Widgets Magazine

Stanford launches Leadership Initiative with Warner Music Group

2015 marks the inaugural year of Stanford’s Leadership Initiative with Warner Music Group (WMG).

Six to eight students from the Class of 2016 will be selected via application this winter to participate in the 14-month-long program that seeks to expose students to the popular music industry. Applications are due on Jan. 30.

The program breaks down into three major components: a two-unit class on the music industry offered in the spring of the participants’ junior year, a summer placement at WMG or one of its affiliates and a senior year capstone project.

The two-unit class, “The Changing World of Popular Music,” will be taught by Jay LeBoeuf, a graduate of the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). The class will discuss business models of the commercial music industry and the current landscape of the recording music industry.

LeBoeuf intends to invite musical artists and executives each to teach students about the music industry.

“My hypothesis is that the best way to engage students is to bring in outside folks [to share their] knowledge and challenge [students’] thinking,” LeBoeuf said. “But, rather than it being purely theoretical, [this knowledge is] really applied using the tools and tech students use in their free time. Students are such a wonderful example — they’re walking around with ear-buds and streaming music all the time. It’s something we can all relate to.”

The class will be capped at 25 students. Stanford/WMG Leadership Initiative participants are guaranteed a spot in the class, and the remaining students will be chosen on the basis of seniority.

The second component of the program, the summer placement with WMG, will be geared towards one area of focus per participant, such as product development and design, data analysis, software engineering, business and financial services, or marketing and creative services.

According to Stanford Arts Institute Projects and Grants Coordinator Emily Saidel, who is serving as the program administrator for the Initiative, this array of concentrations is attracting a diverse group of applicants.

“I’ve already seen in some of the applications coming in a mix of different majors,” Saidel said. “Largely, everybody has some interest in music, but even that interest is really diverse…some people are performers who just want to learn more about the industry and get involved in the industry, some people approach is from a software side of things, some people approach it from more of a technical side of how music is produced. So even that interest in music is very broad.”

The senior-year capstone project will be funded by a $2,000 grant from WMG. The goal is for students to apply what they’ve learned in their summer placements to crafting an innovative project that responds to what they observed in the music industry. An example of a capstone project could be to develop a new music-streaming app or to market a local musician.

According to Matthew Tiews, Associate Dean for the Advancement of the Arts, WMG was originally connected to Stanford through the School of Engineering but became interested in attracting students to the music industry.

“Working with Warner representatives, I and some members of the team here put together this program,” Tiews said. “[It] is really an opportunity for students to gain some experience working in popular music industry, but also for WMG to bring in students from all disciplines at Stanford who have new ideas about what might be possible in the music industry, and have that be part of the way Warner develops new initiatives and programs both within its own company and in terms of the things it thinks about for the popular music industry going forward.”

WMG has made a five-year commitment to the Leadership Initiative at Stanford. LeBoeuf explains that the program will grow and change as more Stanford students participate in it.

“This is the pilot year; we’re very excited about it, but we’re also open to the flexibility about it,” Saidel said. “We’re open to what change may look like and what serving the needs of both parties — the students and Warner Music Group — will look like, and making sure those needs are met, that they are overlapping and working together. This is the fun part about piloting something. We’re not locked in. It lets the program evolve.”


Contact Rebecca Aydin at raydin ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Rebecca Aydin

Rebecca Aydin, a writer for the University/Local beat and a senior hailing from NYC, is pursuing a major in English and a minor in Psychology. She has written for the Chicago Tribune and Worldcrunch, a digital news magazine based in Paris. On campus, she is the editor-in-chief of MINT style and culture magazine. This is her fourth year writing for The Stanford Daily. Contact her at raydin ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • george

    Why can a terrible, soul-less corporation basically sponsor a class/program at Stanford? WMG doesn’t really have any social or artistic merit, and promotes a lot of terrible music and influences.

    Imagine if KFC sponsored a Supply Chain honors group for MS&E undergrads.

  • Jeremy Southgate


  • music lover

    And now for an opposing view: Warner has provided generations with the soundtrack to their lives (Neil Young, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Madonna, and Prince to name a few). Contemporary artists on WMG include Bruno Mars, Macklemore, new signing Kaskade, and breaking act Echosmith. The Grateful Dead continues to entrust it’s catalogue to WMG. And it’s publishing arm has Jay Z, Beyonce, Katy Perry and Drake among it’s contemporary family of acts.

