They’re Changing the Music Industry (and Invite You to Listen)

5 min read

When describing students and their work, it’s easy to fall back on words like “aspiring,” “hopeful” or even “amateur.” There’s the impression that they won’t be prepared to make a significant contribution until sometime in the future. That it won’t happen until after they receive a degree and secure a job that kicks off their career path. While in school, a student is still incubating, awaiting the time when what they dream and do begins to change the world.

This is far from the case for the innovators enrolled in the Music History and Industry degree program at UCLA. These students are leading a revolution right here, right now. An event on Sunday, April 30 offers attendees the chance to experience first-hand the creativity and drive of the graduating seniors presenting capstone work.

“Drop the Needle: Remixing the Music Industry” will present a line-up of performances, music videos, podcasts, panel discussions, short films, and compelling discussions. Free and open to the public, the event will take place in Lani Hall from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

26 students are completing this capstone course as a requirement for their Music History and Industry undergraduate degree. The course empowered them not only to hone their passion project but also to sharpen skills to garner critical support for that project—generating marketing materials, building websites, taking advantage of social media, and navigating other ways to boost the project at hand and empower them well beyond graduation.

Lukas Castro describes his project as “a full immersion into the resources one needs as an aspiring ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ entrepreneur. My goal is to provide independent artists and music students alike with the support they need to begin developing new approaches to self-promotion and pragmatic business models upon entering into the music industry.”

Jonathan Tsai performing “Teenage Nightmare!”

Quinn Campbell is prepared to talk about the all-important marketing and release plan that follows the creation of an album, punctuating the presentation with a screening of a music video. Brooke Maytorena’s presentation will span the process behind her first EP “I Don’t Remember,” from concept and demos to artwork and marketing, while Jonathan Tsai discusses the process behind his EP “Teenage Nightmare!”, followed by a performance of a track off the record. Katsura Uthus will offer a multimedia presentation about the EP “Bedroom Rock,” an aural exploration of the subject of mental illness.

With a focus on the technical side of music, Antonio Estrada’s company ProSoundly looks to transform the music production services market and innovate how music producers approach their craft. Estrada’s pitch reads, “We plan to increase the convenience and creativity of music making by offering music production packs, educational videos, mix/master services, original track production, and an AI synthesizer all on our website.” During the event on April 30, Estrada’s presentation will include audio and visual examples of the website’s products.

In perfect step with raging debates about AI, Tara Tempesta’s presentation will examine music creation by artificial intelligence and issues of copyright, asking, “What is the impact and how does legislation need to change?” 

Antonio Estrada, founder of ProSoundly, DJs at a UCLA First Thursday event.

These burgeoning creators are wise to the power of music to propel social justice. “Pink Is Power”, led by Lulu Dawson, is a female-fronted music festival furthering opportunities in the music industry, celebrating women’s contributions to music, arts, and culture with a full vendor fair and festival lineup. Annika Dudley’s Elevator Music is a diverse programming initiative aimed to allow diverse artists to be properly compensated for their work while providing free performance art to community members. 

“This programmatic initiative comes as a result of many of my experiences as a young musician growing up in Los Angeles,” Dudley posted on Instagram. “Through this journey, I hope to inspire new audiences, provide budding BIPOC and Queer artists with a platform, and elevate our community through sound, visuals, and more!” 

Capstone student Samantha Heller co-founded Sam X Sam with Samantha Berger as a not-for-profit production organization dedicated to creating community and opportunity for female, non-binary, and LGBTQ+ creatives within the music industry. “Through our Music for Movement benefit concert series, we aim to provide a platform for our female and gender-nonconforming artists while raising funds and awareness for women’s right to bodily autonomy,” Heller wrote.

Annika Dudley (left), founder of Elevator Music

Marlee Orr’s project is centered upon a live performance of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” as an exemplification of emotion underlying the Civil Rights Movement. Emmon Amid will perform tracks off “Generation Lost,” an EP based on lost stories and generational trauma among the Persian community following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Joshua Sung’s EP “Good Intentions with Bad Habits” reflects the perspective of Asian Americans, made in collaboration with other Asian American artists alongside him. Sung will also perform tracks from the EP.

The first student-run record label at UCLA comes out of this capstone as Cherry Pop Records. During the capstone event, Aliah Gaoteote will talk about the label’s mission to empower students with hands-on music industry experience working directly with local artists. Audience members will get a first listen of a song from the label’s debut release.

Radius Music Group (RMG) is a modern music management agency representing artists needing a team. “At Radius, we support our musicians by providing booking services, creative direction assistance, and project rollouts. Our goal is to continue to build our artists and the community around them and, for us, that starts in our home of Los Angeles,” said founder Kelsey Kelly, who will present a discussion with one of the agency’s artists.

Podcasts are becoming an increasingly significant piece of the music industry pie which students in the capstone are capitalizing on. Kryztyna Hernandez’s “The Cliffnotes Podcast” offers the opportunity to discuss personal music ideas and opinions. A sample of the podcast will be played for the Lani Hall audience after a presentation about the genesis of the project.

Annabelle and Her Party People perform at Molly Malone’s with Annabelle Hendrickson on guitar, Ella McMillan on bass, Diego Salgues on drums, and Yana Edelen on keys. Photo by Kaitlin Browne.

Film and music often go hand in hand. Remember Me, a documentary by Samantha Najemy (aka Sam Alon) and Annabelle Hendrickson, follows the latter as she takes on the LA music scene as an independent artist with important discussions about identity and sexism alongside other challenges of “making it” in the scene. A live performance by Hendrickson’s band will follow the screening.

The list above skims just the surface of an event rich with entrepreneurship, research, dedication, and passion. Visit the Drop the Needle website for the latest updates to the event line-up, including announcements about special guests, and learn more about the incredibly talented students behind the event. They’re gonna change the music industry one day.

Scratch that. They already are.