CU Denver Visiting Professor Teaches a Curriculum Based on Experiences as a Recording Artist, Live Performer, and Industry Professional
Drew Young says music business education is about ‘empowering the artist and training the professional’Alice Crogan | College of Arts & Media Nov 5, 2020
Drew Young, CU Denver visiting professor of Music Business, can truly relate to budding college musicians and industry hopefuls. His career started as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia––the timeless tale of a young man who thought he could make a few friends by playing the guitar and starting a band.
His tale could have ended there, as many do. But from that time Young took his small successes (a summer tour funded by a bandmate’s dad and pizza delivery money, a single that was played on local stations) and his big failures (signing what he calls “the worst record deal ever”) to forge a life in the music industry–on both sides of the recording booth.
A Desire to Live a Life in Music
Although Young says it took years to unravel that record deal, he was not discouraged. He carried on and eventually signed a publishing contract in Nashville. At a time when he was building his name as an Americana artist, he was just beginning to understand the other side of the business.
Young took a job as Soundtrack and Digital Marketing Manager at Lionsgate Television in Los Angeles and then at Putumayo World Music as the American A&R rep and director of product development. He also built his own music strategy company, Better Than Pretend, and was not only successfully navigating the music industry himself but enabling others to do so as well. In 2011, Young was named an Artist in Residence/Professor of the Practice at University of Southern Mississippi and was able to create a music industry curriculum as well as expand the state’s musical tourism industry to a global audience with a strategy centered around the state’s musical history that is steeped in blues and roots culture.
“There is such a compulsion to build a life in the music business,” says Young. “I’ve seen it from both sides– as a businessman and as a musician– and realize it’s important to understand and teach music not just as a product– but from its emotional core.”
As a recording artist, Young has released four full length albums with a few of New Orleans most well-known musicians and songwriters––Dr. John, Anders Osbourne, and Jim McCormick. He’s planning on releasing a full-length album this summer. Young takes these industry connections to the classroom, as songwriter McCormick, Senior Director of Writer Relations at SESCAC (Artist Performing Rights Organization) ET Brown, and Managing Director of Blue Rose Records Michelle Garramone have all visited his CU Denver virtual classroom this semester.
‘Empowering the Artist and Training the Professional’
Young brings these diverse experiences to CU Denver where in the Fall of 2020 he began teaching as a visiting professor. He’s teaching a mix of students who want to find success as musicians or industry leaders and believes that departments like CU Denver’s Music & Entertainment Industry Studies (MEIS) make the business better as whole.
“Education in the music field leads to increased transparency and a larger entrepreneurial space,” says Young. “A more open platform for ideas and creativity to flow through the system makes the structure stronger and with more opportunity for equity.”
Young’s students learn about intellectual property rights, royalty distribution, and publishing, and also developing trends in emergent fields such as music supervision– which is the broad art of adding music to moving picture to decide tonality and augment impact– a role Young held on the television show Mad Men while he was working in L.A. for Lionsgate. He identifies this as a huge growth area for songwriters– many of which are in his CU Denver classes. He says he choose to pursue the opportunity to teach at CU Denver because of the tremendous reputation and the DNA of the MEIS program that includes both the artistry and business angles of the music industry.
“It’s about empowering the artist and training the professional,” says Young. “It takes critical thinking to navigate this industry from either side and often people who don’t follow norms are the ones who find success.”
Music as a Strategy to Rebuild an Economy: Then and Now
After the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Young was working as an artist and repertoire manager for Putumayo World Music spending his professional time between New Orleans and New York. New Orleans’ economy was ravaged, and Young knew that music would be vital to its resurrection. It wasn’t just about bringing back the music clubs and festivals that New Orleans is celebrated for––it was using music as an economic driver to bring back tourism, hospitality, film and invite new businesses and industries to enrich the economy. Young partnered with the State of Louisiana leading press junkets, consulting businesses, and taking the stories of New Orleans musical heritage on the road to invite investment and human capital back to the crescent city. Music became the force behind the resurgence of the economic development that brought the city back from its knees.
“Music can be as simple as strumming a guitar or as complex as global movement,” says Young.
That’s how Young began a relationship with Sound Diplomacy, the international thought leader in creating blueprints for cultural strategy and musical economy. Sound Diplomacy also partners with CU Denver and MEIS to build curriculum and opportunities for Music Business students.
Currently, with his music strategy venture, Better Than Pretend, Young is working with AT&T to use artists and record labels to showcase the newest technology products for live streaming. He just wrapped one of the projects using New Orleans artist Trombone Shorty.
Perhaps because of these profound undertakings, Young puts an emphasis on global education. He developed and ran a Global Music Industry study abroad program to the UK, The Netherlands and France––which is how he became connected with fellow CU Denver Music Business faculty Stan Soocher, one of his many threads to the position he holds now. He also developed and ran a Songwriting and Production program to Sweden and hopes to continue these programs at CU Denver.
Young sees a lot of similarities to the time spent reviving New Orleans to the moment the entire country finds itself today. An economy that has come to halt due a pandemic rather than a hurricane, but that could be saved by music. Music will again bring people together, open venues, and revive urban areas and cultural economies.
“We will soon find ourselves at a watershed moment,” says Young. “And music will be the strengthening link.”