever is coming in from album sales, touring, merch, etc. As an added benefit, landing a placement in one of these projects also exposes more people to your music and ideally, it compels them to find more of your music and come out to a show.

In the last few years as album sales have declined, a greater focus has been put onto licensing as a source of income for artists. This area of the business is very competitive. Some artists have high expectations that licensing will be the ‘saving grace’ when it comes to getting a break into the industry or recouping the costs they have put into creating their work. Whenever possible, I try to remind up and coming artists that creating GREAT music should always come first, the rest flows from there.

Not so long ago you were a student taking courses in the MRI program. What courses do you think would be helpful if someone was interested entering your field?

Overall, MRI 355 Music Industry Career Planning is the best place to start. MRI 360 Legal Aspects of the Music/Recording Industry and MRI 362 Music Publishing are absolute MUSTS for anyone wanting to enter into any area of the industry. In addition, MRI 335 Audio for Film, Video, & Games, and MRI 336 The Art & Business of Songwriting are great for those looking to focus on music licensing as their field.

What’s your favorite genre of music? Who are you listening to right now?

I have a broad range of interests when it comes to genres and I’ll listen to just about anything at least once. At this point in human evolution we have an entire century of recorded music out there with so much more being recorded every day - one of the things that I love is that the music discovery process never ends. I may no longer have the Tower Records listening stations at my disposal but I still consume as much music as I can on a regular basis through Spotify, YouTube, Songza and various other sources. Some of my favorite releases that have come out in the past year or so are albums from Alabama Shakes, Angel Olson, Big K.R.I.T., Courtney Barnett, Father John Misty, Flying Lotus, Fuzz, J. Cole, JD McPherson, Kendrick Lamar, Leon Bridges, Queens of the Stone Age, Ray LaMontagne, SBTRKT, Strand of Oaks, St. Vincent, Temples…and plenty of others that I’m forgetting.

What advice would you give to upcoming MRI Certificate Program graduates looking to enter the publishing or music licensing field?

Intern as much as you can to get your feet wet and WORK HARD. Use those opportunities as a way to show your supervisors what a valuable asset you can be. Even if there isn’t an open position at the company you’re working with, your supervisors will know other people in the industry and will think of you first when a position opens up. Believe me - I have had some great interns who I would have created a job for if I could and some interns who I wanted to just send home before their time was up because they obviously were not interested in working or taking the opportunity seriously.

Listen. Observe. Soak it all up. Research as much as you can and ask relevant questions. Don’t ask someone a question that you could have Googled! When you do you are just wasting their time and showing that you aren’t resourceful. Utilize the opportunity to learn answers that you can’t always find in class, books or online.

And in general: Be yourself. Be humble but know your worth. Be persistent and polite but don’t be pushy. No one owes you anything. Find ways of helping other people; don’t solely focus on your own interests. Keep an open mind. Seek out new experiences. Don’t be a hater and don’t waste any time on haters.

Photo: Lee Merritts

Lee Merritts

Sound Designer/Music Director
GameDay Audio

You have a really unique job, what are some of your day-to-day responsibilities as a Music Director?

My main responsibility as the GameDay Music Director is to technically execute all of the music elements within the in-game presentation. Meaning, it's my job to create a game day atmosphere/environment that is specifically designed to entertain, energize, and ultimately engage a live crowd of sports fans and athletes. Some of my day-to-day responsibility as the GameDay Music Director include: Curating pre-game music playlists, curating team warm-up playlists, searching for new music, producing team specific "GameDay" edits & remixes, studying music trends, organizing music files.

What courses within the MRI Program do you think would be helpful is someone was interested entering your field?

MRI 350 History of Popular Music Industry
MRI 316 Pro Tools 101
MRI 430 Advanced Audio Production 1
MRI 362 Music Publishing
MRI 320 Ableton Live

What applications/software programs do you use?

For in-game execution, I use two different software program. The main one is a program called "Sound Director." Sound Director allows you to organize all of you music files & clips on "buttons." The program is specifically designed for sports entertainment use and allows the operator to access music files quickly.

