This week’s featured instructor is Stephanie Belcher. Stephanie has managed artists’ street teams, aided musicians who were negotiating contracts, worked venues and festivals, and taught artists how to get their music reviewed, promoted online, written about in magazines, and streaming online. Learn about how our Head of Music Industry Studies started out as a high school journalist writing stories about the Cleveland music scene!
What inspired you to be involved in the music industry?
I come from a musical family and it’s always been a huge part of my life. My entire paternal family belonged to a big Hungarian band, accordion and all. Each of my 6 uncles played an instrument, and everyone sings. My maternal great-grandmother was a classical pianist, so at my grandmother’s request I started taking piano lessons when I was young. I was a member of my church choir and when I joined my high school newspaper, I started covering local rock bands who played out. Writing about music became my goal, and I intended to be a journalist, but in college I found that I wasn’t challenged by a journalism program and I ended up majoring in Telecommunications, with a focus on Media Management. I learned how to program TV and radio stations, marketing, business, and more. During college, I booked shows for our campus activities committee, and this lead me into my career.
What was your first opportunity in the music industry, how has it shaped you today?
In Cleveland, where I grew up, there’s a large battle of the bands competition called The High School Rock Off. At the time, the concert happened at the Odeon, but now, it happens at the Rock Hall. In 1998, two bands from my high school, Trinity, were competing, so I covered their journey in the Features section of our high school newspaper. Local news picked it up, and I started getting paid by the community paper to cover the local music industry. It was here, at the age of 16, that I realized how important music is to local communities.
What do you like about teaching at DIME?
My favorite part is interacting directly with students. I learn as much from them as they do from me. I appreciate their fresh perspectives on culture and human nature, as well as music. Every year on the first day of class, all my students and I have a listening party, where we each pick a track or two to play for the class. The only rule is that you have to listen respectfully. It’s a great ice breaker, especially for a new cohort, and the students tell me that they have made great friends in my class because they quickly found someone with similar music tastes.
What kind of growth have you seen in your students here?
My students know that I am insistent upon them to use their voices. My assessments are usually spoken presentations; I like to make people talk to me. This upcoming fall semester will be my 5th new cohort, and I am proud of how loud my students are becoming. Students who before didn’t know how are now speaking up for themselves and making sure they’re being heard. I’m equally proud of how they are shaping Detroit. All my students are out in the community, taking part in activities and organizations, creating events and concerts. They’re hard workers and they’re doing great.
What kind of things are you involved in outside of DIME that filter back into the classroom?
In my day job, I do taxes, so I see deep inside a business’s structure. Taxes are the government’s way of incentivizing economic decisions, so I tend to see business trends far in advance of when they actually become mainstream. For example, I’m signed up to take an accounting continuing education course about Cryptocurrency and how it will be taxed. For some people, using Bitcoin every day might seem light years away. But in the tax industry, the more people that earn money from a source, the more attention the IRS pays to it. These are the kinds of issues that affect businesses, so since I have access to education about these topics early, I am able to teach my students early, and together we create innovations that seem ahead of their time to the mainstream. I attend thought leadership conferences on issues like this, trying to shape policy and influence decision making. My students are part of that.
What’s one of your proudest moments thus far as a teacher here at DIME?
I’m always blown away by the end of the year student show. The energy in the room is incredible. Everyone’s friends and family are there, dressed up nicely. It’s the end of term, all things are good, we’re ready to flex a little. That’s when I feel the most proud.
Which bands/artists did you enjoy working with throughout your career?
One of my first marketing projects back in the year 2000 was John Mayer’s first solo EP, distributed by Aware Records. I was an Aware rep, and we received 2 discs for free and we could buy more of them at a discount and re-sell at a markup. I hung posters at the student union, played the disc for my friends, made mixes – all before social media and right at the beginning of Napster’s huge rise. I remember using Kazaa to download live John Mayer shows as marketing tools. It was a great learning experience, trying to figure out how to convince someone that a person’s music matters. I’m currently working with a few emerging artists from Michigan. I love The Accidentals, a folk trio from Traverse City, and The Go Rounds, and Michigander, both indie bands from Kalamazoo. On the jazz side, I really enjoy working with Estar Cohen, Travis Aukerman, Galen Bundy, and Heavy Color.