Inaugurated in 2003 by New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music has become one of the best holistic music programs in America, according to Billboard. Named after Clive Davis, who is Chief Creative Director of Sony Music Entertainment and who has discovered artists such as Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, and Aerosmith, the BFA program at the Institute is the first of its kind to offer both business and artistic training to aspiring CEOs of record labels, music producers, performers, and music journalists. Alumni of the Institute include Maggie Rogers and Elle Varner, amongst many others.
Newly relocated to NYU’s Brooklyn campus, the Clive Davis Institute takes advantage of the facilities it has to offer including music studios such as the Dennis Riese Family Studio 510, the Warhol Studio, and the Retro Studio Dolby Atmos, to name a few. The Institute also uses production labs and listening rooms to perfect students’ work.
Given its many accolades, alumni, and resources, what sets the Clive Davis Institute apart from other American music programs? I had the honor of talking to Alan Watson, the Administrative Coordinator at Clive, who coordinates the admissions process, advisement and registration, and works with the Institute’s high school programs.
The first thing that sets Clive apart from other music programs are its students. Alan says, “our students balance a strong will to pursue their passion, but have the talents to also turn that passion into a business. Rather than someone who is really focused on being the best bass player, we have bass players that are focused on how to be more than a bass player.” He says a Clive student is “someone who wants to build their brand, and develop strategies to make a living in music the smartest way they can.” Students at the Institute are not just artists; they’re artists who know how to make themselves known, who know how to turn their talents into something a record label, production company, or journalism company would want. And they know how to get those jobs.
“Our students know they need to go above and beyond what people ask of them. They have to,” he says. “For example, if our students finish their songwriting homework, but don’t write songs outside of what’s required of them, it’s unlikely they will become a professional songwriter. Whether you’re a producer, executive, performer, or a journalist, you will have to go the extra mile to make people take notice of your abilities.” And that’s exactly what Clive students do. In June, I talked to a current Clive Davis student, Toni Reutter, who talked about her time at Clive, and what she’s done os far with her education, including writing her own songs and performing at venues throughout New York City. Clive students don’t want for their education to pay off, they go out in the world and make it pay off.
The education students receive at the Institute is holistic. At Clive, Alan says, “students are mandated to study Business & Tech, Writing & History, Music Production, as well as Musicianship. There are very few programs that try to take that broad of an approach. We study almost everything, except classical music.” Not only does this approach to music encompass close to every aspect of the music industry, it is a modern approach to studying music. It’s hard to make it in the industry with having knowledge of only one aspect of it. In the contemporary industry, it is rare to find someone who only produces music, but doesn’t write or someone who performs music, but doesn’t play an instrument. Clive captures all of these aspects and combines them into a truly holistic program.
Within this holistic program, the most important aspect of its education is the entrepreneurial training, an element of the music business that Stereotheque emphasizes. At the Institute, Alan says, “we are all about entrepreneurship.” The Institute gives its students the tools “to set [them] up to turn themselves into a business in the creative space,” he says. These tools include everything from music production to music business to music history. Alan made sure to emphasize that Clive is not “a conservatory, or a music business program, or a music production program. We have elements of those,” he says, “but our main focus is to empower students to be an entrepreneur in music.” By taking an unorthodox, holistic approach to studying music, the Institute doesn’t just create artists, it creates professionals who understand all aspects of the industry and who can leverage their knowledge to allow their talents to make a mark in music.
In addition to entrepreneurship, “collaboration is a part of every project in our curriculum, unless it’s a history paper.” At the Institute, it is understood that collaboration is an imperative part of learning, creating, and advancing in the industry. Because of this, Alan says, “we force students to collaborate, and cultivate a culture of collaboration in our halls. There are very few self contained artists in any art form, and in music especially, collaboration is paramount. Take a look at any song out, and you see a team of people all working together to make that song as big as it is.” Beyonce’s Lemonade raises its cup to that. As does Toni Reutter, who frequently collaborates with classmates and others when performing or writing songs. Without collaboration, entrepreneurship is fraught.
One of the ways Clive implements its collaborative focus outside the classroom is to take advantage of all the music scenes New York City has to offer. With open mic, bars and clubs, and even larger venues readily accessible to emerging artists, Alan says, “our students take advantage of this by taking initiative, compelling people to come see them, building relationships with other artists and bookers, and leveraging their assets to put on fantastic shows.” Additionally, coordinated by the Institute’s renown faculty and administration, it “host[s] performance electives, curate[s] a senior showcase, and even a trip for our top seniors to do a performance and networking session in LA,” according to Alan. Clive recognizes that although New York is the hub of all things music, the music scene on the west coast is just as vibrant and ambitious, so it introduces its students to that scene as well.
A truly holistic and deeply entrepreneurial program, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music remains one of the best of its kind. With training in all aspects of the music industry, its students are ready to tackle any and all challenges the industry might throw at them. But with passion, training, and the work ethic of a Clive student, there’s nothing they can’t do.
Click here to read my article about Toni Reutter, a young artist and student at NYU Clive.