On a second computer I use iTunes. ITunes houses my main music library and also contains my prepared pre-game playlists.

For editing purposes, I am a long time Pro Tools user. Also, I just started learning Ableton Live for creating game day remixes and mashups.

What’s your favorite song to play at live sports venues to get the crowd pumped up?

I don't know! There are so many! It's all about finding songs or parts of songs that just push the fans over the edge on crucial game situations. The best one in the last few years has to be "Turn Down For What" by Lil Jon & DJ Snake. I feel like that song was made solely to hype up crowds at sporting events.

How exciting was it doing sound for the Warriors during the NBA Championship run?

As a life-long Warriors fan, I still don't believe it! Warrior games are unlike any sports environment in sports! Directing Music in an enclosed Oracle Arena with those fans was the craziest sporting atmosphere I have ever been a part of. The call & response the fans were giving from the "Defense" prompts I was playing was like rock concert. It was the true definition of home court advantage!

What advice would you give to upcoming MRI Certificate Program graduates looking to enter the audio engineering field?

Learn and do as much as you can! Spend as much time as you can honing your skills on your own. Don't just rely on the lab time you get at school to wok on your craft. Build yourself a portable setup at home and create your own projects to work on when you are away from class. That is how you really start to understand the subtle details of the craft you are working towards mastering.

Photo: Anne-Marie Suenram

Anne-Marie Suenram

Mastering Engineer
George Horn Mastering

You have a really unique job, if you were explaining it to a complete novice how would you describe what you do?

As a mastering engineer, my job is to make the best version of a song/album as I possibly can. Essentially, I polish the audio. Most clients bring audio that was mixed in a less than ideal environment, thereby requiring some adjustments. This includes editing the audio in addition to working with EQ, compression, and limiting.

Depending on the client, I put the finished audio on a a physical medium. That can either be a CD Master, which is error-checked, and/or a lacquer master (used to make vinyl copies), which requires me to use a special machine called a disc-cutting lathe. CDs are usually sent to the client and lacquer masters are usually sent to the client’s chosen plant for plating and mass-production.

Have you always loved music? Do you play or perform yourself? What drew you to it?

I have loved music from the very beginning and have been a musician my whole life. I do play music, but it’s been awhile since I was last on stage. There is no one thing that drew me to music, as I grew up with music in the house.

What courses within the MRI Program do you think would be helpful is someone was interested entering your field?

My field requires recording and mixing knowledge, as well as some understanding of the electronics behind the tools used in the mastering process, particularly the lathe. All the recording courses are important in order to have an understanding of the recording process and techniques behind making a solid recording. It’s one thing to make music at home or on stage, it’s another thing entirely to record it. It is industry standard to be proficient in using Pro Tools, but it’s a good idea to be familiar with other DAWs as well.

What applications/software programs do you use?

I use Pro Tools daily. On occasion, I use Sound Solutions SoundBlade. For creating CD masters, I use Roxio Jam, which is no longer being supported, but it gets the job done in terms of inputting the metadata. I also use a Sony digital workstation for the majority of the audio processing. We do use a few plugins, which allows us to keep things as transparent as possible.

What’s your favorite song right now? What’s your favorite song of all-time?

I actually don’t have a favorite song, genre, or artist. I don’t even have an all-time favorite! My musical interests are so all over the place that it feels unfair to pick one over another.

What advice would you give to upcoming MRI Certificate Program graduates looking to enter the audio engineering field?

Entering the audio engineering field is a lot more complicated than it seems; at least it was for me. Studios usually don’t hire. It does help to have an internship in one, but the studio most likely won’t have space for a new engineer on their team. I went in knowing all that, and was extremely lucky to find someone who was willing to take a chance and mentor me. Aside from internships, the next best thing is to collaborate with artists and start recording and/or mixing their music. Or, if you are a musician, do it all yourself. In the end, you need perseverance, strong marketable skills, and sometimes, a bit of luck.