Ohio University hosted its third annual Music Industry Summit on Thursday in a virtual format for the first time.
The 12-hour event completely spanned the spectrum, conversing with the top individuals of all sectors of the industry to give insight into how they got there and why anyone can fill their spots someday.
Grammys Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich, an OU alumnus, kicked off the day’s conversations. In a Q&A with Josh Antonuccio, director of the School of Media Arts and Studies, Ehrlich shared his fondest memories of working as the go-to man for 40 Grammys’ shows behind the scenes and booking the industry’s biggest stars. He later orchestrated two of the four keynote conversations.
Derek “MixedbyAli” Ali — who is the mastermind mixing engineer behind Kendrick Lamar’s full discography and Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” — earned his start by making ringtones while he was in high school. He enjoyed being able to deconstruct things and mold them into his own creation, and once he figured out he could make a career out of it, he didn’t look back.
“Homies would come over, and they would record a skit ringtone,” Ali said. “I would put it on their phones, and I’m like, ‘Yo, this is tight.’ So it started from that, and the curiosity grew.”
The summit had four keynote conversations with six-time Grammy award winner FINNEAS, four-time Grammy nominee Phoebe Bridgers, two-time Grammy winner St. Vincent and Grammy nominee Run The Jewels.
FINNEAS, a solo artist and highly sought producer, has spent his past year of quarantine working with his sister, pop phenom Billie Eilish, on her second album as well as with other mainstream names, including Selena Gomez and JP Saxe. He said being able to make that music was his “coping mechanism,” something for which he is forever grateful.
“I found that the more music I made, the better I actually felt,” FINNEAS said. “Because at least I had control over it, and I had purpose to my days.”
FINNEAS opened up about how he and his sister came to start their musical journey together, which started with making each other playlists and beginning to share the same music taste. He even said, confidently and calmly, he would die for her.
The lauded producer hopes in a year’s time, he will be able to remember 2021 as a reunion with the live performances he has been yearning for since being confined to his house.
Bridgers, whose sophomore album, Punisher, became a quarantine crutch, spent her hour raving about others: Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst, who Bridgers now has a band with called Better Oblivion Community Center, and fellow boygenius bandmates Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus.
Moderator Bob Boilen, creator of NPR’s All Songs Considered, played several videos of her delivering her handfuls of Tiny Desk performances with her two bands and her solo work — live performances she misses dearly.
St. Vincent has found the past year of chaos to be productive. She admitted there were days when all she felt able to do was watch Netflix, but the calmness of being home alone allowed her to hone in on her craft.
She reminisced on her 2019 Grammy performance with Dua Lipa before reminding viewers to not be discouraged if they can’t find jobs in the limelight of music — because there are a slew of jobs that help make stage performers’ jobs seamless.
Killer Mike of hip-hop duo Run The Jewels, who was joined by managers Amaechi Uzoigwe and Will Bronson, discussed how the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for him. After eight consecutive years of touring, he was able to rest at home and connect with his loved ones again.
Despite this prolonged rest, Killer Mike said he’s eager to continue what he’s started with groupmate El-P and continue to shock the world.
Annie Fink, a junior studying music production and the recording industry, was one of the moderators of the summit. As the social media chair for OU’s Women in the Music Industry organization — which is a sponsor of this event — she was asked to help out and promote it.
Fink is happy with how it turned out. She enjoyed how Ehrlich was able to talk to everyone so casually, like they’re lifelong friends.
“The summit is really well done,” Fink said in an email. “I was worried it would just feel like a Zoom meeting, but with the help of Redstory they've really got something special going on. Of course it would've been amazing to have this in-person, but we all understand the safety aspect. The virtual element is great in allowing people from all over the world to participate and network with us!”
Though FINNEAS’ interview was the first of the keynotes, his piece of advice to those looking to make a mark in the music industry reverberated in everyone’s minds even after the summit closed.
“I wish I remember who (told me this) because I would give them credit now,” FINNEAS said. “But the good piece of advice is, ‘You should know why you want to do what you want to do, and that will guide you.’”