    It’s fair to criticize dumb decisions by past leadership for sure. But WMG is hardly KFC. Case in point: even though it wasn’t required, the Chairman recently gave Prince his masters back in one of the most artist friendly acts in history. He was also recently honored by the ACLU alongside Elizabeth Warren in a very high profile event for his social contributions. I think the facts speak for themselves here…

  • Jeremy Southgate

    Warner didn’t provide generations with the soundtrack to their lives. Those *individuals* Neil Young, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, etc., did that. And Madonna left Warner for Live Nation. And Joni Mitchell called the music industry “a corrupt cesspool. Record companies are not looking for talent. They’re looking for a look and a willingness to cooperate.” Tom Petty said, “I don’t really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up.” Words like “entrust” and “family of acts” and “artist friendly” are hardly attributable to Warner. You know what is? “Full of Shit.” 🙂

  • music lover

    Fact: Warner did create the soundtrack for generations, in that it discovered, financed and distributed the material allowing it to reach millions. That’s the beauty of the relationship that was forged with these amazing artists.

    Fact: Madonna did leave Warner after a storied career that spanned decades after being offered a whopping $120 million 360 contract by Live Nation — which included merch and touring — and then proceeded to subcontract back with Warner to have the label distribute her music while Live Nation took care of the rest. With the shifts in the business, this become the reality — Live Nation had the financial power to do such a deal, given the strength of touring, and labels such and Warner did not, given the disruption and shifts in the marketplace.

    Fact: Neil Young, Tom Petty, and Stevie Nicks, not to mention Robert Plant, Prince and Damon Albarn, have all released new material on Warner in the past two years.

    Fact: Joni Mitchell is actively working with Rhino, a Warner company, on an upcoming project.

    More facts: Bruno Mars is signed for publishing and recorded music, and has an amazing career to show for it. Skrillex distributes through the Warner family. Coldplay — a Warner act. And then there’s Kaskade, one of the more forward thinking artists, who recently left Ultra to sign with Warner.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but facts are facts.

  • Jeremy Southgate

    My opinions are based on widely researched facts, as I am a music industry professional.

    You are without an identity, on a PR campaign for Warner, using biased and charged language like “music lover” to assert that people who love music should love Warner.

    I am of the opinion that your assertion is illusory and bends the facts to their breaking points.

    @Fact 1: “the beauty of the relationship that was forged,” is a linguistically charged and subjective assertion, not a fact. Thank Warner for “allowing” great music to reach the marketplace, 20 years ago. But let’s hope no one today requires such permission or allowance (restraints) to discover, finance, and distribute music material in commerce.

    @Fact 2: “Live Nation had the financial power to do such a deal…and Warner did not.” Madonna is a superstar. Warner has itself noted: “Some music industry observers believe that the number of superstar acts with long-term appeal, both in terms of catalog sales and future releases, has declined in recent years.” So, Warner has one less old superstar and has created no new ones. Let’s hope market forces will continue to disrupt, shift, and wear away Warner’s financial power.

    @Fact 3: Good for them.

    @Fact 4: And as recently as December 18, 2014, Joni Mitchell was reported to have stated: “Talent no longer means that much to the record companies because it doesn’t mean that much to this generation that doesn’t seem to have much talent,” she says. “They sit pushing buttons and looking at the Internet in the time that the generations before spent practicing an instrument.” [Interviewer] asks if, while assembling this *compilation of her decades of work*, she saw her influence on the music of today? “Where would I see that? On the radio? The stuff that’s on the radio bears no resemblance to my music. None at all. None,” she says. “People don’t write songs anymore, they get a phrase and repeat it—everything is formulaic: A copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. There’s nothing innovative.” What, then, is her advice for musicians trying to break through? “If they have it, they won’t need advice. I had no advice,” she says. “I just always did things the way I wanted to. I had no choice.”

    @Facts, etc.: I like Coldplay; they have a great career. Bruno Mars has a fine voice and writes catchy tunes, but his “amazing career” is “amazing” in terms of money and image (youth), and those don’t last forever. Most everything else, meh.

    Anyways, those facts and acts are from the past, and the future will create some new acts and facts.

  • music lover

    You may be “a music professional”, but that does not mean your comments are credible. You may quote Joni Mitchell’s complaints about the direction of contemporary music, but that too is opinion, not fact. Moreover, your statement that my facts are from the “past” is inaccurate, as I’ve provided plenty of verifiable information pertaining to contemporary artists and to Warner today.

    Like you, I have doubts about the old system. Like you, I welcome the disruption. But I also believe there is an exciting marriage unfolding that includes Warner in a powerful way that will create incredibly exciting opportunities to drive creation, discovery, and consumption by a new generation of music lovers.

  • Jeremy Southgate

    You mean I am less credible than what, “music lover”?

    My work of creation:

    My company for curation:

    Manure that will fertilize my company’s cultivation:

    You do know that 50% of marriages end in divorce, right? More so if the choice of marriage is made for the wrong reasons.

  • music lover

    You are less credible when you fail to include any facts. Good luck with your endeavors.

  • Jeremy Southgate

    The sky is blue. Therefore, it must be a wonderful world.

    Thank you. Take care.