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May 13, 2003

Update -- Record Release: 19th and Holloway Rechords will celebrate the release of its CD anthology "This Is Your Brain on Hip-Hop" from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 23, at Rasputin Music, 69 Powell St., San Francisco. Some of the artists will be performing live, and the CD will be available for purchase.

Photo of cover of the 19th and Holloway Rechords CD anthology"Study it or live it? Though this question nags many students as they puzzle over ways to combine learning with real-world activities, it doesn’t bother members of SFSU’s cutting-edge "The Independent Label: A-Z" class. They do both.

Part creative spirits and part hipster-entrepreneurs, students in "The Independent Label: A-Z" not only learn the ups and downs of the indie music business, but they have also launched their own music label. In early May, their endeavor, dubbed 19th & Holloway Rechords, is slated to release the original CD anthology "This Is Your Brain on Hip-Hop."

The class, part of the Music/Recording Industry (MRI) certificate program at the College of Extended Learning, introduces students to all phases of building an indie house, from talent scouting to manufacturing to sales and publicity. It is believed to be one of just two such classes in the country, and the students’ work has drawn national attention even before its release.

Mirroring a small business, the indie class chose a president and CEO and divided into four functional teams: artists and repertoire (A&R); sales and marketing; promotions and publicity; and production.

"I’m a poet and producer and I came down from Sonoma County to take this program because it’s so extensive," says student Robin Dwan, part of the CD’s publicity team. "I feel the MRI program will give me an advantage over people who don’t know anything about the business side of music."

To tap into the Bay Area’s abundant creative talent, students on the A&R team spent two months auditioning and recording the work of a dozen local performers. Meanwhile, their counterparts on the publicity team contacted local radio stations and newspapers to secure airplay and news coverage.

Thanks to those efforts, tracks from the CD have already received airplay on KSFS (88.1 FM) radio. And publicity got a jump start when class members landed a free ad in Murder Dog, an international magazine known for in-depth, unvarnished coverage of the rap music scene. On the heels of the ad came a story about the class in Billboard magazine, and most recently, a pending distribution deal which could put "This Is Your Brain on Hip-Hop" in stores nationwide. If the deal goes through, it could spell a much larger run than the 200 CDs the class had been planning to replicate.

Music videos and behind-the-scenes footage may be in the offing, too. Jennifer Westmoreland, another member of 19th & Holloway’s publicity team, says the class is moving ahead with plans to work with film students from Academy of Art College in San Francisco. The film students are expected to style the video after the music-and-reality shows made famous on MTV.

"I can’t even tell you how enormous it is," says instructor C. Michael Brae, a 15-year veteran of the industry. Brae is CEO of San Francisco-based Hitman Records, which promotes and distributes recordings and is one of the largest independent labels in the Bay Area. "We might be called from the major labels."

Although the label was originally expected to begin and end with the spring semester, the album’s promise has some students considering a longer engagement. Brae estimates a quarter of the 30-member class will continue to work for the label beyond the end of the semester.

"It’s a huge opportunity as far as employment is concerned," says Lindsay Howell, who serves as 19th and Holloway’s vice president of A&R. Howell, who already has a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film and is in her first semester in the MRI program, says the class is getting the "insider track" from Brae, who has managed such gold-selling artists as R&B singer Devier. Howell says she hopes to promote the album into the summer.

The Music/Recording Industry program offers academic credit and hands-on training in the technical, aesthetic and business sides of musical recording. Students in the program include professionals who are updating their skills as well as students who are new to the field. Graduates go on to be producers, distributors, sound engineers, record publicists and music journalists.

For more information on the disc, contact Jennifer Westmoreland at (415) 831-7804.

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Last modified May 13, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs