Industry Vets: Young Guru and Sean C. Visit Berklee Valencia


This week students at Berklee Valencia’s campus had the opportunity to meet and interact with two music industry veterans, Young Guru and Sean C.  If you aren’t familiar with their names, you’re most likely familiar with their repertoire. Young Guru has worked as a highly esteemed engineer and has also worked alongside respectable and notable artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West. Prior to meeting Young Guru, I indirectly felt as though as I knew him due to Hov’s various shoutouts throughout the years. One of my favorite Hov shoutouts was when he told Guru to “turn the lights down..let’s keep it smooth” on Party Life (American Gangster album) LOL

Our other industry vet, Sean C. is a Grammy-nominated producer and A&R that has produced for hip hop artists such as Diddy and Jay-Z.  I was especially interested to hear Sean’s perspective on the industry and the future as an A&R since my career interests are specifically in that field. There were various workshops held over the two-day period while they were here in Valencia. One of my favorite workshops was the A&R session that was held on campus in our studio on the film scoring stage.

Berklee Valencia Studio

(Berklee Valencia students pictured in the studio with Young Guru and Sean C. for the A&R workshop)

(Photo Credit: Disrupcion Records)

Both Sean C. and Young Guru provided feedback to Berklee Valencia artists who submitted music. I’m currently working as an A&R for my culminating experience thesis, so I was super excited about the opportunity because both of the artists that I’m working with were chosen to participate in the session.  It was such a humbling experience to receive feedback on their music from industry professionals and to use that info to tweak their projects and to make them even better! This was a great experience both creatively and professionally.  Another workshop focused on innovation within the industry.  During this panel, both guests answered various questions that students had re: career advice, music production/technology, the direction of the industry, and evolving with the industry to ensure your position/career. A highlight for me was Sean’s response in reference to being a woman in a male dominated industry. His consciousness about the issue was indispensable and re-emphasized some of the points that I’ve learned throughout my professional career.

Young Guru and Sean C

This experience was one that I longed for as a student in the Global Entertainment & Music Business Masters program.  The knowledge that both gentlemen dropped on us was absorbed like a sponge and truly invaluable.  It’s a great opportunity to meet people who are working in positions that many of us aspire to be in. The grind continues….

Case Study: Staying Close to Fans – while still being super cool.

It’s all about finding a balance. How can you make the artist-fan relationship personal, while still keeping that mysterious and glorifying vibe that comes from putting our favorite artists up on a pedestal? It indeed takes both of these elements to create increase the percentage of your fans that are “superfans” but they are seemingly contradictory.

I want to show a case study of a relatively small yet successful band that has built itself off of dedicated superfans.

Urban Cone is a band based out of Stockholm, Sweden. They have been working hard toward releasing their first album “Our Youth” and now that it is ready to be released out into the world they are putting the power of actually releasing it into the hands of their fans. Here is how they did it and why it is so clever.

First of all, the band has branded themselves with the ever so hip pine cone. Which for marketing purposes is very important on its own, but that’s not the point here. Basically what they have done, is take five pine cones for each track on their album. Painted them gold. Tied a number and a code to each one. They then released “the album” through pine cones in five major european cities: Stockholm, London, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Paris. Once a fan finds a cone they take a picture of it and upload it to Instagram – the corresponding track is released in that country on Spotify.

Sounds risky right? It also sounds like a lot of work for the fan. Like really, you need to have a lot of faith in your fans to make a public contest like this. Some potential issues that come to mind are, what if nobody cares enough to go out and do this? What if a cone is blown away or lost or found by someone who has no idea what the contest is about and just takes the damn thing cause it looks pretty? What if the fans that do go out become discouraged because finding a gold cone in the city of london honestly sounds like the hardest thing I can think of. But nonetheless, it is working for them. Out of the 25 gold cones released into the world 20 of them have already been found and the tracks have been released.

This risky strategy creates a direct relationship with the fans and the music, while making the artist seem elusive and attractive and worthy of time and effort. The fact that the band is able to pull this off shows that the fans they do have are more than willing to put in some work to get their album. It shows that they have something unique to offer the fans and that they have a strong faith in their fan base that also leads inevitably to fan loyalty. And that is what is important.

It is difficult to come up with interesting new ways to get involved with your fans other than simply tweeting at them once in a while, but innovation in this field is almost a surefire way to making a career out of your art.

Phillip Richard